The title of this post is somewhat of a trick question. When a company pays your salary, as agreed when you took the job, you probably do owe them something in return. In other words, in most cases you should deliver whatever you agreed to do in exchange for that salary.
On the other hand, what if the company expects actions that are, for example, unethical or borderline illegal? Then you’re looking at possible consequences and risks that you didn’t agree to at the outset. Such a situation merits at least some serious thought on your part and might require you to take steps that are difficult to face.
Here’s hoping you never have a job situation that puts you in that kind of spot, but we’ve probably all heard or read news reports about just such occurrences. How would you handle it if it happened to you?
Unacceptable Job Performance Demands
Ultimately, you’ll have to determine whether a demand is so unacceptable that you need to find another position. Before you reach that point, however, it would be wise to evaluate the situation carefully. For instance, can you identify possible ways to work things out so that you don’t have to accede to unacceptable job performance demands?
If you’ve done your best to work through a troublesome issue and gotten nowhere, that might be the time to start seriously looking for options outside the company–as discreetly as possible. In the meantime, you’ll want to avoid “stirring the pot” if you can, so you don’t raise a red flag in the minds of management about your plan to jump ship the moment you find a better job offer.
Among other things, be very careful about talking to anyone within the company–even someone you think you can trust. Whether or not the person is on the level and means to treat your comments as confidential, you can’t bank on that and don’t want to put your job at risk unnecessarily.
Company Loyalty Not a 2-Way Street
I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. As far as I know, no company gives you an open-ended job guarantee or promises you they’ll give you ample notice if they decide they need or want to dispense with your services.
Maybe the best companies today do care about their employees and make a point of treating them fairly, partly because they know it’s the best way to continue attracting top performers; but those are probably the exception rather than the rule. Many companies that aren’t necessarily shady or otherwise undesirable don’t feel a real sense of loyalty to employees. As Tom Hanks’ character says in “You’ve Got Mail”: “It’s not personal; it’s business.”
When they need to trim expenses or change directions for the business in some way that leaves you on the outside, you’re expendable. In most cases, they don’t even need to give you any warning. Not only that, but if you give them the traditional two-weeks’ notice when you’re the one initiating a separation, they can just as easily walk you right out the door with no time to do more than (maybe) grab your personal effects.
So a word to the wise: Be smart about the subject of company loyalty. Do what you knowingly agreed to do and make plans to leave if the job situation takes an unexpected turn for the worst. You “owe” that to yourself.
P.S. This will be my last blog post for the next few weeks, as I’m in the midst of getting ready to make a cross-country move. I’ll get back to you when I can.
I’ve had a few clients over the years that have gotten caught up in the Never-Never Land of long-term unemployment, and to say that it’s stressful and disturbing for them is a gross understatement. While I doubt a “magic bullet” exists that will fix the problem effortlessly, I do believe some pointers and potentially hopeful signs can be found to encourage those job seekers.
Companies that Discriminate Against Long-Term Unemployed
We’ve probably all heard about companies that discriminate against people who have been out of work for months, even years. Some of that discrimination is subtle, while some of it (unbelievably, to me) is blatant. I’ve even seen job postings that specifically exclude people who’ve been unemployed for an extended period. It’s often included as “must be currently employed” or words to that effect. The justification for doing so always sounds about as lame and self-serving as it can get.
For example, some companies claim that people who’ve been out of work for an extended period might be out of date on necessary skills and be unable to perform at the level of quality the company needs. Yet those same companies are apparently willing to hire people who don’t even have some of the “necessary” skills listed on their resume, just because those individuals are currently employed! In what universe does that attitude make any sense?
To begin with, just because someone has been unemployed for, say 7 months, doesn’t mean his/her skills have somehow atrophied in the meantime and he/she is somehow therefore a below-par candidate. Also, it shouldn’t take more than a few well-chosen questions in a submission form to get an idea of whether the person’s skills would be up to the task.
Just as an example of what’s “out there” on this subject, I found the following statement in a 2012 article titled “Discrimination Against the Unemployed“: “When Scott Pelley [of CBS] and his team of producers set out to profile Joe Carbone and his Platform to Employment program, they started hearing the same complaint from people who are out of work: if you’ve been unemployed for a year or more, some companies won’t even give you an interview.”
Along the same lines, a 2013 article titled “The Unemployment Bias: The Long-term Unemployed Face Severe Discrimination” states that “Last year I did some work for a large company that decided it would not hire anyone who was unemployed. It would automatically reject any candidate who had been unemployed even for a day.” Seriously?!!!
These short-sighted and narrow-minded corporate views have so many holes in them that I can’t begin to list them all, but here’s one: If the best potential hires are happily employed already and not interested in moving, and those employers won’t even consider equally well-qualified candidates who are out of work, how are those companies going to hire ANY good employees? That being said, how long can the companies continue in business before they reach a quality and customer-satisfaction level that hits their bottom line hard?
Companies that Might Hire Long-Term Unemployed
In early 2014, an event occurred that was intended to improve the situation over the long term. An article titled “300 companies pledge to help long-term unemployed” was one of several published regarding a campaign by President Obama to encourage companies to open up opportunities for individuals affected by long-term unemployment challenges. As the article noted, “More than 300 companies—including 20 of the nation’s 50 largest, such as Apple, Wal-Mart and General Motors—have agreed to reassess their hiring practices at President Obama’s request to make sure they are not biased against Americans who have been out of work for more than six months.”
Of course, pledges to reexamine hiring practices don’t automatically translate into a visible increase in hiring long-term unemployed job seekers. I don’t know if any studies have been done over the past year to evaluate whether any measurable improvement has been happening. However, I did see the following statement in a recent job posting:
“Siemens encourages qualified long-term unemployed individuals to apply for open positions.” The particular position in the posting was for a location in Indiana, but the statement sounds as if it covers the whole corporation. This might just be an isolated instance, but at least it strikes a more hopeful note than what I’ve been seeing so far.
What can you do if you’re one of those long-term unemployed individuals? I’m hoping to do some more research and then develop a blog post that offers a constructive outlook on this subject.
Chances are good that you’ve recently made or will soon be making one or more decisions that will impact your career success, although you might not realize that if your decisions are made without looking at them from all sides first. Being clear about what you’re aiming for in terms of career results is sound advice–a good place to start. Ben Stein (an American writer, lawyer, actor and commentator) put it this way: “The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.”
Career Decision-Making Has Two Parts
The first part is to do what Stein suggested; that is, determine what your goals are–both long-term and short-term career goals matter. And be as clear as you can about what you decide you want from your career. Fuzzy thinking on this score could cause you a lot of professional and personal grief in the long run.
Look carefully at the factors that are influencing your decisions. For instance, are you attracted by the idea of a job in a career field that tends to pay big salaries and not looking so much at the price to be paid to get and keep one of those jobs? Does the apparent glamor of a particular choice generate so much excitement that you’re ready to leap into pursuing it without careful thought?
Among other considerations, ask yourself these questions:
- What will I need to do to be competitive in this career field?
- What are the expectations for sustained growth (plenty of opportunity) in this field, industry, etc.?
- What demands will such a job make on my personal life, and am I reasonably sure I’m prepared to accept that?
- What’s my Plan B if my first choice turns out to be unsatisfactory?
Career Decision-Making: After the Choice is Made
The second part of career decision-making involves actually deciding. Waffling back and forth is ineffective at best and can present you as indecisive or a “non-decider” to other people, possibly including your boss and potential future bosses. The impact such behavior can have on your career success is not pretty! Once you’ve made a decision–chosen a direction to pursue–you need to stick with it and give it your best shot if you expect it to work out well.
This is not to say that you can’t change your mind down the road a ways, if there’s a compelling reason to do so. However, that shouldn’t happen often if you’ve thought decisions through carefully beforehand and put your best effort into executing them.
With all that’s been going on in the world during the past months and years, you might roll your eyes at the very thought that you could pursue career success without fear this year, and it would be hard to blame you. However, I’d like to offer some encouragement with this thought: fear paralyzes; hope energizes.
I know it’s easier said than done to tell you to put fear aside as you plan your career steps this year. Like you, I’m not immune to the jabs that fear can take at us when we try to move forward in a desired direction. What helps each of us might not be the same for all, but for me, looking beyond my own admittedly limited resources plays a key role. The main point is to find what works best for you and put it into practice.
No Fear in the New Year
Jon Gordon revises his newsletter column titled “No Fear in the New Year” every year, and I always enjoy reading it. His experience 14 years ago might inspire you to look differently at your own situation, however challenging it seems, so I encourage you to read the entire article (signing up for his newsletter is easy and free).
One excerpt that resonates with me is this: “You will always feel fear. Everyone will. But your trust must be bigger than your fear. The bigger your trust the smaller your fear becomes. And the more you trust the more you become a conduit for miracles.”
He then goes on to explain how a financially grim picture was completely transformed in ways he couldn’t have predicted at the start. Within four short years he was in an amazing place in his career and his life. What’s to say you couldn’t experience a similar transformation in terms of your own career success, whether it’s a short-term job search or a longer-term career change?
Big Leaps Can Bring Big Rewards
Making a big leap in your career management (including things like a major job change) can seem really daunting at times. It’s what a respected colleague of mine once called “big gulp” time!
Now I’m not advocating an action such as the adoption of bungee-jumping as a spur to tackling difficult career challenges (although that might work for some of you!). I’m just saying that we sometimes need to move well outside our comfort zone if we hope to achieve a significant growth goal in our career–or in our life, for that matter.
For me, personally, this view has meant considering–and now actively planning–a cross-country move from California to Massachusetts to be near my sister. Many aspects of this planned relocation are challenging, not the least of which is eventually driving myself, my son and two small dogs more than 3,000 miles. Until now, my idea of a long drive has been 3-4 hours, tops.
I can’t foresee all the possible obstacles to be overcome in achieving this goal, but I do know I have a strong reason for doing it, and that motivates me. That might also be what helps you to move forward–to get past the fear you feel at the thought of making a big change in an uncertain world. I certainly hope it does and you reach the end of 2015 with a resounding “YES!” at how far you’ve come.
Did your new year get off to a strong start? If not, don’t worry. There’s plenty of time to make a course correction. However, if you were thinking about launching a new job search this year, you’ve already missed your chance to gain early momentum (late December would have been a good time for that). As the saying goes, though, “all is not lost.” You just need to get cracking!
Key Points for Your Job Search
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” That’s probably as true for job searching and career management requirements as for anything else in life. While keeping that in mind, the following are still potentially valid points to consider in planning and conducting your next job search:
- Last year’s trends might not be this year’s trends. Be aware of them and remain alert to signs that the “old” ones are either strengthening or diminishing in the coming weeks and months, but don’t get fixated on them as you develop and adjust your career management plan throughout the year.
- Complacency is not your friend. Don’t allow the comfort of your current situation (if comfort exists) to lull you into a false sense of security, as a result of which you let active job search energy dissipate into nothingness.
- Revitalize your network. Touch base with key people in your network to (a) see how their year is going, ask how last year was for them, etc.; and (b) share with them appropriate information about what you’re up to. The main point is to demonstrate sincere interest in them, and you’ll probably find that interest reflected back to you.
- Ignorance is definitely not bliss. Although you don’t necessarily have to be on your (mental) toes nonstop, you shouldn’t assume that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Make it an important part of your job search and ongoing career management to stay on top of emerging developments that could affect your career and/or your job prospects, either adversely or favorably.
Job Search Preparation and Execution
Preparation is the process of getting ready for something or taking the steps necessary to make it happen. While getting ready for your job search (making plans) is certainly important, remember that plans that are never executed do not produce desirable results–they can’t. A job search that stays in your mind amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking.
Wishful thinking never accomplished anything worthwhile. Note: This is different from dreaming and visualizing a goal that impels you to take action to achieve it. Action is a key component of that process.
Where do you really want to be at this time next year? What do you want to see yourself doing? Figure that out as soon as you can and begin moving in that direction.
Do or say it now, as in Go ahead and call him—there’s no time like the present. This adage was first recorded in 1562. One compiler of proverbs, John Trusler, amplified it: “No time like the present, a thousand unforeseen circumstances may interrupt you at a future time” ( Proverbs Exemplified, 1790).
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary, Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company.