General Question

lilikoi's avatar

Would you apply?

Asked by lilikoi (10031 points ) April 22nd, 2010

Someone else was asking a job question, and it reminded me of my own…

There is an opening that I am qualified for at a company that sounds awesome.

Problem is, I have made long term plans in my mind that don’t involve a company in their industry, and intend to start executing them soon.

I could commit maybe 6 months to a year to the job, but in this industry, it can take 3–6 months to get situated, and then you are responsible for projects that take years to finish so you can never exit at a good time.

I am bleeding my savings account in the hiatus. It would be nice to have an income again short-term and the time I spend w/ a company like this will help me in the future. I can make ~3 times what I’d make taking any temporary job (maybe more).

I guess you never know, it is not impossible that I end up liking the company and hang around longer.

Would I be crossing some kind of ethical line by submitting an application without including a warning about my intentions? Would you give them the impression that you’re in it for the long haul so they hire you, or be upfront about your lack of commitment and risk making a bad impression?

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18 Answers

njnyjobs's avatar

Most employment situations are “at will” . . . you can apply get hired and resign or get terminated. If you qualify and get hired, you show up for work to get paid the money you need. You quit when you want to quit . . . I don’t think that should be too much of an ethical dilema, unless of course you’re tied down with some sort of employment contract or agreement, especially when the company spends money on you for relocation, training, uniform, etc. . . .

bob_'s avatar

I would, and I’d put the other plans on hold. Go with the flow, man. Well, the cashflows in this case.

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

@bob_ , I just gave you GA

bob_'s avatar

@Thesexier Thank you :D

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

haha you are welcome:D

lilikoi's avatar

Thanks for the replies. Relocation and training would probably be a couple of the expenses the company would invest in me. I feel bad about applying. Idk. I’ve been putting these plans on hold for years now, not sure how much longer I can hold out. Not getting any younger here. :P

Trillian's avatar

@lilikoi I think that you’re covered if you say up front what your intentions are. I don’t know if that would be the best way to get hired though. Either way, it seems that companies are less and less constrained by ethics themselves and with the economy the way it is, people need to worry about their own income. If you took the job and then left, how much of a bind would it put the company in? They can probably replace you in good time, especially if you give a two week notice.

Buttonstc's avatar

Companies nowadays seem to have little compunctions about shafting their workers in all sorts of ways like relocating out of the country, canceling retirement benefits and anything else that they think they can get away with.

So, you don’t really know for certain that you may not end up liking it there and staying longer so I don’t think you owe them any advance notice about an uncertain future.

All you owe them is an honest days work for a day’s pay until such time as you give them notice when you’re ready to move on whether that ends up being 6 months, 6 years or longer.

If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

In today’s economy, I can’t imagine they’d have much difficulty replacing you.

Ron_C's avatar

Frankly, I like companies that have a learning curve and long-term projects. I did one with NASA years ago. I would probably take the job without reservations. If I become dissatisfied, like I did with NASA, that the project was being drawn out for no good reason, I would quit in good conscience. I did that with NASA.

Jeruba's avatar

If you don’t have an actual commitment to be somewhere else and do something else six months from now, I don’t see an ethical problem with it. The fact is that the future is always uncertain. Loyalty between companies and employees seems to be a thing of the past, at least in the U.S.

If you can take on the job and give your best to the work without hating it, I’d say go for it, as long as you don’t lose sight of your true goal. Can you be taking steps toward that in the meantime? And will a different career move on your resume interfere with your progress?

I honestly believe that sooner or later everything we learn has value. You may learn something in this position that will stand by you in your future situation.

Ron_C's avatar

@mrrich724 I signed on to a project to research the dangers of carbon graphite fibers contaminating electronics and computers. I spent more than a year and we proved that they were innocuous but the project continued because more funding became available. That was the only reason to continue it.

phillis's avatar

You’ve no commitments to any other companies or employers, right? And…..you can’t tell what the future holds, I assume. Go for the here and now and work toward your goal. Too often things come up that put your plans on hold for a lot longer than you expected….things you never saw coming. Take care of yourself, because every company is sure going to take care of themselves. You’re not shafting anybody. You’re covering your ass – just like they are. That’s business. WHen you are working for yourself, that will be your chance to change the way business is done, like hubby and I did.

wundayatta's avatar

How do you know what will happen in six months? Do you have a crystal ball? Does it work? Can I borrow it?

You do not “owe” the company any information about your plans. They do not owe you any information about their plans. It’s a risk both sides take. The only way that this can affect you is in terms of your reputation and on your resume. However there are people these days who change jobs every six months, and it doesn’t seem to hurt them as it would have a decade or two ago. It is typical Gen Y behavior—very unlike the Baby Boomers (according to an HR professional I heard give a presentation about this at a major B school).

It is admirable that you want to be up front with your employer, but it is somewhat naive. As someone above said, “at will” means both sides can terminate employment at any time they want. It is courtesy to give two weeks notice, but not required. If you have a contract, that’s another story. But we outlawed slavery in this country a while back, so an employer can’t force you to work.

Having said that, you can certainly tell your potential employer your plans, and it is possible they might invest all that time and money in you for nothing. But I doubt it. If you want the job, I wouldn’t tell them. In any case, you don’t have a crystal ball, and you have no idea if you really will be doing something else in six months or not, no matter what your plans are.

dalepetrie's avatar

I’ve been laid off a few too many times to feel like this should be a concern. You don’t know what you don’t know, you might decide that your new job is your calling (and of course, isn’t it extremely pre-mature to even be thinking about an offer if you haven’t even applied…I probably applied for a thousand jobs over the last 15 months and got one of them). So, hypothetically speaking, they hire you, it means you have something to offer them, and that being the case, hypothetically, it may be a great fit for you. Or it may not, making a long term plan is kind of ridiculous, because you just never know where life is going to take you anyway. But if 6 months down the road your dreams are still a stronger draw than your reality, go for it, but again, you’ll have to find a job in that industry as well, who knows how long it would take. And besides, if the company does hire you, there’s no guarantee they won’t decide to do some sweeping layoffs. I worked for one company for 6 months…they were thrilled to have me, they basically gave me an opportunity to pick between two jobs, they sunk a lot of money into me, and then after 3 months they said they were laying off 15% of their global staff, not because they “needed” the money (they had made a billion in profit the previous year), but because they wanted to trim $100 million from their budgets so they could do some television advertising (the first ads they’d ever run in the 100+ year history of the company), so that they could be “competitive in the global market”. My position was cut, and basically, they gave me 2 months notice, only made me work one week of it, they gave me 8 weeks severance pay, all my vacation which was already 3 weeks, plus a pro rated share of the corporate bonus I would have gotten had they not laid me off. I got notice at the end of September and had income through the end of February, plus they paid outplacement services. But I’ve also been pulled into a room and told “we don’t need you anymore” and given little to no severance pay. I’ve been at a company that shut down, and one which trimmed my hours, kept me on contract until I trained them how to do my job and then let me go. A job is a job, a paycheck is a paycheck, and the more you can take your career into your own hands rather than relying on a particular company or industry and feeling some false sense of loyalty that they would never feel to you, the better.

jazmina88's avatar

Good companies are hard to find. Try it and maybe think about longterm security…or quit and do your thing. but try the job for now. Apply.

dalepetrie's avatar

@jazmina88 has a good point, job security right now is a really good thing. I have another story from my own work life that I think is even more appropriate.

When I was in high school, I hadn’t given any thought about what I was going to do for a living, what I did know was that I was great at math. Then I took an Accounting course. I had been a person who never really had to study to get pretty good grades, I’d just listen to the lectures, take the tests, do the written homework and often never cracked a book. But when I got into this course, it made a ton of sense to me, in fact, one time we were given a packet of various records from a fictional company, and we were supposed to do the whole set of books from this paperwork, all the ledgers, all the statements, basically do everything that an accountant would do to record every transaction and make reports out of the data. Basically, we had gone through each individual piece of the accounting cycle one part at a time, and once we’d gone through the full cycle, we were given this comprehensive project. So, I got this package, and I couldn’t wait to work on it…we were given like a month or two to complete it, I did it all in that night, and got 100% correct. I spent the next month or two helping my classmates to comprehend and complete the assignment.

At one time in this class, the teacher brought in a guest speaker, pretty much the only CPA in our small town. This guy talked a lot about how much money a CPA could make, which as a Junior in high school sounded good to me. Here was something I liked doing, that I was good at that used my math skills where I could make a good living…my career path was set, I would become a CPA. Of course, my image of CPAs was based on 30 minutes from one guy who in retrospect had no passion for what he was doing, he only had passion for money (this guy I later found out has a half million dollar RV with solid gold doorknobs). So, I’m seeing this guy tell how he in a few short years owned his own CPA firm where he could bill people $200 an hour, and I saw what our coursework had entailed which was right up my alley.

So, the college I ultimately chose to obtain my bachelor’s in Accounting was one which basically steered its program to a CPA emphasis, and was essentially designed to help you pass the CPA exam, which at the time was 4 parts taken over 2½ days, a test on which each part was graded individually, and for each part, on average, 70% of test takers failed, 30% passed. One had to pass at least 2 sections in order to be able to retake just the sections missed, and only 15% taking did that. Passing all 4 sections at once was something that less than 10% of people who took the test ever did, and it was only a very small fraction of a percent of people who passed all 4 with flying colors on the first try. But this school had something like the 8th highest scores in all of the US, the 4th highest on one particular test, and had on numerous years turned out the top scorer in the state…in fact, one guy from my class received the top score in the nation. I wasn’t THAT good, but I managed to pass 3 of 4 sections and get the 4th one on my second try six months later.

I had gone forth with the premise that I was going to be a CPA, I was going to work in a CPA firm, that was my long term goal, just like you, @lilikoi, when you say you have a particular industry in mind for your long term plan. But the complexities of Accounting got a lot more challenging as college progressed, and unlike what pretty much everyone thinks of when they think CPA (the guy who does your taxes), CPAs don’t necessarily have anything to DO with taxes. The main idea of a CPA is that you are an expert in the field, and you can audit other peoples’ books and give a professional opinion as to whether they are in compliance with accounting standards. That’s really what it is, becoming someone who knows it all enough to with no context jump into a random company, apply statistical sampling to pull certain backup, examine the work done by the Accounting department and render an opinion as to whether it passes muster.

That was a far cry from what I thought a CPA was, and it involved a special kind of hell called auditing, the one section I did not manage to pass on the first try. I had a hard time in auditing classes and a lot of it just didn’t click with me. I eventually figured out enough to pass the exam though, and then I was ready to get a job. And my thought was, I wanted a job at a CPA firm where I could move up and make partner some day so that before long I’d be rolling in dough. I had all these ideas about what I thought I wanted, but they were based on the glimpses I’d had of what I wanted from the outside looking in. I ended up taking a test for the state for an auditor position, entry level. I actually got the top score on the exam, but I was told at the face to face interview that due to affirmative action, my being a white male knocked me down to hire #4. Don’t worry though, this was an expanding program, and eventually they were going to hire 12 people, so it was a matter of time. Thinking I had this job which was in the closest major metropolitan area to my home (about 3.5 hours away), that is where I moved. Then life happened.

I looked for work for the first month after I moved down here, every few days calling on that opportunity. Finally, I couldn’t let my parents pay my bills forever, so I went to a temp agency for Accountants and started taking temp work. I didn’t get audit work, but the work I got was related a lot more to the types of things I had done way back in my high school Accounting class, general accounting tasks. I was only taking jobs that lasted 3 weeks or less in case I had to bail for this other job, and I ended up taking this one assignment that was supposed to be short term for a couple weeks or so, but ended up being quite open ended. I stayed there for 11 months, and I basically ended up doing the types of accounting things that I’d been passionate for in the first place. I was essentially working in the capacity of an Assistant Controller (the Controller being basically the guy in charge of the Accounting department). What I realized after I’d resigned myself to not getting that auditor job, and having worked my way into this internal Accounting role, that THIS was where I really wanted to be.

Basically, I’m not someone who wants to be a CPA. I’m someone who wants to do the accounting for a company…I don’t want to be the auditor, I want to be the guy whose work gets audited. And I’ve had about 10 jobs, every single one has been in a different industry…I’ve worked for companies with a couple dozen people and companies with thousands of employees. And it’s where I fit. But having said that, there certainly were people, like the guy in my class who went at it with gusto and got the best score in the nation, who were driven to be CPAs, that’s what they wanted, and they KNEW what it all entailed, they had no illusions about I have to do this, I have to work in this setting or this industry or whatever, they simply were destined to do so and they knew it. I was destined to be an internal accounting guy, that’s where I ended up, and I have to say, I’ve found a lot more to life than money…my wife and I will be doing very well by middle class standards once we start our new jobs next month, and we’ve spent the last 20 years getting there. Whereas I knew people who were pulling down six figures when they were in their 20s. But they worked all the time. I generally worked 40 hour weeks. I have been able to spend time with my wife and my son, I’ve been able to travel and enjoy life. And I like what I do.

I’ll also illustrate my wife’s irregular path. When we met, she was working a part time job as a receptionist at an animal hospital. But, she had a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She had aspirations to be a vet, because she really liked and wanted to help animals. But I saw right away in her that she didn’t have a thick enough skin for such a profession not to eat her up. It took her a couple years to realize this…she had even applied to vet school at a premier university and was on the waiting list which essentially meant you were in the next semester…pretty much everyone spent a semester on the waiting list. And in that time, she realized, having seen the real day to day life of veterinarians for a few years straight that it really wasn’t her calling.

What I and many of her friends told her she should be was a librarian, but she kind of brushed that aside, but something really appealed to her about it. She opened her mind to it and went to an open house for the Master’s program, and decided that this was indeed her real calling. Why biology then…well she thought she was into the theoretical parts of medicine, just not the mechanics, and she thought maybe she could be a medical librarian, maybe for a pharmaceutical company. We decided to restructure our lives, by then I was making enough to support both of us and to be able to consider having a child. Basically, we had our son a couple days before her first class for her Master’s program, so she had quit the clerical jobs she was working (though she had climbed rather impressively from a simple receptionist to a well paid office manager), and embarked on the life of stay at home mom and grad student.

When she graduated, she still had ideas about using both her library degree and her biology degree in some way, but what she still didn’t realize was that medical/biological studies were really more of an interest, a hobby, just like what she minored in…art history. She could just as well think about becoming a curator for an art museum. But she really loved being a mom, excelled at it, because she had this inherent love for kids. She has a very practical mindset, she can not leave a job undone, and she has a caring demeanor and a passion for learning and teaching. So, whereas the idea of being a “public” librarian didn’t fit into her plans, eventually after being graduated for over a year and not having found any work, which was really hard on us because I kept suffering layoffs, she ended up working as a substitute librarian for a public city library.

Turned out she liked it far more than she ever considered she would, and began to look at regular permanent opportunities. After another year, she found a half time job as a Librarian for a county library. Part of her job was to run storytime for kids, and this turned out to be the absolute most exciting and fulfilling thing to her. She NEVER would have thought about being a children’s librarian, or even a public librarian with exposure to kids’ programming. But there it was. And eventually she realized that her dream job was the job that a woman in a neighboring city had…she was the head children’s librarian for this city and had been so for over 20 years…the city even named a day in her honor. In my wife’s dreams, she realized that it would be the fulfillment of everything she was looking for if she could some day replace the woman in that job. What she didn’t expect was that this woman, after about a year and a half with my wife at her current job, took a job across the state, leaving that position open.

She was intimidated, this was everything she ever dreamed of when she finally was honest enough with herself to admit that she had been on the wrong path. She applied for the job not expecting an interview, but she got one. And then she got the job. So, we were living on her half time salary and my unemployment for 15 months after the last company I worked for shut down, and I was having a really hard time finding a role I thought I would like, because I had carved out a very particular niche where I belonged. I had made all my mistakes and knew what types of jobs I’d be happy in, and though I was applying for jobs I knew weren’t the best fit for me, the ones I was most excited about were ones which I knew from years of experience would fit me like a glove. And a few days after she got her offer, I got my offer. So we went from one half time job between us to two full time jobs…jobs we are both very excited about, jobs that are doing exactly what we want. We’ll be making great money, we’ll have great benefits and great job security.

So my point is this…did we find our calling, or did our calling find us? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. Some people know exactly what they want early on, go for it, get it and are happy….but it’s been my experience that the majority of us think we want something, because our culture convinces us we need a 5 year and 10 year and 20 year plan, that we need to benchmark our success on what is essentially a prediction about what we are going to want in the future, which is based on spotty knowledge of the actualities. It’s not until you start working at something when you realize whether you’re really cut out for it or not.

So the moral is, know thy self. Examine why you think you want to work in this particular industry…and ask yourself if you actually know enough about working in that industry to be able to honestly say to yourself, this is my calling, this is what will make me happy. Or are there perhaps elements to the day to day reality that you’ve glossed over and glamorized, while there are elements to other paths, such as this job, which you may have ignored, not realizing how well they could fulfill you. If you can’t say 100% definitively that you know for a fact that this will never be something that interests you as much as your plan, if you’ve done the work, talked to the right people within what you’re thinking of doing some day, and are aware of what’s underneath the surface, and it is not the glossy exterior, but the real nitty gritty that drives you to want it, then in a way, anything that can keep you from that dream is actually a distraction.

But the point is, it’s a distraction to you…it’s not about the potential employers…you must above all be true to thyself. If this job feels too much like sidetracking you for you to feel comfortable doing it, then you actually shouldn’t apply. But if you’re not sure where life will take you, you have an idea of what your long term goals are, but don’t necessarily have a passionate basis for those dreams, and you really don’t maybe know yourself well enough to know if this is what you want (which is my assumption as you said yourself, “I guess you never know, it is not impossible that I end up liking the company and hang around longer.” To me that indicates that you maybe aren’t sure that your long term plans are the only thing that will give you fulfillment, and if that’s the case, it’s time to try on a few hats until you find the one that fits you just right. You won’t get there overnight, but if you keep at it, you will get there, you will be doing what you love, making all the money you need, and having everything you could have hoped for. But if you try to trap yourself into a preconceived notion of what you predict you want to do, but have no intimate knowledge of your dream on which to base it, you are just making it take longer.

Bottom line is, there is no wrong answer…if taking the job proves to be a mistake, you’ll learn from it and you’ll be a better person for it, one who is that much closer to knowing what will make you happy.

Jeruba's avatar

Besides, applying isn’t necessarily getting the job. Sure, before you apply you should be prepared to take it if it’s offered, assuming that no deal-breaker turns up. But you’ll have competition; you’re not a shoo-in. And the process could be educational in itself.

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