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Attention, fresh graduates: Look for ‘creative latitude’

/ 05:01 AM March 19, 2018

Every year, fresh graduates in the Philippines need to make one of the most important decisions of their lives: Where should they work for their first job? Their choice can cast a ripple effect across their whole career. If they chose a very traditional corporate job, they may be stuck with the most basic of tasks, owing to their lack of seniority. If they chose a position in a high growth company or sector, they may find themselves learning new things every day and climbing up the ranks faster than they ever imagined.

Between those two extremes, there are plenty of gradations across employers and choosing the best one often becomes an overwhelming task. Each available position has a multitude of variables—compensation, perks, location, job title, job level, job responsibilities, company culture, company reputation, and more—making it difficult to rate, much less predict, which will be the best employer for you.

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Given this herculean challenge, I would like to offer our nation’s fresh graduates the single most important criteria that they should evaluate potential employers by, and what they can do to properly gauge it.

As I hired team members for my taxi-hailing platform, Micab, I most often recruited talent on our vision of creating “Taxi 2.0” in the Philippines, where the taxi experience is as customer oriented as the best service providers in other industries. This style of recruiting brought me many talented and hardworking people, most of whom are still with me today, who truly believe in and embrace Micab’s mission.

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But as Micab grew, and I needed to hire more people, I began to wonder: Is there another criteria I could emphasize when recruiting that would produce an even greater number of successful hires? As I was mulling over this question, I tried to observe what made people happiest at Micab, and above a certain standard, it was never the compensation, the perks, or anything of the sort. Instead, I noticed that team members were happiest when they had what I like to call creative latitude.

Let me break down the phrase for you. In creative, I am referring to the core definition of the word: The ability to create. With latitude, I simply mean space or room. Creative latitude, then, is when employees have the room to create.

In the Philippines, people would most often associate creative latitude with product developers and owners (i.e. Can they suggest features? How much influence do they have on the product roadmap? Does senior management allow for them to put their own vision into the product?), but it can just as well apply to nonproduct positions, and is in fact more meaningful then.

For example, our office manager at Micab runs the show: She has full say on adapting or changing any protocols she thinks will make the workspace run more efficiently. Likewise with our social media marketer: He has full will to run with any ideas or campaigns he thinks will contribute to Micab’s brand-building. In other words, they have creative latitude.

After realizing that creative latitude made Micab’s team members the happiest, I began to emphasize how much of it we had at the company to recruits. My campaigning was successful: The new hires I brought on tended to stay longer and display an extraordinary amount of initiative, which is exactly what you want at a fast-growing tech company.

Since creative latitude is what I’ve found makes team members happy, I’d like to offer fresh graduates a few choice questions on how to roughly ascertain a company’s creative latitude: Do the founders still work there? Are there formal channels to suggest new ideas? Do product developers solicit feedback from across the company? Are team members encouraged to express themselves, no matter how off-the-wall their thoughts may initially seem? Can team members recall an instance in which they suggested something that was eventually implemented?

If the answer to most of these questions is a resounding yes, you’re in luck: You’ve chanced upon one of the few companies in the Philippines that has true creative latitude. Barring other considerations, I would encourage you to jump at the chance to work there, because you’ll not only get the room to create— you’ll also gain the room to grow. –CONTRIBUTED

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