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I went to a career fair hosted by my university. Most of the companies were local tech startups. Each had a booth you could come by and talk to the people and at the end there was a presentation where each company talked a bit about themselves and the rolls of their co-op students.

I'm not sure how to put this, but I'm from a different city than where I'm going to school and I have prior experience.

I noticed most of the companies presented a very laid back look. For example everyone was wearing tshirts and even some presenters were wearing backwards caps or hats. Some companies talked about how they go for beer on Fridays or have an xbox in the office or dogs in the office etc. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this but I am unused to it and feel uncomfortable.

Why would a company mention these things? A small part of me feels that they do this because they're trying to hide something bad, for example the work sucks so they got an xbox.

  • The vast majority of the time it is MUCH more pleasant working for a company with a laid back atmosphere: friendlier, less stressful, more "fun". Note that there's a distinct difference between "Informal" and "Unprofessional" - it's possible to be both informal and highly professional, the best companies know where to draw the line. The problems come if a company tries to be informal in everything and ends up not taking some of the important things (cashflow, HR, customer relations) seriously. – Jon Story Jan 22 '15 at 10:52
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    So, you focused on their t-shirts and their caps being worn backwards and not on their mission? The culture may be laid back but their expectations of what you have to do for them are probably anything but laid back. My attitude is that if they expect me to work 10 or more hours a day, I need to be in clothes that are comfortable to me - I'll break the clean shirt out of the closet if and when a customer visits. What should I think about those who feel strongly about formal business attire and spell "suits" as "suites"? – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 22 '15 at 10:53
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    Hi Jimmy, I edited your question to make it more on topic here. If I changed your intent too much feel free to update with your own edit. Thanks and welcome! – enderland Jan 22 '15 at 14:53
  • One of the most important things to consider when choosing a job is work environment. In the tech industry, an environment is generally considered appealing if it is laid back and has game rooms, and the like. It is just how things are these days. Obviously not every tech company will be this way. But that is why they focused on it, because if you do not like your work environment, you will not work for them. – Dave Johnson Jan 22 '15 at 15:05
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    I'm with you. For me telling me you have a game room means you want me to spend too many hours at work. No thanks. I want to work not be at a frat party. – HLGEM Jan 22 '15 at 20:04
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Why would a company mention these things? A small part of me feels that they do this because they're trying to hide something bad, for example the work sucks so they got an xbox.

They are not trying to hide something bad. If you have never worked for a tech startup that is bootstrapping, this is a common practice.

These days, the job (work you do) matters less than the company (people, not organization) you work for - in other words, do you fit in their culture? They are trying to show what kind of people you'll be working with because this goes directly towards job satisfaction and the likelihood that you will stay for the long term.

By the way, not all startups have such xbox/beer culture.

What is the difference between a company where people where suits and act seriously vs one's where they don't and have fun together?

You answered the question right there - the difference is the people and by extension the company culture.

Beyond this, nothing much. Microsoft, Oracle, Google - they all develop software and have competing products. Culture, however, is completely different. Part of the culture is the "perks" you have the office (like the xbox) and the kind of clothes you wear.

I'm not saying people who wear suites don't have fun, I'm just saying if a client comes into the office wouldn't it look bad if there were nerfguns around? At least that's what was explained to me.

The kind of "clients" that would walk into a startup's office are most likely investors and VCs; these people invest in the team and not necessarily the product. By definition a startup is just a bunch of people trying to find out if there is a market for an idea it is not a company.

You are thinking in a very singular approach to work; where there are well-defined clients and the client/employee relationship is dictated clearly (for example, I work at a bank and here, such a relationship is clearly defined).

Not all companies have the same culture.

The bottom line is this - If you don't like the company culture, chances are high you won't enjoy working there. You should be thankful that the company culture is on full honest display; its a great way to know (other than the work you do) will you fit in with the people around you.

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    Enh... in my experience, the xbox is often there to, maybe not hide, but at least make up for things. Bootstrapping startups often involve long hours and/or subpar pay. Sure, it could be just to have fun and keep employees happy, but there are certainly places where it's a cheap way to get away with other stuff. – Telastyn Jan 22 '15 at 14:59
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    @Telastyn Yes, it is depressing what companies try and buy employee time with - my personal hatred is the "free pizza" lunches, that somehow makeup for low pay. – bharal Jan 22 '15 at 16:05
  • It's not bad in itself. I've seen some tech start ups with very health work environment. Offering events after work to hit the bars, play games competitively, see a show near by, etc. During which discussion of work is discouraged. (They're trying to get you to effectively become better friends with your coworkers help employee retention and get their employees to do something fun to avoid burn out) I've also seen in non start ups "free pizza" which means "working lunch" which is pretty lousy. – RualStorge Jan 22 '15 at 18:24
  • What is bootstrapping in this context? I have actually worked for start up companies before and never heard this phrase. – Jimmy Bauther Jan 22 '15 at 20:49
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Why would a company mention these things?

Because they think you might see it as a benefit when working for them. They sure think it's a benefit, or they would not be doing it.

What is the difference

There is no clear cut advantages or disadvantages. It depends. It depends on your working style, your customers, the product you sell and probably a few other things. Would you buy insurance from a guy in shorts with a nerf gun? Probably not. Would you buy a "fun app for android" from people in suits who don't look like they even know "fun" if it hit them square in the face? Probably not.

The only thing actually important is: where do you want to work? Which style do you prefer?

  • I don't like video games. Does that mean I shouldn't work in a place where people wear shorts? Last job I had we had to keep our desks neat encase a client came in and we played card games at lunch and the suited me fine. I guess I feel strange not liking places with xboxs etc. – Jimmy Bauther Jan 22 '15 at 9:36
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    That's a personal preference and one is just as valid as another. If you prefer a more formal environment (or maybe just another kind of fun), pick the environment that suits you. You will spend a lot of time there, it does not make sense to pick one where you don't feel at ease. – nvoigt Jan 22 '15 at 10:25
  • @nvoigt oh man, i love that phrase "another kind of fun". Also, you're right, if the OP doesn't like video games, then it would be best to stay away from a company that plays them all the time. – bharal Jan 22 '15 at 10:41
  • And also at work you have to learn to work with diverse people – Pepone Jan 22 '15 at 20:43
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Why would a company mention these things?

A huge part of how and why people like their jobs relates to company culture. Basically, how well do you like your environment?

There are a lot of people who hate wearing dressy clothing. Some people do not care. Some people like being at work at 6:00am. Some people would rather die than be up that early. Some office environments also have large amounts of social events (such as beer on Fridays). Some people never want to see their coworkers outside the office.

None of these are "important" yet often contribute very significantly to whether or not people stay at their job.

Things like this are REALLY important to how well people actually enjoy their job. This is why companies try to "sell" their culture in many cases.

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The difference in what fits your personal preference. I think what you see is what you get.

Part of being a successful business is doing things other people don't want to or can't do. No job is a 100% blissful situation purely focused on saving mankind. Would you rather have work that sucks (because there will be moments when it will) and no Xbox or something else you do find enjoyable?

They wore t-shirts and backwards caps because they like it and more importantly, want people to work there who like it. I can't speak for all of their clients, but if the company is successful, their clients probably don't care. It is possible that clients never come to the office.

You want a traditional work environment, there are plenty out there. They may not come to this event at your university because they're not interested in putting on a Talent Show. They have jobs available for people who need a job. Send a resume and put on a coat and tie when you go to the interview. Be prepared for set office hours that will only be extended when the inevitable emergency occurs and never shortened. Their lawyers have warned them about having alcohol in the office. Managers don't want you playing games; you're there to work. Enjoy.

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