Corporate Peon: Conversationally So, Part 2

Friday, January 20, 2006

Conversationally So, Part 2

As I alluded to in part 1, the 7 years E spent at my company hurt him in some job interviews. Interviewers were concerned, perhaps confused as to why he had stayed in one locale for so long. This suprised me; longevity equals loyalty, right? As Vince said, "If you're changing jobs every few months," then that's a problem. Why would the converse also be true?

In my company - perhaps in the industry - people stay a very long time. Twenty years is not unusual; more is quite common. At 28, I've already been here five years. People come, out of college or high school, and they stay until they're forced out, they die, or they retire.

I'm not endorsing this practice, but I'm not condoning it either. Obviously, a good employee (for that's all this discussion focuses on) with many years in a company can be a great asset. If the four criteria mentioned in Part 1 (challenging atmosphere, comfortable work environment, liveable salary, and great benefits) are present, why should an employee need to leave? And why would the company want them to? And why wouldn't any outside company see that as a positive?
Everyone says that the company won't look out for you; that you may be valuable, but you're not irreplaceable. I definitely agree with this in the grand scheme of things. In the teeny tiny picture though...I'm not so sure.

As stated above, many of my coworkers have been here for decades; some have been here since before I was born. They yammer on about how they 'used' to get 12% raises, and how they 'used' to have summer hours, and how they 'used' to get this, that and the other thing. They tell me how I have to go after everything I want myself, how no one will hand anything to me, how nothing comes easy. And I smile and I nod, but I'm thinking that's not been my experience.

No, a company won't look out for you when it comes down to push-and-shove. But it may look out for you during the day-to-day.
I'm afraid to open my eyes, to scan the classifieds, to post on Monster. I'm afraid to leave the behemoth of the company I'm at for a number of reasons. Let's ignore, for the moment, the four criteria that are present for me here. Instead, let's look at the other facts: 1. I'm at a huge, nationally recognized company. The opportunities that exist here just aren't present at the majority of places. My friend E who left is now #5 in a company of 18. That's right, 18 people TOTAL. I have to admit, I'm a little afraid for him - where can he go in that situation? What chances are there? What networking can take place? Extreme example, but it works as an illustrator.

2. I'm afraid to burn bridges. It's not impossible nor unlikely that I could leave the present place, go somewhere else, not like it, or reach my max. potential there, or whatever - and want to come back. I'm afraid I will find that the grass is not greener, that the move was a mistake and there's no way to remedy it.

Let's face it - no matter how polite a leave is, some people refuse to let you back into their fold. I'm afraid of that.

3. Perhaps I'm more cynical than anyone else, but I take half of what any interviewer says with a grain of salt. Flex time? Of course. Benefits? Great. Pay? Competitive? Challenges and opportunities? Without bounds. But that's not always the case, and often you're too reliant to leave when you finally figure that out.

Sheesh mentioned that "...before applying and interviewing, I have to ask myself whether it seems to be a position that I would want." Wise move, Sheesh, but again...can you trust the interviewer to give you the straight scoop?

I know the situation here on that score. Is it worth trading for something that 'might' be better?

4. The guy I talked most to at the bar told me repeatedly that I'm selling myself short, that I could do a lot better than where I am now. I don't know that I agree.

I do a good job, but the environment here is so extremely centric that I do have doubts about making it anywhere else. And to bill myself as someone fantastic, to leave a comfort zone for a place and position where I may fall?

Perhaps you can see my hesitation.
And when does money become the determining factor? I could make more money; who couldn't? Wouldn't a few extra hundred/thousand bucks a week/month/year make a difference to nearly everyone? When does - or should? - a significantly larger salary overshine the other three criteria?

I'm single with no kids. I worry about the future, probably more than is 'normal' for someone in my situation. I have a Roth IRA, a 401(k), a pension plan, and a money market. I don't spend fanatically, nor do I save at that level. I'm still frantically worried about my financial future - the 'what if's loom large and menacing, and I'm trying to prepare for them as best as I can.

Is more - or deeper, better - whichever word you want - financial security worth a less challenging atmosphere? Is it worth an environment of no team outings, no jeans days, no food days, no flex time, no holiday parties? Is it worth a few weeks vacation? My dream these days is of owning a house - which is no small feat in the area I live. $20k more a year would go a long ways in achieving that dream, but what's the hidden cost?
Of course, I know none of these answers. But I appreciate your responses.

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