Don’t ig­nore ob­vi­ous signs that a po­ten­tial job might be a dis­as­ter

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Classifiedfind. - — Marco Buscaglia, Ca­reers

One of the many good things about a strong job mar­ket is that it be­comes eas­ier to sep­a­rate the strong from the weak. And no, we’re not talk­ing about po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees. We’re talk­ing about the other side of the equa­tion, the em­ployer.

“There are a lot of bad com­pa­nies out there who had no prob­lems fill­ing their ranks five or 10 years ago, but that’s not the case to­day,” says Joan Bradley, a Philadel­phia-based ca­reer coach. “If a com­pany is run poorly or treats its clients or em­ploy­ees as af­ter­thoughts, they’re go­ing to be outed. It’s hard to keep your weak­nesses a se­cret when ev­ery­one shares ev­ery­thing on­line.”

Still, plenty of smart peo­ple ac­cept jobs with dumb com­pa­nies. “You’ll al­ways have peo­ple who are so en­am­ored by a name or a workspace or the com­pany’s mission that they’ll over­look a mil­lion red flags,” says Bradley. “But if you do some home­work — even an hour or so of re­search — you’ll be able to avoid the com­pa­nies that could make your life mis­er­able.”

First things first, Bradley says. Start with the job list­ing it­self. Does the job sound too good to be true? You know, lots of prom­ises about po­ten­tial salary and ad­vance­ment.

“‘Po­ten­tial’ is a dan­ger­ous word when some­one’s pitch­ing a job,” says Dean Place, a ca­reer coach in San An­to­nio, Texas. “It’s an ex­cuse for ‘we don’t know yet.’”

As in “we don’t know how much money you’ll make” or “we don’t know where you’ll be in 10 years, even if you do an ex­cel­lent job,” ac­cord­ing to Place.

“You’re go­ing to give a com­pany your best work up front,” he says. “You don’t tell them ‘there’s a chance I’m go­ing to do great work for you’ yet peo­ple fall for the ‘there’s a chance you’re go­ing to make a lot of money’ line all the time.”

Bradley says job seek­ers should view the “jobs that sound like Dis­ney­land” with a skep­ti­cal eye. “I’m not sug­gest­ing you need to be cyn­i­cal about every job but be cau­tious about those that sound like they’re the best-pe­riod-job-pe­riod-ev­er­pe­riod,” she says. “A lot of em­ploy­ers want a large pool of ap­pli­cants to choose from when they’re fill­ing full-time po­si­tions, so they’ll make a grunt job sound like it’s the job you’ve been wait­ing for your en­tire life.”

Free­lance trap

The mis­lead­ing ad isn’t exclusive to full-time jobs. A job to ap­proach with cau­tion is an em­ployee job that’s la­beled as the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for an “in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor.”

“Com­pa­nies like to seek out cur­rent free­lancers and then prom­ise them au­ton­omy and work-from-home op­tions,” Bradley says. “Get in the door, though, and you’ll learn you’re ex­pected to be at the of­fice five days a week, that you need to fol­low a pre­de­ter­mined tem­plate and that you’re just like a full-time em­ployee — just with no ben­e­fits.”

To avoid that par­tic­u­lar trap, Bradley sug­gests look­ing for other in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors within the com­pany and ask­ing them for an hon­est as­sess­ment of their role. “Peo­ple tell the truth about their jobs,” she says. “If the job sucks, they’ll tell you it sucks.”

Keep it short

In ad­di­tion to mis­lead­ing job ads, red flags can pop up when cer­tain po­si­tions are in dan­ger of be­ing off­shored to work­ers a cou­ple of con­ti­nents away. “Cod­ing can be off­shored,” says Place. “But lead­ing a team of coders? Not so much. Even when com­pa­nies try, they usu­ally re­turn to a tra­di­tional model where on- and off-site work­ers share roles but not lead­er­ship po­si­tions.”

Wave the red flags

Keep an eye out for some other warn­ing signs, in­clud­ing: Bad man­agers: Find out the name of your po­ten­tial boss and do your home­work. It may be dif­fi­cult to find out why a per­son isn’t liked or re­spected but a few sim­ple ques­tions — what’s the turnover for this po­si­tion? Can I speak to some­one in the de­part­ment? — usu­ally bring some sim­ple an­swers.

Bor­ing work: Try to avoid a job that won’t of­fer you a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge or new op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth. When look­ing for a job, it’s im­por­tant to ad­dress the skills you want to use in a new po­si­tion, not just the ones you’re cur­rently us­ing.

Mov­ing on: Do you have that dream where you show up to a class and no one’s there? For some em­ploy­ees, it’s no dream. “I took a job with a start-up that had leased out some space in River North in Chicago,” says Re­becca Troy, a graphic de­signer. “I went to work on my first day and they were gone. No one was at the workspace from the com­pany. They moved to a new lo­ca­tion in Wicker Park be­fore I started and no one both­ered to let me know.”

That lack of in­for­ma­tion was enough for Troy to take a pass on the job al­to­gether. “I called to quit and they were all apolo­getic and said it was an over­sight. They had seven em­ploy­ees. I would have been eight. That’s not an over­sight. That’s a bad com­pany.”

Sure enough, when Troy says she looked for her for­mer “em­ployer” on­line a few weeks later, their web­site was gone. “They lost their fund­ing and they closed up shop,” she says. “Imag­ine that.”

If you do some home­work — even an hour or so of re­search — you should be able to avoid the com­pa­nies (and co­work­ers) that could make your life mis­er­able.

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