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Be Picky

If you don’t need your next paycheck to cover your bills, I want to inform you of a luxury you might not be aware you have.


That one word means that you have the freedom to say “no, I will not take your job offer.”

Red Flags

In the busyness of attempting to find clients and work, we often forget that the first opportunity to walk through the door is not the best fit.  But we make excuses in order to make it fit.

“Well this isn’t exactly what I want to do, but it will give me experience until I get what I’m looking for.”

“I’ve heard that this company has a pretty poor reputation for treating employees well – but if I can just endure that, it’ll pay to have this job on my resume!”

“Well, it doesn’t pay what I was hoping it would… but I can take it for now.  If I do a good enough job, we can renegotiate later.  I’m just happy it pays something at all!”

Do any of those sound familiar to you?  Did I make the red flags clear enough?

I’m always wary when I encounter any of these things:

  • A client isn’t very clear about what the job entails
  • Two or more different people describe the job responsibilities different during the interview process
  • Low compensation with a non-concrete promise of something to make up for it later (“you’ll get a percentage of sales pending release, we’ll figure that out later”)
  • Poor company reputation – by employees, former employees, or customers
  • Hyper-aggressive/uncomfortable interviews, being put “on the spot” or “made to sweat”
  • A job that kind of fits my goals, but requires me to lower my standards

That list isn’t exhaustive, but let me explain these things in further detail…

If your client/employer is unclear about the job responsibilities it’s a sign to literally turn around and run immediately.  It’s usually futile to attempt to coax their wants and needs out of them if they haven’t truly defined them before speaking to you.  If it isn’t hammered out by the time you sign something – you have only yourself to blame when the client can’t make a decision and is wishy washy on your work later.

If multiple people are describing your responsibilities differently that’s another very large sign that you’re going to have problems down the road.  I once took a position where the final interviewer described my supposed job differently than the previous, 2nd interviewer.  It was made clear that the final interviewer was correct – but this colored my expectations of the job pretty drastically and lead to further complications and strained relationships on the job.

If you’re lowballed (generally accompanied by a vague promise to make it up) also run.  LITERALLY RUN.  Like when a client is unclear about your responsibilities, you’re just asking to get abused if you accept this situation.  You will have only yourself to blame when you accept and regret it later.

Poor company reputation should be a no-brainer.  Unfortunately I’ve been put in a position where I had no choice but to work with a company whose reputation preceded them, very poorly.  My entire office made excuses to get a paycheck, such as “Well, maybe it will be okay – the management seems alright.  Maybe it will turn out different than all of those stories…”.  It didn’t.

If you feel uncomfortable with the people you’re interviewing with then you’re probably NOT going to enjoy working with or for them.  It’s okay to decide the company isn’t a good fit for you.  I don’t mind being put in pressure situations where a company asks me tough questions to ensure my skill level – you shouldn’t either.  There is a difference between a test of knowledge, and a test of will/emotional fortitude.  If you get in a battle of the latter, walk away.

If a job doesn’t precisely fit your goals then you should think long and hard before you accept it.  If you don’t need to pay your bills immediately and you’ll be okay, there’s something to be said for being willing to walk away.  Clearly, one size does not fit all.  In some situations, you will need to take a job that’s only partially what you want in order to build your skills set.  In other situations, that’s not the case.

The Best Advice

Quite literally, the two best pieces of advice I can probably ever give you are these:

  1. You’re always a 1-person business, and your employer is always your client.  If you’re a full time employee, you just happen to only have one client.  Act in such a manner that you don’t expect your client to have your best interest in mind, but you take care of theirs.  Their job is to pay you and fulfill any obligations agreed upon in your contract – otherwise it’s on you.  If they don’t fulfill their obligations, it’s your role to chase them down and/or walk.
  2. Every interview is a 2-way conversation.  Instead of “selling yourself” be honest about who you are, what you’re capable of, and ask questions to find out if you actually fit their needs.  Then ask more questions to figure out if they fit your needs.  If all parties needs are not met from the start (theirs and yours), the relationship will go south.  Make sure you interview your potential employers just as much as they interview you.

Always remember – if you have the financial ability to walk away, you have the freedom and permission to do so.  Don’t get in a sour relationship simply because you feel like you might not get anything else.  Your feelings are weak, your abilities aren’t.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.