Be Careful Who You Work For…
We all want a decent job, some place we want to be, where we feel valued and part of the team, where we can carve out a career and move up the promotion ladder, and make a difference. Sometimes this isn’t always the way. Sometimes just having a job is enough, is all there is.
That’s not to say we should accept the constant attack on workers, on hard fought conditions, on fairness in the workplace. No, we should not bow to the rich and powerful and let them push us around. We should not accept zero hour contracts, eroding conditions and the worker-boss balance tipping ever further in the boss’ favour. And we most definitely should not, unless we end up in difficult straights, work for those who would screw us over at every opportunity.
This piece is about being careful who you work for, who you agree to spend 8-10 hours of your day with, giving your time, your labour, your energy, your ingenuity, your devotion and passion. Be careful who you give these things to. They should be worthy recipients.
We should, where possible take as much care gathering information about prospective employers as they do about us. They want references, they want qualifications, experience and verification of our worth – which is entirely fair and right. They want interviews, tests, visits, background checks and yes, they do look at your internet presence, so be careful there!
Yet we are not as diligent with our prospective employers. I know, sometimes the euphoria of having a job overwhelms us, especially if we’ve been looking for ages. Sometimes that yes, we’ll have you when we’ve been searching for a while gets in front of our own due diligence. Often the new surface is glossy and pretty and we haven’t scratched it for ourselves, chipped away the perfect paint to see the damage underneath. Often, in the need for the job we overlook things that perhaps we should consider more thoughtfully before we sign on the dotted line.
How do you avoid working for wrong people?
*Research. In this day every company, every employer has a web-site. Read it carefully. While it will be full of spin it should tell you about values, results, give a first impression. It should give you some facts to work with.
*Talk to people who work there. Get the inside view – speak to people who have been there for years, speak to those who have just arrived, what about those who used to work there? People’s stories give you a better idea of the truth of an organization. We know some places suit some better than others, so listen carefully.
*Visit before the interview. Many places offer this option and you should take it. Yes, it will be a surface inspection too but it can give you a better feel for the place, look at what’s happening as you wander around, talk to people, not just managers. Just like parents visit a range of secondary schools on open days to make decisions about their child’s school, so you should too.
*Go on instinct. Too often we ignore our intuition, we think we should be factual and logical but sometimes how we feel about something (especially people) tells us the truth. So don’t over think your response, feel it too.
*Ask questions at interview – this option is part of standard interview practice, yet all too often people skip this, or ask simple questions that don’t really gain any information for them. Think more carefully about this as you prepare for your interview, what is it you need to know to decide to work for them??
*Don’t rush your decision. Allow some time for all the information to sink in. After all, your prospective employer is thinking about you, chatting further. They aren’t making a snap decision. You shouldn’t do the same. Think about what you really want: is this the place for you – for now, forever, until the right one comes along?
Working for the wrong people/company can be as damaging as not having a job. We need to be more wary of prospective employers, just as they are wary of us. We need to be sure that they match our values, our way of doing business, our expectations.
And when things shift, when how you want to do business (of whatever hue) changes and you no longer feel valued and/or feel compromised in your job, or you can’t make those changes yourself, when you are out of step with the mainstream, you need to move on. You need to go before things corrode to such a state that you are damaged beyond recognition. Sadly, the bosses win. They have the superior firepower and the only way to survive is to leave. But leave while you are standing, while you can take a decent reference with you, while your self-worth is strong, so they can’t reach their malicious, evil tentacles into your next job, into your chance to start again.
You are at work for a very long time. You need to make good choices for yourself. Yes, your career matters, but so does your self-respect, your values and your dignity, not to mention your health. Choose your employer wisely. Change them when you need to and remember that you work to live, not live to work. (Images from Private Collection)