Lots of people are looking for work at any given time. In Calgary, more people than usual looking for work today because of the low price of oil and all the lay-offs that have happened over the past year and a half.
With low oil prices and unemployment rates so high, it can be tempting to believe you will have to settle for a less than optimal job because the mortgage needs to be paid. I am on board with this line of thinking when it’s accurate. It makes sense to take a job you would otherwise not take to continue to bring in an income when you are up against the wall financially.
Problems can arise, however, when you don’t do your due diligence before accepting a job, no matter how stressful your situation. This is because you may simply be substituting one problem (being unemployed) for another (like being over-worked, harassed, or discriminated against) if you don’t do your due diligence.
I remember a former mentor once talking to me about job hunting. He said, “You lie to them, and they lie to you,” to describe the interview process. I remember being shocked initially at how cavalier he sounded, but he was 100% bang on.
So how does this work? Examples of you lying to them include your saying, in the interview, that this is your “dream job,” that you have “always enjoyed” what you do, and you have “always loved” the people that you worked with. Examples of them lying to you include their saying “you will not be asked to work overtime,” that they are hiring additional staff, that the group you will join is like “one happy family,” and that there will be plenty of opportunity for promotions down the road.
So how can you do your due diligence to help minimize the risk that you will walk into a snake pit if you take the job you are being offered? If you know someone who works for the company, it’s simple. You just ask the person what they think of the company, and of the group you will be working with, and your new supervisor in particular.
But what can you do if you don’t know anyone at the company? One of my favourite approaches is to ask the company, once they have put a job offer on the table, to allow you to come in and talk to three of four people that you will work closely with. You might say, “I’m looking forward to accepting this job offer. Before I commit, though, I’d like to talk to three or four people about what their experiences have been like so that I can be confident that I’ll stay for several years.”
What’s good about this approach is that everyone that has heard this request, to the best of my knowledge. has said yes to it. After all, it makes sense from the company’s perspective to do whatever they can to help ensure that you will go the distance after you accept the job. It’s disruptive and expensive to have to replace staff, after all.
So what do you say to your future co-workers when you have the chance to meet them, to help ensure that you’re walking into a healthy work place? You can ask the person seated across from you, “I’d like to ask you what your opinion of your job is. Anything you say to me will be completely off the record. You won’t have any fear of my repeating anything that you tell me to anyone. I’m hoping you’ll share your experiences with me to help me ensure that I’m walking into this job with my eyes wide open.”
What’s magical about this approach is that the majority of people will tell you what the job is like. Sometimes you have to listen between the lines to pick up what they are saying. For example, I once used this approach myself and received this response to my inquiry. The fellow I was talking to said, “I can’t believe you’d put me in this situation. I can’t believe that you’d do this to me. I’ve been nothing but kind to you.”
Translation? The gist of what this fellow was saying was in what he didn’t say. He didn’t say, “This is a good place to work. I have nothing but good things to say about the people here. The director is great to work for.” This is what you’d have expected to hear if the fellow was happy, right? And this is exactly what he did not say.
But what if you receive the response that I received? What if you’re desperate for a job and feel you have to take it? One important takeaway is that you will be walking into the job with your eyes wide open. If this is the case for you, you might want to ask the person you are talking to about why there are problems. And maybe what the biggest mistakes are that people have made in your position so that you can avoid making them.
Another important takeaway from hearing that the job you are considering isn’t great is that you can continue to search for work after you accept the job, rather than stopping your job hunt, and be prepared to make a change when an opportunity presents itself.
Of course, it would be much, much better if you could hold out a while longer for a good job to come along. They are out there. They are worth gold. And life, rather than continuing to feel heavy, can feel light again.
Dr. Patricia Turner, PhD, RPsych
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