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Fix It Or Forget It?

February 22nd, 2012

It’s easy to think that a job offer – any job offer – should be taken immediately, especially in this economy.  Often, though, many of them need a second look before accepting.  They can be more expensive than you think.

Winnie’s* story wasn’t uncommon.  She worked for a small organization that was hit hard by the economy, and when they had to cut their staff, she was among the “last hired, first fired” list of people to be let go.  Her manager let her know that it was no reflection on her skills and that he would write her a recommendation, as well as be a reference for future interviews.

This became less and less of a consolation as time went on and her interviews continued to be merely job interviews, but no job offers.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Winnie did get an offer from a small nonprofit for a position that wasn’t an exact match, but she viewed it as an exciting growth opportunity.  The organization had created a new position, and she would get to essentially create the direction that the job took.  Mostly, though, Winnie was just thrilled to be employed again – and she was certain that she could fulfill the duties of the position.

A few weeks into her new job, as she was learning the ropes and finishing what seemed to be mounds of HR paperwork, Winnie discovered something that she wished she had paid more attention to during the hiring phase:  her position was grant funded, and only for one year.  She discovered this because she had additional – regular – paperwork that she had to file about her job, to comply with the terms of the grant that funded her job.  The other employees didn’t have to file as many reports, she realized.

Although it was possible that this grant would be extended – or that the organization would find her valuable enough to hire next year in another position – Winnie certainly couldn’t rely upon either of these situations occurring.  She realized that she’d only bought herself one year, and was essentially a temporary employee, still needing to begin another job search!

Winnie and I worked together and made a point to Fix It! by scrutinizing the positions we researched and applied for.  While on the one hand, she was frustrated to have to begin searching once again so soon, she did feel less pressure than before, since she was earning a paycheck while interviewing this time.  She also made a point to network – and asked her manager and other employees for assistance with referrals.

“In a way,” Winnie says, “I had more freedom while searching than typical employees.  Many currently employed people wouldn’t feel free to ask their present employer for help, but since I was under contract for only a year, there was no resentment – or need to hide the fact that I was looking – so I did get referrals and assistance from others.”

Alexandra* is a very shy person, and hates to interview, because, as she puts it, “It means public speaking and bragging about yourself – both things that I’m not good at.”

Alexandra is actually quite good at her job, but often feels that she is overlooked for recognition and/or promotions, as well as taken advantage of by co-workers and managers.  A lot of this stems from her demeanor of being shy, quiet and cooperative.  She works in a mostly male-dominated industry, and those around her often speak up more about their accomplishments.  Alexandra quietly works on her projects without saying much, and frequently gets more than her share of work handed to her.

Eventually, Alexandra’s discomfort at being taken for granted became greater than her discomfort with the interview process, and she approached me about preparing her for beginning a job search.

Several months later, Alexandra had a job offer for something quite a bit better than the conditions she was currently in:  larger organization, better title, pay and benefits – and she accepted.

Upon learning that she was leaving, her manager was shocked.  He conveyed a thinly veiled attempt at congratulating her, followed by an offer to hire her as a part time consultant upon her departure, to “finish up a few things around here.”  He asked her to consider what her rate would be, and she agreed to think it over.

As Alexandra took the weekend to ponder her manager’s offer, she realized that this was actually an attempt to continue making her do the lion’s share of the work in her soon-to-be former office!  Clearly, her manager had known all along that she was essential to getting a great deal of work done – and was worried about her departure.  This way, though, he wanted her to keep doing it – and without being a full time employee?!

Although the additional money was tempting, when Alexandra returned after the weekend, she decided to Forget It! and politely declined, saying, “I really need to focus on my new job and all of its responsibilities, but thanks.”  Her manager was visibly irritated, and she knew that it was because it would be difficult for him to find someone – anyone – not only to do the caliber of work, but also the amount of work that she had been doing.

Alexandra was pleased that this was no longer her problem – and vowed not to repeat the same mistake at her new employer’s.  Taking the lessons she’d learned from talking up her strengths during her interviewing days, she made a point to continue profiling her accomplishments on a regular basis at her new job, too.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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