Com­ings and Go­ings

A Care­ful Hunt Is a Bet­ter Strat­egy Than a Quick Exit

The Washington Post Sunday - - Workplace - By Amy Joyce

Clip and save this one, folks. Each week job hunters write me, and each week the same ques­tions crop up. While there aren’t al­ways hard and fast an­swers be­cause ev­ery per­son and sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent, I’ve rounded up ex­perts to help me with some of the most fre­quently asked ques­tions. K I hate my new job. How soon can I leave with­out ru­in­ing fu­ture prospects?

That job you took be­cause you were des­per­ate or that op­por­tu­nity you thought was just right turned out to be a night­mare. And a few weeks in, you want out. Will leav­ing keep you from fu­ture jobs be­cause you’ll be seen as a job hop­per?

If you have a his­tory of fre­quent job changes — usu­ally jobs you kept for less than a year — beware. “ I look for a ge­o­graph­i­cal change or if a com­pany was ac­quired. If there wasn’t some cat­a­lyst like that, I put it in a no or maybe pile. And the maybe pile rarely gets looked at,” said Paul Villella, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of HireS­trat­egy, a re­cruit­ing firm in Re­ston.

There are rea­sons for skip­ping out quickly, and some­times that’s fine by fu­ture em­ploy­ers. Just make sure not to blame the com­pany. In­stead, say you mis­judged the op­por­tu­nity. “ Own the is­sue,” Villella said. “ You’ll come across much bet­ter, and some­one will be able to move past it much bet­ter.”

But also think about your sit­u­a­tion — care­fully — be­fore you de­cide to jump ship. Maybe you haven’t spent enough time at this job to fig­ure out how you fit in. Maybe that op­por­tu­nity just will take some time to earn. Don’t let your­self leave be­fore you are sure you must. Oth­er­wise, your ré­sumé will look like a quilt.

“ We al­ways talk about red flags. But a red flag I’d dif­fer­en­ti­ate from a de­railer,” said Lee Burbage, vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources for Mot­ley Fool in Alexan­dria. If there is just one job that was a short stint, he’ll still con­sider an in­ter­view. But he will ask why you left so soon.

So should you stay for a year just to get a year on the ré­sumé? It all de­pends on your his­tory. Fig­ure out what yours is. K What is an in­for­ma­tional in­ter­view? Will a com­pany take me se­ri­ously if I ask for one?

Re­mem­ber when your ca­reer coun­selor at col­lege ad­vised you to try to get in­for­ma­tional in­ter­views to get a foot in the door? He seemed so naive. Call­ing a com­pany to say you don’t ex­pect a job but would be in­ter­ested in talk­ing to them about the work seems so for­eign.

How­ever, some hu­man re­source direc­tors ( read: those who do the hir­ing) say in­for­ma­tional in­ter­views can be a way in.

The thing about such in­ter­views is you, the job seeker, get to try the com­pany on for size as much as the com­pany gets to check you out. It shows you’re in­ter­ested, but not des­per­ate. ( Wel­come to “ The Rules: Of­fice Edi­tion.”)

Be sure to tar­get the kind of com­pany you’re in­ter­ested in. But get­ting an in­ter­view may take some ma­neu­ver­ing. Mary Good, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources at Black­board, an ed­u­ca­tion soft­ware com­pany in the Dis­trict, ad­vises us­ing your net­works. Try neigh­bors, friends, an alumni as­so­ci­a­tion. Good has been reached through the Penn State Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion. “ If a per­son wants to get a foot in the door or learn about hu­man re­sources, if they send me an e- mail that they grad­u­ated from Penn State, they’re in,” she said.

The in­for­ma­tional in­ter­view does a cou­ple of things, said Michael Beck­mann, di­rec­tor of tal­ent ac­qui­si­tion at Fred­die Mac. For one, it de­ter­mines if there is a fit. And if there is one, is there a level of “ at­trac­tion that could lead to for­mal­ized in­ter­views”?

“ It’s an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture of the com­pany,” Good said. “ Even though some­one may just be ex­plor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, it may be a year or two down the road, we have an open po­si­tion and they are in a much bet­ter place be­cause they un­der­stand the com­pany and are known to us.”

Good hired a young wo­man who asked for an in­for­ma­tional in­ter­view through a con­tact at Penn State. They hit it off, and the wo­man ended up with an in­tern­ship at Black­board. She is now a full- time em­ployee. K Can I look for a new job while I’m preg­nant?

Con­grats! But you’re in the midst of — or want to be in the midst of — a new job search. ’ Fess up? Don’t tell and hope you can get some leave when your kid ap­pears? Go to the in­ter­view even though they will know im­me­di­ately that you’re preg­nant? There is no right an­swer, but there is some guid­ance.

You want to find out as much as you can about an or­ga­ni­za­tion when you in­ter­view, right? You’ll want to know what kind of leave the com­pany has, yes? Well, ask. “ You would be well served to make sure you know ev­ery­thing there is to know about your com­pany’s ben­e­fits and past prac­tices,” said De­bra L. Ness, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Part­ner­ship for Women and Fam­i­lies.

The best sit­u­a­tion would be to come out of an in­ter­view “ armed with in­for­ma­tion about what has been the case, what the em­ployer’s poli­cies are and what your own needs are,” she said.

So lis­ten closely dur­ing the in­ter­view. Make your­self as aware of the cul­ture as you can. And if you are com­fort­able or think you should re­veal your preg­nancy, do so once you are of­fered the po­si­tion. It is il­le­gal to not hire you be­cause you are preg­nant. And don’t for­get that if you do end up work­ing with th­ese peo­ple, they will be pleased that you were open with them early on.

The part­ner­ship prac­tices what it preaches. Its chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer was seven months preg­nant when they of­fered her the job. Its di­rec­tor of health pol­icy told them in the in­ter­view that she was ex­pect­ing, as well.

“ Per­son­ally, as an em­ployer, I was very ap­pre­cia­tive that she was so hon­est,” Ness said. “ I thought it was a good sign of the kind of work­ing re­la­tion­ship we would have.”

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