Tip For Employees – Don't Stop Looking

Date Published: 28 July 2005

Tip For Employees – Don't Stop Looking

A few years ago, I worked for a consulting company for five years, which during that time (and somewhat still today) was quite a long time to remain with one company. It was a common occurrence for clients to offer me positions in their companies, but this practice was strongly frowned upon by my employer, who actively discouraged such recruiting. I never ended up accepting any such offers, but they did have the effect of keeping me aware of my marketability and of the existence of opportunities outside my current position. It’s this awareness that I think all employees should maintain, whether they are consultants or simply work all day every day at the same location. Don’t stop looking for opportunities, everywhere, if you want to succeed.

Now, it’s common practice in my limited employee experience for workers to do clandestine research of other opportunities. Whispered exchanges of the latest salary rumors or new hiring practices, online research done when nobody else is looking, and the occasional resume posting on Monster.com, just to see what comes of it (but careful the boss doesn’t see!). However, I think if you’re really looking to succeed in your organization and in your career, you need to be open and honest with your manager, and tell your manager that you are looking at other opportunities, and you will continue to research other opportunities, so that you can continue to make the best choices.

I once was confronted by my manager about whether I had been looking at other positions outside our company. I answered that I never stopped doing so, and that the only reason I was still with the company was because, to date, it had always been the best place for me to be. This conversation took place after I had already been with the company for several years, so my point was that I’d been looking since day one, and in my assessment I was happy staying with the company because in that time I hadn’t found an opportunity which, on the whole, I liked better than where I was.

What effect does this have on your manager when that person knows that not only have you been looking at other opportunities, but that you will always be looking? Well, first of all it levels the playing field. Assuming you’re a well-motivated and productive worker, your manager needs you at least as much (if not more) than you need your manager. Unfortunately, most of the time the relationships don’t reflect this. If you make it clear that you’re not going to sit idly by if things aren’t going your way, your manager will need to work that much harder to ensure that your needs are being met. Secondly, if you actually follow through on this advice, it lets you have a much more open relationship with your manager if and when you do find other opportunities worth your consideration.

A note of warning: do not try this if you’re not certain that, should the need arise, you could find yourself another job relatively quickly. There are going to be some managers who will exercise a zero-intelligence, er, I mean zero-tolerance approach to the idea of employees showing the kind of initiative to actually educate themselves about their career choices. Suchaudacitydisloyalty may be met with swift and severe action, perhaps including termination. If that happens, and you’ve been following my advice, you should already have several opportunities you’re aware of which you can immediately fall back on. It also means that your manager was probably not somebody you wanted to be working with, so you’re better off to be rid of them.

A smart manager who truly considers the needs of her employees will recognize that you are smart enough to look after yourself and to recognize when you’re not being treated well enough. Hopefully you exhibit the same thoroughness in other aspects of your work, and try to be as informed as possible about issues pertaining to your daily work, as well as to your career. All of which make you a more valuable employee and one worthy of greater attention and consideration.

Disclaimar: I’m self-employed and have been for some time. I don’t plan to go back to work for anybody but if I do I’m certain I’ll follow my own advice.

Please post your own experiences in the comments if you think others would learn from them.

Steve Smith

About Ardalis

Software Architect

Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.