Who Do You Want to Work For?

I get a lot of calls from recruiters, potential employers, and those needing contract work done. Needless to say, I turn a lot of it down. A lot of time I get turned down. It’s a funny game we in the freelance world.

We put out our resume on Monster, Careerbuilder, Hotjobs, Dice, and other resume “career” websites. And then we wait for the inevitable telephone calls. From anyone and everyone who might stumble across it based on some keyword search. Often, the person I’m talking to on the phone hasn’t spent more than 30 seconds looking at my qualifications, background, or interests before picking up the phone. They want to know basically one thing before continuing: Will I work for $X to do Y work at location Z for company Q? I’m supposed to say, of course, “yes” and then the real qualifying begins.

Of course, there is no way to possibly answer that question honestly since I know nothing about Company Q. And the work Y hasn’t been described in more than 15 seconds of phrases so I really know nothing about that, either.

In fact, the only reason to say no would be if they bring up something completely out of line with my abilities or willingness. “Would you like to work for AT&T installing cellular towers in Iceland for $7/hour?” I think I could comfortably say no - to all four things.

As a freelancer and an owner of my own business, I also put my portfolio and profile on a lot of the freelance sites. A lot of the time, the questions we get from these potential clients are roughly similar. But such is life.

However, wouldn’t it be much better if we could choose who we want to work with? I don’t know how successful it might be. After all, we can’t wait around for our dream company to come to us. And no matter how badly we pursue that organization, it may just not happen. Unlike sports movies where the protagonist spends his whole early life chasing the dream of playing for his favorite team, in the real world, we sometimes have to compromise (and hope) so our children don’t starve while we wait for a better opportunity. Such is life.

In the work world, we don’t have to just choose one company though. I find companies all the time that I would love to work for. I have a few simple qualifications for knowing whether I’d love to work for a company.

With that, here’s a list of companies for which I think I’d love to work. Unfortunately, not all of them are realistic possibilities for me. I’m not moving to California. Some of these don’t even have more than 3 employees (owners) so they aren’t expanding anytime soon. But maybe they’ll work out for you. Take a look at what they do and who they are and see if you don’t think these would be great places to work. Then, maybe, start going after them. Or go after the dream companies in your own career field. Don’t wait for them to find you. And, whatever you do, don’t settle.

A List Apart: These guys and gals set the standard for web design. Like so many others, I learn a lot from their willingness to share some of their knowledge on their blog. I don’t think they are purist fruitcakes, but they make a serious effort to push themselves. So few other companies seem to be willing to do that. I’m so not worthy of being allowed in the front door at A List Apart, but maybe they need someone to vacuum and take out the trash.

Boxes and Arrows: Also a great design firm. I don’t think they really do web design for clients so much as others listed here, but the quality of the people involved with them is above par. Way above par.

Change This: I’ll be honest. I have no idea how they even make money. But I like their overall concept and I think they are driving people to push themselves. One line from their About page sums it up for me: “People call the team at Change This optimists because we don’t believe it has to be this way.” Wow. Wouldn’t it be nice if people called your current team optimists for the same reason. Doubtful, but it’s nice to dream.

Shane and Peter: Naming a company after the first names of the two guys who started. Master web developers and designers. And very community-driven and very passionate. Down to earth (they met in a coffee shop and like to work remotely by the sea while surfing), but they have an impressive roster of clients who are willing to pay them decent bucks to do superb work. They believe in what they are doing.

Smashing Magazine: About three guys do this site. They don’t seem to have clients, but they are content-driven. Big time. And they focus strongly on community and helping others.

Think Vitamin: Another content blog/website. And they even have remote contributors everywhere. So, if you know your stuff, send them something swell. But, these people just don’t cut corners. They just don’t. They have gone from nothing to something in very short time. Their audience is a critical bunch and they have succeeded in providing unique and well-written content, combined with great design. That’s something rare these days.

Now, those are the smaller firms. I have no love for California, but after reading about Paul Stamatiou’s internship at Yahoo!, I think I would consider it. I’ve been a pretty big Yahoo! fan from the early days, but they really seem to do everything right, but just in a really, huge way.

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