Warning Signs of a Bad Job

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A few days ago, a non-compete agreement I signed a couple years ago will expire. The agreement was signed January 27, 2006 and, at the time, I was so eager to move to Chicago, to work on a major retailer’s PR account and to work as second in command at a rapidly growing PR firm, that I didn’t think too much about the ramifications of a non-compete agreement that expires two years after departing from the firm.

In celebration of the expiration of this non-compete agreement, I’d like to offer some advice for those of you who are reviewing job offers and considering the acceptance of a new position. They say hindsight is 20/20, and that saying is certainly true here.

1. Moving assistance. In this particular situation, I was moving from North Carolina to Illinois for a position. There was no offer of moving assistance and when it was requested, I was immediately turned down because “we haven’t done that for any of the other employees.” If you’re not willing to invest in our relationship at the beginning, why will you later?
2. Unreasonable deadlines. After accepting the position, I was asked to begin work in one week. Obviously, because I was moving cross-country and leaving a position, two weeks was the absolute minimum I could do. We negotiated the start time, and upon packing, etc. I realized that I needed to push my start date back just one day later, from a Tuesday to a Wednesday. The boss did not accept this request and required me to attend a meeting with a client on that Tuesday. Upon arriving in Illinois, I immediately went from moving truck to cab to make the meeting … only to find out that my presence was not at all necessary.
3. Overly Friendly Supervisor. At first, I thought she was amazing. Incredibly friendly and always wanting to spend time with me. But like any unhealthy relationship, her true colors began to show. I quickly discovered that she was manipulative of both her employees and her business contacts.
4. Severely Restrictive Documents. I referenced the non-compete … two years is incredibly restrictive. Be sure to read through the documents thoroughly and mark items that seem strange. Also, invest in a lawyer. Spend a few hundred dollars to make sure what you’re signing is on the up-and-up.
5. Get it in Writing. After any conversation via telephone or in-person, follow up on that conversation with an email or letter. Written communication rehashing what was discussed and agreed upon is essential to your record-keeping.
6. Reviews and Goals. Insist on quarterly reviews to check-in on your boss’ perception of your performance. Make sure you work together to set your goals and be certain the goals are attainable. Someone who sets unattainable goals for you is too weak-minded to fire you.

I could go on, but those are my top six suggestions for vetting any position. Whether it’s a small boutique firm or a large agency, multiple meetings and conversations are a must. You don’t get married on the first date; why should you take a job after the first interview?