If you asked your friends about their 2015 goals, I bet that a new job is on the list for most of them. For many professionals, the beginning of the year brings a new impetus to take stock of career goals, compensation, and satisfaction. Companies, too, are preparing for a major influx of new employees, with 19 percent of employers anticipating an increase in staffing levels in Q1 of next year.

When deciding on a new job — especially in the tech industry — it’s hard to resist the shiny, enticing perks that companies offer today. The ping pong table culture of the Valley is thriving, and it’s rare that a business doesn’t provide catered lunches or unlimited vacation time. It’s smart, actually: As industries become increasingly more technical, companies are reliant on skilled, quality talent, giving job seekers their pick of the best opportunities out there.

Unfortunately, these perks can often be too good to be true — and they don’t last forever. What does last? A strong ecosystem, a well-founded company, and great people. When evaluating a new opportunity, it’s important to consider everything a company has to offer — and as you start applying for jobs in 2015, it’s time to get serious about managing your career and yourself.

1. Evaluate the Ecosystem

As you shop for your next job, make sure to widen your scope and examine the company from the outside in. A company’s ecosystem matters more than you probably realize. The kind of professional culture that a company builds is a direct indication of how successful you’ll be there. Think about it: Today, most tech employees average far above 40 work hours per week. The tech jobs of today require long hours, intense dedication, and some serious sacrifices, so being part of an environment slated for success is the best way to ensure payoff.

Working for a market leader helps ensure that your stock is worth something and that your hard work actually moves the needle within the company. A company that prioritizes growth and greatness will be the place where you can make a noticeable contribution — and where you’ll be ultimately rewarded for your efforts. Working for a company that’s a leader in its space affords you the opportunity to make noticeable progress and gain recognition for your achievements, and that’s not something to pass up.

2. Recognize the Leadership Funnel

When you think of Apple, chances are, Steve Jobs isn’t far from your mind. If Salesforce comes up in conversation, no doubt Marc Benioff is discussed alongside. It’s no secret that successful companies start with successful leaders. But what many job seekers don’t realize is that a company’s executive board can and should affect their decision to apply. Disruptive tech companies are emerging in the Valley every day, but only 10 percent of startups actually succeed. If you want to work for a company that lasts, look for quality leaders that create a success-oriented environment.

Do your research on the company C-suite. Have they been at any other prominent companies before? How have previous ventures turned out for them? What is their involvement in the greater industry ecosystem, and how have they gleaned knowledge from it? At any company, good leaders are supportive, motivating, and grateful, and they set the tone for the future. If that tone doesn’t strike a chord, don’t waste your time.  

3. Don’t Fall for the Fluff

While the luster of a discounted gym membership or free dry cleaning might weaken over the years, businesses will continue using competitive perks to draw people in. What will change, however, is your journey at the company, so it’s important to balance incentives with company growth, career development, and your financial success.

I’ve found that, with many young, glitzy companies, candidates will be wooed with massive signing bonuses or ridiculous perks. But it’s important to think about what lies beyond the shiny exterior of these companies and what makes them a valuable endeavor for your career. Consider things like growth opportunities, career development programs, and team dynamics — things that will last after the first 90 days of your tenure. Again, it’s the ecosystem that should be the biggest perk. Without a success-oriented culture and solid environment to back it up, the fluff is just too good to be true.

Navigating your future career is a tall task. While there’s no way to guarantee that any career move is going to be the perfect one, if you start managing your career now, you’ll be one step closer to the future you want.

Jim Yu is the CEO and cofounder of BrightEdge

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