I’ve just returned to London having spent the past two weeks back home in Cork where I spent an awful lot of time with my father, a man who set up his first ever email account less than a year ago and a man who has spent the past 30 years working for the same employer. My Dad is the antithesis of the tech industry in every sense.
Considering the average ‘career’ with each employer in the tech industry is a touch under three years, the idea of spending 30 years working for the same employer is mind boggling. Despite this enormous disparity, I’m constantly witness to colleagues in the tech industry waxing lyrical about how great their employer is and why everyone should drop everything and come and work with them, only for them to announce a few short years later that they are moving on “to bigger and better things”.
I’m going to be the first to hold my hands up and admit to being extremely guilty of doing exactly that on a regular basis in the past. I work in recruitment. Employers pay me a lot of money to wax lyrical about how great they are. They pay me to convince you that the grass is not only greener, but their grass is more flexible and inclusive too. So how do I reconcile my apathy towards every employer claiming to be the best, and my ability to do a good job?
Transparency & Honesty
My criteria for vetting an employer worth working with is very straightforward. Anything beyond these four criteria is a bonus (and extremely subjective) but the four criteria below are my absolute zero compromise criteria.
Do you pay reasonable salaries?
Fortunately, due to my line of work, asking for specifics around salaries is par for the course and not something an employer can easily lie about. To put it simply, if your salaries aren’t at least competitive then we’re wasting each others time. Pay fairly or pay well and we’re off to a good start.
Do you treat your people well?
Glassdoor is your friend. If there are a slew of negative comments, look for consistencies. Were they all posted around the same time? Are there consistent themes? Raise these points and ask for the employers perspective. A quality employer will be honest and highlight what steps they took to address those issues. Not every company has a helpful Glassdoor profile (a lot of startups have yet to be reviewed) so take to places like twitter and look up current and former employees to see if there are any red flags.
Are you financially secure?
This is startup 101 folks. Do your due diligence. Companies House, Duedil, etc are a good start. Enquire about their runway (how long they can survive if their current income and expenses stay constant). If they aren’t willing to be open and honest about their finances, walk away immediately.
Are you open to trying new things?
This criteria is quite specific to the work I do and may not be universally applicable. If you’re asking me to team up with you to improve your ability to hire people then you categorically need to be open and willing to try new things. No amount of money will be enough to convince me to join your company and follow your same old tired recipe just because it worked well a couple of times in the past.
If you hit all of the above criteria then I can do the thing that enables me to convince great people to work for your company. I can be absolutely transparent and honest with people.
Ok, so you’ve landed a great job, the office is incredible, the people seem super friendly, the money is good, the work is challenging and life seems pretty great. Post pictures of your desk littered with company branded swag. Enjoy yourself but don’t delude yourself.
You are a transaction. Sure, your employer gives you the impression they care about you but as soon as you start costing the company money or pose a risk to the company’s image or breach any other element of your 300 page contract, then I can absolutely assure you that they will drop you in a heartbeat. You don’t even need to do anything wrong to be at risk. If the company is struggling financially, due to no fault of yours, you and all your colleagues are at risk. Suddenly the corporate line of “we’re all family here” sounds a bit ridiculous.
Your employer pays you to spend more time with them than you spend with your family and/or loved ones. Your employer is one of the biggest influencers on your mental well-being. Your employer can and will replace you in a heartbeat if absolutely necessary.
Let me be explicitly clear, your employer isn’t your family and they are not your friend. They pay you to do a job and your responsibility is to do that job well.
- Do not sacrifice your relationship with family and friends to appease your employer.
- Do not sacrifice your mental wellbeing to appease your employer.
- Do not sacrifice your dignity, values and ethics to appease your employer.
- Do not buy into the bullshit hype of “hustle” to appease your employer.
Get your head down and work hard. If your employer compensates you well, puts effort into ensuring you are healthy in every sense and invests in your personal and/or professional growth then by all means, tell the world how happy you are.
Focus on your own growth. Focus on helping the humans you work with. Focus on being efficient with your time and efforts so that you can spend even more time and effort on the things and people that truly matter.
I’ll leave you on the words of my father on the eve of his 30 year work anniversary:
When I’m on my deathbed, I won’t look back at my life and wish I had worked harder. I’ll look back and wish I spent more time with the people I loved.