Loyalty is indeed an admirable and highly valued trait—in personal relationships, i.e., our friends, families and spouses (or significant others). And oh, did I mention how very important it is to also be loyal to ourselves!? When it comes to business situations, however—and in particular the business relationship we have with a current employer—the waters can rather quickly become quite murky regarding the whole issue of loyalty.
For a surprising number of men and women, looking for a new job while currently employed is tantamount to being grossly disloyal to their current employer. Some people even compare the feelings they experience in this situation to those they might experience if they were “cheating” on their spouse!
I have actually had candidates approach me for assistance in finding a new job after they had already quit their existing jobs because they said they simply felt “too guilty,” “too disloyal,” to look for a new job while they were employed! (Once they became unemployed I couldn’t help them, of course, because no hiring company is going to pay a “headhunter” a fee for finding a candidate they can easily find themselves!) Reality check!
In virtually any job market, and that’s particularly true in today’s job market, it is always, always, always easier to get a new job if you currently have one than if you are unemployed! No matter what you say is the reason for quitting an existing job to search for a new one, potential employers will almost always perceive your leaving primarily in negative terms, e.g., “He/she probably quit because he/she was about to be fired anyway.”
Where Your True Loyalty Should Lie
When it comes to loyalty in business, your primary focus should always be on yourself and on your overall, entire professional career. In other words, you should determine what’s best for you and your family, not let the company you happen to be working for at the present make those decisions for you. If you don’t take FULL and COMPLETE control of your own career, your own destiny, by default, you’ll end up leaving it to the capricious whims and ever-present uncertainties inherent in any business organization—including your current employer!
Being all too human, most of us tend to endow the company we work for, no matter the size or specific business focus, with certain, positive, human characteristics, such as warmth, caring, reliability, etc. All well and good perhaps, but this perception tends to overlook one very important fact about any business entity: Businesses are not “social organizations,” at least not in the traditional sense (and general understanding) of that term. The company is not the employees’ “family,” and fellow employees generally are not necessarily one’s “best friends.” A company—any company!—is in business for one primary reason and one reason only: To make money! Or at least it better be, because if it isn’t in business to make money, it won’t be in business long!
On Any Given Day . . .
Make no mistake about it, when (notice I didn’t say “if”), on any given day at some point in the future, your job becomes redundant and/or counterproductive to your current company’s ability to make money, you and your job will be history, usually without so much as even a moment’s notice or a fare thee well. It won’t matter how long you’ve been with the company or how much of a personal/professional contribution you may have made to the company’s overall success—or even, the intensity of the “loyalty” you have consistently shown the company. You might even be told something like, “Hey, it’s not personal, it’s just business.” And you know what? That is precisely what it is, business. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the company and/or the people running it are “bad,” or “evil,” or “uncaring,” it is just business. Happens every single business day. Let me give you a recent example of what I’m talking about here.
Just as I was putting the finishing touches on this blog, I received an email comment from one of my LinkedIn connections regarding a posting I made about how tenuous one’s position can be in today’s job market. The comment was so appropriate and timely for this blog that I couldn’t resist including it!
Here is what the man had to say:
“My ‘wake-up call’ was after talking with my District Sales Manager. I was (telling him) about all I (felt) I had done for the company. He looked at me and said, ‘When you get that check every other week you and (the company) are even!’”
What You Actually Owe Your Current Employer
Without question, as long as you are being paid a wage or salary (and provided benefits?) from a company, any company, you do owe that company, but what you owe is not undying, irrevocable loyalty! You owe the company your very best efforts and the honest exercise of your talents and skills while you are physically on the job or officially representing the employer elsewhere. You also of course owe the company honesty and integrity. That’s about it! Anything you do while you are not “on the job” is your personal business! And that includes looking for a new job—for whatever reason(s)—on your own time and using your own facilities and resources.
The substance of the last sentence in the preceding paragraph is of course a key consideration if you decide now is the time to start looking for a new, better career opportunity, while you still are employed. Never, never, never conduct your new job search on “company time.” Don’t use your current company email address as your contact email, and certainly don’t use your company phone number as your contact number. Make sure that every single aspect of your new job search is done “on your dime.” (Remember, I said that you do owe your current employer both honesty and integrity!)
One other thing: Don’t be concerned that you may lose out on career opportunities if you have to tell potential employers (or those hiring professionals representing them) that you can only be contacted, or contact them, “after business hours.” Any “headhunters,” hiring managers or Human Resources professionals worth their salt will certainly understand—and respect!—the necessity for your taking this approach while you are currently employed. Believe me, if you have branded yourself as a candidate worthy of additional consideration, you definitely will get it.
Have I convinced you of where your first, your true loyalty should lie when it comes to your career, your life? I hope so! Now, if you do indeed have a genuine desire—or need!—to seek a new job, your dream job, go for it—guilt-free!
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.