Companies, hey? Who’d work for one. Well most of us are employed by companies, of varying sizes but companies nonetheless. Even freelancers like myself can’t get away from corporate entities, working as part of a team within an organisation is a fact of life for most of us.
Before I started university age 18 I’d already worked for four employers, and during my studies I worked for three more.
Although I’ve been a journalist since the age of 16, I’ve worked for at least 12 different companies since. Some were good, some were okay and some were bad. It’s testament to one company that I’ve been working for them in various department and with varying responsibilities since I was 19, when I did a work experience placement. In fact when I joined them as a staff reporter age 24, after spending two years at a well-respected but badly managed local newspaper, I remember being amazed that they had a dedicated human resources person.
Since then I’ve worked for several large companies but it was my experience of working for internet-based media companies that taught me the most about employers and where I learned how and how not to do things.
Mainly because many of these companies were so new, and everything so untried and untested, no one was really sure what they were doing. But that wasn’t the problem ,the difference between the bad and the good bosses was that the good ones quickly learned and moved on. For example one internet company employed a bunch of journalists including myself and within six months realised their business model had changed. Rather than sack us they offered us the choice of retraining or a generous severance package. Another got rid of a team of journalists following a take over, and even gave the freelancers two months salary.
Another thing I’ve learned is never ever join a company because you feel sorry for them and think you can sort them out – I was headhunted for one role and took the job on that basis. I thought the boss was a nice guy and seemed like the ideal inspirational boss, but he was ruthless like most bosses and to him business was business. So when I didn’t achieve what they wanted I was the one left crying, literally.
I’m still amazed that some employers get away with so much – so long as they get rid of you within 2 years of they can do almost anything (bar descriminate against you on a sexual, disability or age-related basis) which is why you need to make sure that any company you join is right for you. Even in a recession good staff are like gold, whatever companies may say.
So if you are thinking of changing job here are some things I reckon you should watch out for.
Training opportunities, a good employer should make sure their staff are at the top of their game, or at the very least let you continue with any other studies.
Generous severance packages – I’ve come across what I call ‘vampire employers’ who will actively recruit dynamic staff simply to drain their ideas and contacts then sack them less than a two years into their contract. As I’ve noted above good companies reward staff from beginning to end.
Questions to ask:
Find out what happened to your predecessor (before you join the company). In one of my last staff jobs my predecessor – the previous editor – had left the company in less than great circumstances but I didn’t find this out until I joined the company. The woman in question was regularly referred to in colourful adjectives that would have made for decent industrial tribunal case. Needless to say most of the employees were men.
Ask your future manager for a reference. Dynamic managers – managers who are confident in their own skin are prepared to delegate tasks and get on with the job of moving the company or the department forward. The best way to find out if your new manager is dynamic is look at their track record, and what people say about them.
Find out what the job involves and ask for a job description. That way you will know what is expected of you.
It’s also worth checking your contract before you join the company. I wrote this article about how debts can lose you a job for the Guardian late last year.
What tips would you suggest to anyone looking for a new job or wanting to change careers?