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Should I stay or should I go?

by Douglas E. Welch

July 16, 1999

© 1999, Douglas E. Welch

As we all know, the job market for high tech careers is volatile, to say the least. Jobs come and go on a whim as companies start up and fold in months, if not weeks. Mergers and acquisitions make things even crazier. A company can be here one day and swallowed whole another. This type of volatility can lead to frequent and rapid movement of employees, possibly even yourself. It can also lead to your being asked to follow someone else to a new company.

The scenario is usually the same. With each new round of layoffs the word goes out. "Who wants to come work with me at a new company, startup or consulting group?" When you get asked this question, and you probably will, you should be ready with a few questions of your own.

Do you know where you're going to?

It is very important that you understand exactly where you are headed in your career. You need to dig up every bit of information about the prospective company as possible. Dig deeper than you might normally. If you are going to leave one job to start another you want to make sure that this new job is as good as it seems. Your friend is going to play up all the positives. You will have to find the negatives on your own. In order to lure you away your friend may shade the truth. Rarely is this malicious but you will want to make sure that you have your eyes wide open. Decisions like these are too important to be left to someone else.

Be especially clear about the role your friend will play in the new company. Will they be your direct manager? It doesn't make a lot of sense to move to another company if you end up working for some stranger. How much power will your friend have? If your friend has a lesser title than you will also end up with a lesser title. When you follow someone to another company you are putting all your eggs in one basket, for better or worse. This information might be hard to pin down but you don't want to jump from your current frying pan of a job into the fire of some unknown company.

Better off where you are?

After doing your research you might find it better to stay right where you are. You are under no obligation to follow your friend. In fact, feelings of obligation are a good sign that the new job might not be right for you. In some cases you might find yourself in line for a promotion when your friend leaves. Your current company might actually place you in a better position than any you could be offered at a new company. Even if you won't get a promotion you might want to consider how happy you are right now. Do you like the people you work with? Is your job relatively secure? Would you forfeit pension funds, stock options or other benefits? Any new offer is going to have to compensate you for these losses.

The little things

Lastly, you will want to consider all the little things that make a job more tolerable. Evaluate the commute, the location and quality of the office, the flexibility of hours, the dress code, etc. Write it all down if it helps to make it clearer. Spend some time thinking things through and don't let anyone rush you.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to turn down the offer if all the pieces don't fit. You are making a very important decision and you owe it to yourself to make the most intelligent decision possible. Being rushed into something is another sign that you need to look more closely at the deal. Sometimes it can mean that there are hidden issues that might not become apparent until you have already committed yourself .

Being asked to follow someone to a new company can be flattering but you should not let it go to your head. Changing jobs is one of the more important decisions in your life. Research and thought should drive your decision, not ego.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/

He can reached via email at douglas@welchwrite.com

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