Organizations are like families. Each has its own personality fostered by the values, beliefs and actions of its members. While some environments are a better fit than others, most new employees manage to acclimatize - maybe even thrive - once they get the lay of the land.

"Treat your first 30 to 60 days on board like an interview," says Judit Price, president of Berke & Price Associates, a Chelmsford, Mass., company that provides career counseling to recent grads.

Understand the Culture

To operate effectively in your company's culture, you have to understand it. A coach or a mentor can be a great help, but it may take time to identify a prospect. In the meantime, because cultures are nebulous and the published culture may not match the actual environment, you'll need to be a keen observer, looking for overt and covert examples of characteristics to complete your analysis. And remember, a culture is defined not only by what people say, but the actions they take.

A company's culture flows from its values, which might include things like "integrity" and "respect." The alignment between your personal standards and the company's ethics is a predictor of your compatibility with the environment.

Executives greatly influence the culture, and their beliefs run deep. Listen to and read their communications to understand the culture they've advocating . Sub-cultures are also common, especially in large corporations, so watch the CIO's behaviors to gain an understanding of the IT environment. How a company derives its revenue and the maturity of its industry greatly influences its culture and values. A company is also defined by it employees and their interactions, even their dress and demeanor. Is the group homogeneous or diverse? Is there little interaction, robust camaraderie or dog-eat-dog competition?. "Meet as many different people as possible, so you can get a clear idea of the whole company and the roles played by everyone in the organization," advises workplace expert and author Joel Zeff.

Operating Strategies

While some cultures feature a composite of various characteristics. Here are some examples of company cultures, along with tips for getting along in each: 

Growth Cultures: These companies are often part of an emerging industry and employ less-experienced executives and staff. The founder makes most of the decisions. They feature low-structure, informal working environments, a fast-pace and they value results over processes. Risk taking and innovation are encouraged.

  • Show initiative. Don't wait to be told what to do.
  • Bring ideas to the table, especially ways to generate revenue through technology.
  • Work quickly and put in long hours.
  • Demonstrate comfort with shifting priorities and working without guidelines.
  • Take advantage of the access to senior leaders.

Maturing Cultures: Growth is slowing and perhaps the industry is consolidating. The founder may have moved on. Executives are looking to add processes and infrastructure, and mergers and acquisitions are possible. The priority is taking the company to the next level.

  • Be solution oriented. Suggest ways to drive productivity and lower costs.
  • Suggest technology processes that add value while offering greater control and security.
  • Prepare a mini-business plan when presenting an idea, demonstrating the long-term value of implementation.
  • Demonstrate your leadership skills and your ability to build consensus among team members.

Mature Companies: These are often industry leaders. Their priority is protecting market share. Process-driven, they're highly structured organizations that use formal decision-making processes and are fairly risk averse.

  • Use formal business etiquette, especially when communicating.
  • Vet your ideas and win support before elevating them.
  • Demonstrate patience and a penchant for detail.
  • Take advantage of training programs and mentoring opportunities, volunteer for additional responsibilities.