5 ways to watch your company and monitor your career

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Oct 10

Earlier, I noted that career management is also about how your company is doing. The reasoning was that your company gives you the best controllable opportunity for advancing – or limiting – your career. This is because of the work you are doing, your ability to add new skills, and the performance on the job. Having the right skills along with great performance will give you opportunities with any hiring manager, inside the company or not.

But, how do you watch your company? How do you know how your company is doing? What follows are five easy ways to determine how well you company is doing.

Learn about your company through on-line news

The best way to get news in a publicly traded company is to subscribe to the news using their stock symbol. For example, if you work at Motorola, you can go to Yahoo finance, put in Motorola’s stock symbol (MOT) in the search box, and get the news for the day on Motorola. To get the news every day, subscribe to the news on that stock symbol and have the content delivered to your reader. You do that by clicking on the ubiquitous orange box (for example, learn how to subscribe to the free content here on Cube Rules!).

What happens with this tactic is you can see if what your management is telling you is what the rest of the world who are stockholders in your company actually like it. Or if it is the same. Or if your management isn’t telling you the bad stuff, just spinning the good stuff. Do this over time and you will learn how well this technique works.

Learn about your company through earnings reports

When earnings come out for your company once a quarter, listen to what your management is saying about the earnings to you as an employee. It will be the same as for what they are telling the rest of the world. Management’s job is to spin the earnings the best way possible, so what you are hearing and what they are telling shareholders is as good as they’ve got.

When you then follow up via your on-line news, you will see the press releases on the initial earnings release day. But wait a few days and see if there are any other articles that show up about earnings. Those articles will be more in-depth than the initial reports because there will be time to analyze the news. This is where you will see differences in the good spin by management and what other people thing about what the earnings meant to shareholders.

Understand where you are on your current company or department budget

Are you better than your budget? Worse than your budget? Running even? Is the budget being cut back in the middle of the budget time period? Are you going over budget but you are being told it is because the revenue is better than plan?

Companies run their business – and earnings – based on budgets and projections. A budget, after all, is simply the view of how the business will do based on the sales and expense assumptions in the budget. So what is happening to the budget tells you the story of how the company is performing to the assumptions. If budgets are not being met, it is the very first sign of things starting to go wrong in a company. The longer the budgets are not met, the worse the situation.

Watch changes in policy

The obvious ones: changes in travel and training permissions. Usually “don’t travel.” And, “no training.”

Beyond that, notice the criteria for how the company pays out bonuses. Changing the amount based on company performance or personal performance is a great indicator. So is when, for example, a whole section of the bad business is ignored by executives for their bonus, but still applies to you working in the cubicle. Whenever there disconnect like that, there is trouble.

Know how parts of the company are doing to the whole

Usually, you can determine if one part (division, for example) of the company is doing better or worse than expected. If, for example, one division is doing poorly, management will ask for sacrifices from all divisions to make up for the poor performer so earnings are not impaired. Management will usually have the poor division work it out themselves, but if they don’t, they will hit everyone up to make the numbers.


Knowing how your company is doing will give you an early sign of your career potential at your company. If your company is doing well, you can ride that growth with your career. If your company is doing poorly, chances are your career will too. Use these five techniques to learn how your company is doing – and protect your career.

What other techniques do you use to watch how your company is doing?

  • I know it is not “hard data” but I like to check out company comments on http://www.glassdoor.com. The posts can offer an interesting perspective on a company’s corporate culture.

    • Scot says:

      @Barbara Safani – Usually, we can tell a lot just from the over all tone of the comments, especially if you compare it to a competitor. So it may not be hard facts, but you could get warm and fuzzies from the comments — or not.

  • Barbara’s suggestion is a good one. If a company isn’t in Glassdoor yet, you can try searching Twitter or better yet, LinkedIn for *past* employees who are more likely to talk than current ones.

    There are also other useful tools for research in my article about reputation management:

    160+ Resources and Tips To Help Manage Your Reputation Online

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