Don’t jump at a job offer if you’re desperate.
Avoid any jobs that show red flags of a dysfunctional work culture.
Consider what you can negotiate in the job, including non-monetary things (like benefits or perks).
- Protect yourself legally by putting every verbal promise into writing.
Leave your old job graciously, and finish strong.
Respect your old workplace, and avoid speaking badly of it or sharing their secrets.
Make your new job better than your last.
If you happen to have found a bad job, stick it out and prepare as soon as possible to hunt for another role.
Don’t sign right away
Unless you’re desperate, never take a job offer as soon as they give it:
- No job is perfect, but some jobs are extremely dysfunctional.
- Working for a terrible job will damage your reputation, so consider what you’re walking into.
- It’s far better to keep hunting than settle against your principles.
- If you’ve spent months looking for a job without getting what you want, you may need to rethink your principles!
- Accepting a job offer immediately makes you look desperate.
- Research industry-standard salary and benefits information for at least a day before negotiating with a potential employer.
- Research salary surveys and salary guides, and consider the geographic area.
- Depending on how much responsibility you want, lower pay might be worth the unrelated work activities or career-advancing skills you can pick up.
Even if you plan to take the job, it’s a good idea to give at least half a day to think about it before signing the contract, just to be sure it’s a wise decision.
If you have any plans (e.g., a large vacation a few months in the future), tell them when they give you the job offer.
Make sure you know what you sign, since quickly signing without reviewing the paperwork can legally destroy you later, and many hidden clauses in a contract may follow you years later (e.g., noncompete agreements).
Never take a job when you see warning signs
Closely examine anything you feel or might feel disrespected or violated.
Pay close attention to who you’ll likely work with:
- You might experience several rounds of interviews before meeting a potential coworker.
- Research with job social media like Glassdoor or spend time on-site to see if you identify with the culture.
- Never take a job where you’ll work closely with someone you don’t want to become.
Signs the company doesn’t care about your career:
- They take forever to respond to you:
- If a hiring manager takes weeks to return a call or email, they won’t respond promptly after they hire you.
- You receive a barrage of tests and assignments before the company even talks about hiring you:
- Many companies use tests and analyses to commoditize and dehumanize workers.
- The job is over-sold, the job description is vague, and they’re not asking about your experience:
- Scammers don’t care about your background.
- Strange buzzwords or enigmatic phrases:
- They imagine you in multiple roles simultaneously and don’t understand how your skills apply to them.
- Nobody discusses a career progression path:
- The role is a dead-end job.
- The employer assumes you’ll automatically take their job offer:
- The manager presumes that hiring you is doing you a favor.
Signs the company doesn’t care about their employees:
- The interviewer complains about the current staff when they first meet you:
- It’s a trickle-down abuse culture.
- Managers make jokes at the expense of the team:
- It’s a passive-aggressive trickle-down abuse culture.
- The employees either look away from the manager or act like they don’t want to be there:
- The manager is either controlling or the employees are embarrassed by them.
- The workers are brutally honest and hate their job:
- The manager maintains a false image of a great workplace.
Signs of deep corporate dysfunction:
- Many new employees in a long-standing business:
- The company is experiencing a high employee turnover rate because people keep quitting or getting fired.
- Not enough appropriate communication in the office:
- You won’t know what to do, but everyone will frequently panic.
- Little or no respect for others’ time and talent:
- Nobody will care about your time.
- Little or no sense of remorse for wrongdoing or violating boundaries.
- Nobody respects your skills and talents.
- The potential employer asks for money from you before you begin working there:
- You’re there to perform a service for money from them, not the other way around.
- The company is in a serious financial crisis, or they’re a scam.
- Employees see pay grades as a type of status:
- Gifted, intelligent people don’t care about money and don’t determine their worth with paychecks.
Over-controlling company policies:
- A no-moonlighting policy:
- In other words, you can’t work another part-time job.
- The company doesn’t want you to develop your career through a different path.
- A no-reference policy:
- Your manager is forbidden to give a good reference.
- You can only discover a no-reference policy by asking “Does your company allow managers to give references for their employees, or are those inquiries sent to HR?”
- Progressive discipline:
- Gives increasing penalties for more failures.
- While it was once common in the Industrial Revolution, the policy treats you like a child.
- Payroll deductions for workplace items:
- This can include gas expense, company lunches, and supplies.
- This is a corporate money-saving trick that completely disrespects you and your ability to work.
- Dictated hours for salaried employees or mandatory office time for a job that canb e completely work-from-home:
- Every employee is required to work a certain number of hours.
- Dictated hours force salary employees to loiter in an office.
- Managers dictate internal job transfers:
- If one manager fully determines promotion and transfer opportunities, the company treats you like a machine.
- Formal performance management:
- Tasks and goals are broken into daily, weekly, and monthly measurements.
- A great company should respect that a great worker doesn’t need every hour specified for them.
- No casual time permitted:
- No flexible time allowed to take a day off for minor events that need it.
- If you only receive vacation, sick, and holiday times the company gives little to no freedom to live your life outside work.
Negotiating the Job
Most people miss out on the extra advantages of negotiating their role:
- It takes courage, but is always worth it if you do it correctly.
- Getting more pay has a compounding effect.
- $5,000 additional annual income at a job, repeated across multiple jobs, could turn into $50,000 extra yearly income across 20 years.
You must have a firm job offer before discussing salary:
- If you hear discussions about compensation before you’ve gotten a job offer, your manager is trying to undercut the wage discussion.
- Be brutally honest with yourself about your skills, aptitude, and experience compared to the market.
- Address taking on other work responsibilities, but don’t over-promise or expect them to trust you.
- For more autonomy and job satisfaction, ask for complete control over specific projects.
Negotiate salary from a position of power:
- With the exception of easy-to-measure work (e.g., digging holes, food preparation), your monetary value is extremely relative.
- To the employer, your 5-15% request for more pay is a small amount, though they’ll often fight you on it.
- With the exception of an overwhelmingly hot job market, the manager is far less invested in the negotiation than you ever could be.
- If you were able to find the job through a personal network, you have a lot more latitude for negotiation because you’re more a relationship than a commodity.
The type of need your job fills determines your negotiation power:
- Leadership roles give the most room for negotiation.
- Follower roles’ power comes through background and expertise in specific tasks.
- Mindless laborer roles give little to no room for negotiation even with years of experience.
Do not give them a number until they give one:
- If they say they need a number, they’re lying to you to compromise your negotiating position, though they’ll rephrase the concept:
- “I need a number to move forward in the system.”
- “I just need a number so we can see if this role is a good fit.”
- “We want to find out if you’re a good candidate for this position.”
- However, instead of outright calling them liars, choose more polite words to express it:
- “I’m more concerned if we’re a mutual fit right now.”
- “To me, money doesn’t really matter as much as the work.”
- “So what number range are you looking at for this position?”
- In general, if you ever do drop a number, make it 5-10% more than your last role but still within the range of your industry’s salary.
- If you want, you can add the benefits you received (e.g., health insurance divided out by hours in a month), then add 5-10% to that number.
- Be very careful about lying, since employers constantly share sell previous wage data to large organizations.
- Bear in mind that more money means higher expectations, which often means you have less time to pursue your own hobbies on company time.
Discuss every negotiable benefit you want:
- Ask whether they’ll re-evaluate your compensation in six months to a year if you’ve met their expectations.
- Ask if the salary is base or can involve bonuses, stock options, a sign-on bonus or other benefits.
- Ask for a loftier title for your resume, which in the long-term is worth a pay cut.
- Since you’re representing them, ask for a clothing stipend built into your contract.
- Ask for transportation reimbursement to be in the office on time each day.
- If you have a heavy commute, request a housing subsidy.
- If you can’t control if the job stops existing, ask for a guaranteed severance package.
- If you want it, ask for an office with a window.
- Request tuition reimbursement or on-the-job training to offset the costs of building your skills.
- Ask for daycare/childcare reimbursement.
- If you want more preparedness for life’s uncertainties and room for creativity, ask for flexible scheduling or additional vacation time.
- If the job can be done remotely with a computer, ask for a remote work schedule or partial in-person workweek.
When considering a job offer for a company you’ve worked for before:
- Determine if the new opportunity will advance your career.
- Think about your prior concerns before you left the last time.
- Recall your experience with the company.
- Observe whom you know and knew at the company.
- Consider the impact that your new commute will have on your time, auto condition, and happiness.
Try to sweeten the deal with other relevant skills you can add to the job:
- You can often promise to use non-job-related skills you enjoy using.
- Employees are rarely ever paid as much as they’re worth.
- Don’t get greedy or the manager will revert to their original offer.
- If you’re really concerned about getting paid what you’re worth, start your own business instead.
Get any employment agreement in writing:
Be very careful about what you sign:
- A non-compete agreement can prevent you from legally working in that same industry for years after you leave that job.
- A non-disclosure agreement means you can’t even talk about the work you do with anyone outside the organization.
If your new employer wants referrals, give them former coworkers and colleagues you’d still like to work with.
If the negotiation doesn’t work out, don’t burn any bridges:
- You can often build a professional friendship that can follow you into your career later.
- Sometimes they’ll pass you on that role, but since you’re a consultant, another job could just as easily open up later.
- If you continue building your skills and maintaining your relationship, you might become an advisor to them someday!
Leaving your old job
Only quit your current job after you know what day you’re starting your new one, since any income is better than unemployed!
If the job was at least decent, give at least two weeks’ notice to leave:
- As soon as you put in your notice, expect the mood in the workplace to shift.
- If you were mistreated or abused, you’re making a public statement and burning bridges by quitting without notice and are likely.
Write a formal resignation letter:
- Make it gracious and concise.
- Don’t make promises, give too much information or mention your new workplace (which can all create legal risks.
- Avoid phrasing anything negatively.
- Vaguely say why you’re leaving.
- Share your gratitude and thankfulness for the new job opportunity.
- Turn your resignation letter into HR, your manager, or both.
Create a 1-2 minute “I am leaving” speech:
- Even if it’s difficult, find something good to say about the company.
- That company took a risk by giving you a job, a paycheck, and work experience.
- You can permanently ruin your reputation by lying, so be honest.
- Instead of vagueness about the role, clear state that you were only looking at one job or area.
- Genuinely thank each of your coworkers who helped you land the new job.
- Avoid negativity or boasting, and give more credit to your coworkers than yourself.
If you don’t want a “going away” party, clearly tell your coworkers and manager up-front:
Your employer might present a counter-offer:
- Plan ahead on how to respond.
- Taking a counter-offer is usually inappropriate, so remember why you’re leaving and what you’re giving up.
To ease the blow from letting down your co-workers and manager, give a reference for a replacement.
To help them succeed, advise whoever takes over your work:
- Write a letter outlining suggestions and give it to your manager or a trusted co-worker.
- Note any critical details that you experienced the wrong way.
Finish strong and leave graciously
Even if it’s inconvenient, do the right thing to ensure a great reference and reputation.
Let any relevant clients know you’re leaving.
Finish the work you were assigned:
- Once you’ve given notice, your manager will usually work you harshly or not give you any more work.
- Work hard all the way to the last day.
- Even if it’s tempting, avoid any embarrassing or unscrupulous last days at your job.
Stay ethical and civil:
- Don’t steal company property, including office supplies.
- Don’t escalate any awkward situations.
- Don’t make any last-minute company credit card expenses.
- Avoid any last-minute romances or public breakups during your transition.
- Delete any corporate passwords to avoid the temptation to use them.
Delete any personal files stored on the company computer.
Track any payments you’re entitled to receive:
Turn in any company-owned property:
- Computers, phones, electronics
- Product samples
- ID badges
- Credit cards
Make decisions on workspace items you’re taking:
- Ask if you’re uncertain on what you can take or leave.
- Research reports
- Personal items
- To avoid arousing suspicion, either pack them up after-hours or have someone else take them out for you.
Schedule a final debrief meeting with your manager to tie up loose ends:
- If you’re uncertain, ask which trade secrets you’re allowed to share.
- While it may not be possible in most situations, one of the more rewarding experiences in life is to leave a job on good terms.
Watch out for exit interviews:
- Be very, very careful about what you say.
- If you speak vaguely or positively about why you left, you have nothing to lose.
- By speaking out directly against the organization, the management may hate you and you could potentially get into legal trouble.
- Of course, if you believe what you say will create change, and you already have a well-established reputation elsewhere, be as blunt as you want and don’t expect anyone to care or change.
- The most useful thing to do with your experience is to clearly know what to not do in your own life and decisions in the future.
- Know beforehand what you want to say and how much information you want to share.
Old workplace contacts don’t usually help later in your career, so cut connections with them unless you have other personal matters.
Respect your old workplace
Even when it’s tempting, don’t talk badly about your old job.
If you feel unhappy with what happened, you can often state the concept in a roundabout way that politely delivers your point:
- “My manager was relatively new at his role, so it was hard for me to understand what he was aiming at.”
- “The coworkers and I had uniquely different cultures, and the management favored them.”
- “The environment wasn’t conducive for the scale of career growth I was hoping for.”
- “The company’s culture wasn’t tailored for the industry it was in.”
Don’t share your former company’s secrets with your new job.
Create a “Who am I?” 1-2 minute speech for your new job:
- That speech will set the pace for your new workplace.
- Speak well of your last job.
Make your new job better than your last
Analyze your failures as you start your new job:
- Look at what you did and didn’t do correctly at your old job.
- Set goals to avoid those pitfalls in your new job.
- Consider what you liked and disliked at your old job and how you’ll make it better this time.
Take full advantage of your new job’s benefits and perks, which requires you to ask questions:
- What are all the company’s reimbursed benefits?
- Is there a flex schedule/four-day workweek/work-from-home arrangement?
- Is there any paid time off for special circumstances (e.g., maternity/paternity leave)?
During the workday, network with your all your new coworkers:
- Try to connect with the people beyond your current department or division.
- The secretaries, custodians, and tech support have most of the legitimate power in any workplace.
- Employers share wage information constantly with each other, so feel free to talk about your pay with your coworkers when your boss isn’t around.
Take your new job very seriously:
Stay mindful of your rights and responsibilities:
- You have the right to promptly receive wages promised by your employer, but also have a duty to do your best.
- You have the right to find a better job with better wages, but are also responsible to follow instructions.
- You have the right to speak up in the workplace, especially if you feel something is immoral, but are responsible to be courteous about it.
- You have the right to form employee groups (e.g., unions), but must respect your employer’s property.
- You have the right to decide what goes into your own body (e.g., vaccines).
Build a relationship with your manager:
- Try to over-deliver what you promise.
- Consistently ask feedback on how you can improve.
- Thank your boss for what they do.
- Anticipate their needs and work on what they didn’t ask you to do.
Understand the company’s values and priorities:
- Work like you own the company and treat yourself as part-owner.
- Focus extra effort on high-value work, especially when the company values it.
- Observe whom the company promotes or rewards to discover the company’s values.
Keep working outside your job for the long-term:
- Keep building on your more productive hobbies and interests, since they may become a career someday.
- Log your achievements on job social media like LinkedIn or a portfolio website.
- Keep developing your soft skills (e.g., teamwork, speaking, negotiating).
- Make connections outside your current job for future work and opportunities.
Have an estimated period when you’ll leave that job to take a promotion or another role:
- Document your meetings and organize your knowledge so other people can review them and pick up where you left off.
- Unless you’re having important role-specific meetings with your manager, include other people in events.
- Train people around you as you learn things, and identify someone who would make a good replacement for you.
- Essentially, try to delegate as much as possible to others who want to take the responsibility.
You might discover your new job is terrible
Many people believe false promises, especially when they begin their career:
If you’re in consecutive terrible jobs, you might be the problem:
- If you’ve quickly transitioned between at least two jobs, consider professional career counseling or psychotherapy.
- Look at what’s stopping your success.
If you’re bold enough, stop trying to work as an employee and run your own company.