Our second installment of Tough Situations may be only too familiar to some job seekers. Is a bird in the hand really worth more than one in the bush? I put that question to three career experts. Here's the scenario, followed by their responses!
Having been unemployed for a couple of months, Jim recently accepted a new job. It's not the job he had hoped for, or the number one company on his list, but it's a solid executive opportunity with a respectable company.
He's slated to start next Monday. The preceding Thursday, Jim receives a voice mail from a company he had applied to over a month ago. He remembers this opportunity -- he was excited when he applied, because it seemed to be his "dream job," with a company he's long aspired to work for. After a long silence since he submitted his resume, the voice mail tells him that they have narrowed their list down to a few finalists, and he is one of them. They would like him to come in and interview. Ironically, they want him to come at the very same time he is supposed to start his new job: 9am on Monday.
To complicate things just a bit, Jim 1) can't afford to be unemployed much longer, and 2) has an acute conscience. Even if there were no ramifications, the idea of ditching his new job -- or even postponing it -- doesn't sit well. Besides, his new employer made it very clear that they are "counting on him" and they "can't wait for to get him started." He feels further obligated by the fact that they knew he was unemployed and he feels that they didn't try to use that to leverage a lower starting salary, etc.
Jim picks up the phone and gives you a call asking for your input...
Zoë Goldring and Gretchen Ledgard from JobSyntax
Unfortunately, while this is a difficult situation, it is not all that uncommon in the job seeker’s world. If Jim were to call us, I think I would start off by asking him a couple of questions to help him put the situation into perspective.
First, Jim should consider why this new opportunity is his "dream job." What does that mean to him? Is it a once in a lifetime opportunity or will something similar (or better!) be available down the road? If he made it to a finalist position this time, he can stay in touch with the proper people inside the company, even get some mentorship, and be groomed for a better role in the future. Companies rarely burn bridges with strong candidates and tend to foster relationships over long periods of time.
Secondly, he should consider if he wants to work for a company that wasn’t upfront with him during their selection process. You can often judge a company, its culture, and its priorities by its recruiters and recruiting process... for better or worse. In this case, the long silence and lack of regular updates seems to indicate deeper issues in terms of organization, decision making and potentially integrity. In essence, they have violated my proposed candidate bill of rights :)
If Jim is still determined to work at the "dream" company (i.e. once in a lifetime opportunity, he loves the company etc) there are a few options he can consider. However, he absolutely should not postpone his start date with the first company, just to interview with a new company.
He should first and foremost see if the dream employer can interview him through alternate methods and make him an offer by Friday. If they are truly interested in him for an executive role, they will often pull all the stops to get him to interview sooner rather then later, especially if they are at risk of losing him. While I absolutely hate presenting this as an option, if they can get him a decision by Friday, he could consider reneging on the offer with the other company. I personally think that it is a terrible decision, but I have to bring it up as an option so that Jim can determine what he wants to do. Unfortunately, reneges are a reality for which recruiters prepare, and if Jim can part ways with the company with professionalism and straightforwardness, the company may leave the door open for the future. However, if this act will impact his integrity and future standing with the industry, it’s not worth it.
If the dream company can't make a decision by Friday, Jim should start in his new job and commit himself for a set amount of time while staying in touch with the other company. It's one thing to renege for a dream job, but staying for a short period of time without accomplishing anything could hurt his career in the long run. Once he is in a more stable employment situation, he could find that there are more internal opportunities available to him at his second choice company and be in a calmer state of mind to evaluate his future career options.
Deborah Wile Dib, CPBS, CCMC, CCM, NCRW, CPRW, CEIP, JCTC
America's Power Coach for Corporate Leaders: CEO/senior exec personal brand strategist, executive coach, resume expert, career accelerator
Jim, stay with the organization that hired you.
You need a job now, and you have one. Yet, if you choose to pursue the possible "dream job" opportunity you will burn bridges with a company that has already hired you and is eagerly awaiting your first day. Contrast that with the dream job-the company has made you wait a month to hear next steps for an opportunity-and you're just one of a number of candidates. Neither are good signs that the dream job's hiring cycle will be speedy.
If you are truly interested in the dream job, inform the dream company that you have already accepted a new position, thank them for the opportunity, and use your network to keep some internal intelligence on the company flowing in.
Start the job for which you were hired and hit the ground running to make a big impact in a short time. Stay with the current company for at least a year, while watching the dream company carefully. After that, if networking or job postings reveal a possible opportunity, contact the dream company with a confidential inquiry offering a cluster of value-based, dollarized reasons for why you'd be a good hire. Be sure to mention your earlier short-list stature and continued interest in the organization.
Jim, with this strategy, you do the right thing for your current company and career, and you pursue your dream job without selling out. And who knows, you might find that your new job becomes your dream job.
My first advice to Jim would be don't follow anyone else's advice because this is too important and you have to do what feels right to you. But I would give him the following input for consideration. If this were me, I would start the new job as scheduled but continue to explore the second opportunity. I would definitely ask for a different interview time though - perhaps at lunchtime, or before/after work - as asking to miss the first day of a new job is a bad way to start out on a new position.
This may seem unethical, but there are 2 reasons I think it's the right decision:
(1) This is a tough environment. Companies rarely have loyalty to their employees in the way they used to, and you can never know how things will turn out. I have known employers to change their minds after only a few days and fire a new employee. This is unlikely, but it does highlight that employees have to put themselves first when making career decisions.
(2) Jim is obviously not enthusiastic about his new job and is taking it because he needs to work. I can understand this - and it means he should not walk away from the opportunity on the off-chance that company #2 hires him - but there are reasons he isn't feeling great about his new job. In his gut he knows what they are. Since executives spend so much time at work, they need to LOVE it.
That said, I would close by telling Jim to explore his feelings about both opportunities carefully. Asking for input is a good thing, but he should never make a decision based on what's right for me or anyone else.