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Monday, December 05, 2005

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9:04 AM     You Are Leaving Your Career To Chance. STOP IT!

As a guy who has held a bunch of jobs, has spent nearly 15 years in the IT staffing / placements / solutions industry (am I that old already?!), and has worked as a headhunter, I get a lot of people asking my advice for a job search.

Because I am an extraordinarily nice guy (no, really!), I usually will oblige them with some good, solid recommendations that they can use to start the "getting a new job" process.

Also, over the years, I have ceased to be amazed at the numbers of people who leave their career to chance and are unwilling to put any significant effort into their job search.

Perhaps you're one of these people.

I know I was.


Based on the folks that I've talked to, I would estimate that 90%+ of people out in the job market leave their careers to chance. Think about it:

  • How much intense research did you do on your current employer before hiring on?

  • How many current and former employees of the company did you talk to before accepting an offer?

  • Why was this company the best possible choice for employment? (And no, "because they were the ones that made me an offer" doesn't count)

  • What does this company offer to help further your career goals?

  • Do you have any thought-out, written-down career goals?

This is just a short list of the possible questions, but most of the candidates that I've spoken with don't have really good answers to even these questions. Do you?


The truth of the matter is that most people are a just slave to the money. You'll do all sorts of demeaning, insulting, and career-limiting things just because of the money. I did, too, by the way.

And when the money runs out (fired, company goes out of business, big layoff, etc.), you scramble to find another source of money. Be honest - that's most of the jobs that you've picked are, aren't they? Another source of money.

Now, we all need money (and, more specifically, we all need MORE money!), so I'm not criticizing that. But, if you're a slave to the money you're getting now, you're a slave to your boss and your company.

And that might not be such a bad thing, if your boss AND your company have your best career options in mind for you. However, usually, they only know where they have "slots" or "gaps" and aren't particularly concerned with where YOU want to be.


In reality, this method of operation doesn't seem like a bad thing when there are lots of jobs around. That was the case in the late '90s and, no matter what you read in the newspaper and hear on the news, it will be the case again shortly (1-3 years).

Before you think I'm secretly calling you names for doing the job hopping thing, understand that I was there, too. In the late '90s, I job hopped a bunch. And who could blame me, really? I got a 20% - 40% raise every time I jumped. And I wasn't alone!

The problem becomes when the party is over. After the dotcom era ended, jobs were a lot tougher to come by. After 9/11, even more so. That's when I had to take a serious look at what my resume said: 'This guy can't stay put for very long and will jump the first time more money comes along. He's not worth the investment.'

The reason that I'm telling you this is that the job hopping option is coming back around and I urge you to think twice before doing it.


Okay, so you find yourself in a less-than-wonderful position. You boss is a pain-in-the-butt, they aren't investing in any new technology, and they've fired enough people so that you're doing just about everything: desktop support, network administration, development, testing, and whatever else that comes up. Oh, and you're a manager, too.

Headhunters are starting to call and tell you about wonderful new jobs that pay more than you're making now. They're desperate. They need you!

How can you NOT leave a place where you're undervalued, underpaid, and underappreciated for one that needs you, wants you, and is willing to pay for you?


Let me tell you a little headhunter's secret: moving jobs is a lot like getting remarried. Compared to your old harpy, haranguing, sloppy, wench of a wife, this new one seems much more vibrant, interesting, exciting, and exotic. How could you go wrong?

Because, while all women are different, they're all alike in one way: they've got problems. Before you start your hate e-mails, men are the same. We've all got problems. It's a human condition.

So, while your new wife may not have the exact problems your old one did, she's got problems that you'll get to discover (at the most inopportune times) that you may find are even more annoying than your old wife's.

What's this got to do with your job? It is this: Almost all companies have problems valuing their employees. Almost all companies have difficulty showing appropriate appreciation for their employees. And almost all companies underpay their employees, even if the initial pay is better than what you were making before.

Yes, almost all of them. I know both the next company and woman (or man) that you meet will seem to be pretty perfect. You won't be able to see any real flaws with them. And now, you know where to look, right?

If you remember nothing else, remember this: You are a technical person. You know that raw numbers don't lie. That new woman and that new company have problems as serious (though different) than your currant woman and job. If not more so. The numbers don't lie.


Let me be real honest with you here: If you haven't been in your current position for at least 3 years, you shouldn't be looking to move jobs. It's too career limiting. And, in the scheme of things, you can stand anything for 3 years.

Besides, I'm going to keep you busy enough that you won't even notice the years fly by.

Are there exeptions to the 3 year rule? Yes. Here they are:

  • Your boss physically beats you. Daily. If it's only weekly or so, suck it up.

  • You're being sexually harassed. How do you know? Remember the old rule: if you like it, it's not harassment.

  • You're being laid off. Important here is not that you THINK you're being laid off. HR has actually TOLD you that you're being laid off.

  • Your life is in danger. And don't give me any of this namby pamby new age junk about, "The stress is going to kill me", "My chi is so wrong here that I might die", or any such nonsense. I mean that there is a real, honest-to-goodness bad man with a knife, gun, or really sharp letter opener that is threatening to make you look like swiss cheese.

Those are the exceptions. If you don't fall into one of those, stop your whining.


Let me demystify this for you: Getting the right job for you is hard work.

And long work. Finding the right job for you is a process that will take 8-18 months. But look at it this way: that's a small amount of time to invest for a job that you'll love for many years to come.

Yes, I know you've had offers that you've turned down. Yes, I know headhunters have set you up with interviews and the companies are very interested. Yes, I know that you're in the process and so, if these don't work out, you'll start the hard work.

My answer is this: 1)If what you're doing is working out well for you, why are you turning down the offers and asking me for advice? and 2)If you haven't put the work into finding out what you want, how will you know if any of these offers are any good?

You can argue with me all you like. I can guarantee that I'm right. And you know it, too.


So, let's assume, just to make me feel better, that you're ready to start with the hard work of getting your new job.

Where do you start?

Step #1 is this: Decide what you really want to do with your life.

I'll be posting step 2 this week. If that's not fast enough for you, e-mail me letting me know what you've done from Step#1 and, if you're ready, I'll tell you step #2.

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