Sunday, 5 February 2012

Considerations before moving to another job

I maintain that being self employed/the boss/an entrepreneur/an investor is the way to go.  There are many terms you can use, but it's the principal of not being employed and obligated to someone else that's important.

However it's very difficult logistically and practically to just up and leave overnight.  A part time venture needs time to grow and supersede your job.  A job therefore, while not ideal, is a good stopgap while you further your own interests and build toward the eventuality you want.  It can be used to pay your mortgage and take care of all your usual living expenses.

In this period though it's like you're living in two realities: one where you go to that dreary job you hate and the other where you place the remainder of your energy on your personal business venture.  You promote,improve your product/offering and give it everything you've got, yet sometimes progress may seem slow.

In the meantime then, you may be itching to move to another job, as building your venture into a viable, sustainable source of income can sometimes take upward of a year.  You may be thinking: I'm not sure when things will take off for me, so in the meantime I have to find a job that's more bearable.  What I will say is that employees at every company I've worked at will fantasize about working at another company where "they treat their staff so well....the benefits are amazing" and "there is such opportunity to grow."  When I was at Toyota for instance, colleagues would often fantasize about working just down the road at Unilever.  Yet I had many friends at Unilever complain to me about the demands placed on them, and in the same breath they would ask me to keep an eye out for vacancies at Toyota.

It's a case of thinking the grass is greener on the other side, when the truth is it's more a case of same shit different company when you're an employee.  Every company is a hierarchy, you fit into this hierarchy and you get paid a fixed salary to do a job, wherever you may work.  All companies face the same pressures, adopt the same culture of work 'til you drop and demand the same output from employees.  They may each position their brands differently to attract employees and claim to have a people come first culture, but any experienced candidate in the workforce will tell you that's just PR talk.  You aren't going to find some gem of a company that places drastically less demand on you and pays you much more than others. No organisation will be very different to another because they all benchmark against each other in the interests of adopting "industry standards" and "market related remuneration."  By and large, a great company to work for does not exist; not in this day and age where there is such an emphasis on cutting costs, competing with cheap alternatives coming from places like China and satisfying the shareholder's unquenchable thirst for more profit.

Therefore listening to opinions and sentiments about what it's like at one company compared to another can be very misleading and to base your decision on quips like "they're such a cool company to work for" can be a big mistake.  The grass is greener when you're the boss of your own, not when you work at some "cool company."

There are some critical things I feel people overlook when they want to jump ship:

#1: New job, new pressure
Your current job may be demanding and stressful.  Or maybe it's sheer drudgery.  But at least you know what you're getting when you go to the office each morning.  No matter how experienced you are at a job, it's always different when you do it at another organisation.  When you start work at another place then there will be a steep learning curve ahead.  Now learning is always touted as a good thing, but this is learning of an obligatory nature: you have to learn your new job fast or you risk looking incompetent.  It's pressurised learning where you have to know the job within a couple of months; this isn't fun or interesting learning we're talking about.

I say you will need to learn everything fast, because what I call the honeymoon period will be over after about three months.  When the honeymoon period is over, mistakes will no longer be laughed off or tolerated like they were during your first month.  Mistakes will attract the thinly veiled reprimand: "If there's something you don't understand, you must ask so that we can rectify things early on.  Please don't hesitate to ask."  This is little more than a diplomatic re-word of: You were shown this before, and you should have done it right by now.

#2: You work for a person, not a company
At your new job, you won't be working at Unilever, Facebook, Google or Deloitte; you will be working for a manager, senior manager, general manager, vice president or CEO - depending where in the hierarchy you fit in.  Your company may stand for respect, fairness and understanding, but does the bloke you report to stand for the same?  You may have a demanding job currently, but if your senior is a mature, understanding person then please do not underestimate what a rare phenomenon he or she is.  A douchebag of a boss can make life really unbearable.  They can be exceedingly demanding and if you don't meet these demands they can hold back increases and promotions.  You already know the calibre of person you report to; the person above you in your new job will only reveal their true colours after you sign the employment contract and the honeymoon period mentioned above is over.

#3: Slightly better pay can be easily offset with much more stress
When you sign up for a new job, remember that the job will always entail more than what the job specification reveals.  Every company has it's own peculiarities and unique requirements.  Moving for 10% more pay might seem like a move up, but suddenly you may realise that 10% is not nearly enough for the extra two hours a day you spend away from your family.  So maybe you work overtime at your current job, but this new job may require excessive overtime.  At the interview no potential employer will tell you, "You will be required to work obscene amounts of overtime."  Rather, they will make a generalised, mostly meaningless assessment like "From time to time, you may be required to work overtime to meet deadlines and meet operational requirements."  On hearing this, you tend to get the impression that overtime is the exception rather than the rule.

It's best that you focus all your spare energy and brainpower on creating alternate sources of income i.e. your personal venture.  This alternate income stream needs to be nurtured and grown to first give you independence from your job then make you rich.  Jumping from job to job isn't going to give you ultimate happiness.  If you find it does, I feel you may be setting your standards too low.

If for some reason another company is offering you much more money than you currently make then I say yes, make the move.  A higher salary will allow you to funnel the additional money into your own interests which will speed up your endeavour to become financially independent and boss-free.

You only know after the fact
In the end, you may very well be moving to something worse, and the thing is you will only know how a job is after doing it for a few months.  Maybe the new job will be an improvement, but you will only learn the wisdom of your decision after you sign the contract.  Either way then, you only find out the truth after it's too late.  Often it's a case of better the devil you know.

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