Dear J.T. & Dale: I work in a co-working space that my employer pays for. I met someone there who works for a competitor. He came to me to let me know his company was hiring and that I’d be a great fit. I feel guilty even considering it, but the job pays more, with better benefits. I don’t have a non-compete, but something about it feels off. Not sure what to do. — Nicki
J.T.: One concern with switching is whether someday you’ll need your current employer as a reference — leaving them for a competitor will likely make them not want to say anything nice about you. So, if you do switch, make sure the competitor is some place where you can stay and grow your career. Moreover, you may wonder whether you should tell your current boss and try to get a counteroffer. I wouldn’t recommend it. Employers don’t like being backed into a corner like that. They’ll likely meet your demands, but will never really trust you again. In short, be honest with yourself. If you love the idea of going to the competitor, then move forward and know that it will come with some consequences.
DALE: So, we have three factors in the decision so far: pay, benefits and future references. Let’s add some more. First, there’s the future of your career. Which company is going to help you evolve as a professional? That will depend on the quality of management, but also on the growth of the organization. Which one of the two competitors will be growing faster? The slickest way to get an ahead-of-schedule promotion is when the company adds more staff and creates new departments. Next, also consider the inverse: Which company is less likely to have to do layoffs in a recession? Finally, there’s the overriding decision criterion that too many job switchers ignore: Where will you be happier? If you end up interviewing at the prospective employer’s offices, pay attention to the energy. I’m convinced you can feel the positivity of a place just walking through. And be bold in asking about such workplace issues as turnover and internal advancement — the best employers love to discuss culture. More money is nice; more joy is wonderful.
Dear J.T. & Dale: My daughter took a job with a company she interned with during college. The new boss (not the internship one) is a bully and doing things that should be considered harassment. It took such a toll on my daughter that she went to HR and told them, and she said she was resigning. They looked into it and are offering two months’ pay, but she has to sign a nondisclosure agreement. I’m concerned this will make it hard for her to get a new job when they ask her why she left. Won’t it look like she did something wrong? — Carolyn
J.T.: It’s true that signing an NDA can make it difficult to answer interview questions. But, given that your daughter is early in her career, they’ll likely realize it had less to do with her and more to do with the employer. When asked, I suggest she say, “I was an intern with the company while in college. They offered me a full-time position in a different department. It didn’t turn out as I expected and so I resigned to focus on finding a role that will let me build my skills in the way I hoped. I didn’t want to spend too much time in a job that wasn’t a fit for my career goals long-term.” That way, she avoids discussing the NDA.
DALE: Good advice. But let’s back up. I hate these NDAs — it’s the way weasels weasel-out. So, I hope your daughter can afford to refuse to sign. That might scare the company into dealing with this manager or may prompt them to up the offer to one she can’t refuse. The latter would be nice for her, but will also cause the organization to understand the cost of protecting bad behavior and maybe do something about it.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “Experiments Never Fail: A Guide for the Bored, Unappreciated and Underpaid.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.