Stick With The Job You Know, More Employees Say
A growing number of professionals are saying 'no, thanks' to prospective employers asking them to change jobs.
Spooked by the shaky economy, 46% of U.S. middle managers polled in mid-September said switching employers in the current environment is risky, according to a survey by Accenture Ltd. Just 13% of respondents said they were actively looking for a new job, down from 30% the last time Accenture conducted a similar survey in 2005.
The findings are echoed by search-firm recruiters, who say they are having to work harder just to get professionals to hear out job opportunities they have to offer. And dire tales of people losing their jobs shortly after being hired, although rare, are helping to spread caution among workers.
Many employees are hesitant to join new companies because 'there's a level of uncertainty,' says David Smith, managing director of talent and organization performance at Accenture, a global consulting company. It's unclear whether a different employer will be able to provide sufficient job security, training, advancement opportunities and other benefits. By contrast, they know what's available to them where they work now, he says.
The Accenture survey, to be released Thursday, polled via the Internet 322 middle managers, including account supervisors, associate vice presidents and sales managers. In its 2005 survey, which polled 225 professionals about their job outlooks, Accenture didn't ask about perceptions of risk because the economy was strong at the time, a spokesman says.
Professionals who are considering switching jobs should carefully vet the financial health of a prospective employer, job recruiters say. To protect themselves, job candidates also should try to request that a severance package be included in any employment contract.
Workers may have good reason to be cautious about making a career move at such an economically volatile time. Consider what happened to an information-technology professional who resigned from his job at a New York investment bank. In late September, the employee accepted a written offer for a management job paying $120,000 a year. Days before he was to start, the new employer, a New York-based hedge fund, decided not to fill the position, citing upheaval in the financial markets as the reason, says Ron Weiss, a partner at search firm BMW Group Inc., who had introduced the parties to each other.
Though the hedge fund followed through on a promise to pay the candidate a $32,000 sign-on bonus, he was left initially without a job, says Mr. Weiss, who adds that this is the first time he has seen a job fall through at such a late stage of the process. The IT professional recently was hired by a foreign bank, the recruiter says.
Search firms say they are finding it harder to lure prospective candidates. 'We have to really create for them something that is a sure thing,' says Robin Bland, a senior recruiter at QuestPro, a search firm in Dallas that specializes in the insurance industry. 'We have to bombard them with information about a potential employer so they feel secure about it.'
Candidates also are taking longer to make up their minds about a job offer, says Aaron Brooks, managing director at Chicago-based search firm Mergis Group. 'Companies need to realize that candidates are more in the driver's seat than they might think,' he says.
Professionals should consider that when an employer needs to lay off workers, 'sometimes it's last in, first out,' says Dale Winston, chairman and chief executive officer of Battalia Winston International, an executive-search firm based in New York. In other instances, an entire division may be cut.
Kevin Burke was laid off earlier this month as a vice president of finance at a large chemical manufacturer after just seven months at the job. He had relocated his family for the position from Ohio to Missouri, where he bought a home. He says the company was having financial troubles and eliminated the department he worked in. 'I certainly was surprised,' he says.
Mr. Burke, 41 years old, had left behind a similar job at an automotive manufacturer. Despite the upheaval, he says, he doesn't blame his latest employer for what happened. 'Market conditions dictated this result,' he says. 'Nobody expected the economy to burst as it has.'
Job candidates may be able to protect themselves to some degree by asking prospective employers some direct questions, says Paula Marks, an executive coach and managing partner at Gilbert Tweed Associates, an executive-search firm in New York. For example: What's the financial status of the company? What is the employee turnover like? Do you expect the company to be sold anytime soon? When was the last time you had layoffs? What criteria did you use for those layoffs?
Meanwhile, do some research on your own, adds Ms. Marks. Search the Web for news articles for insight into a potential new employer's financial status and layoff history. If it's a public company, review its 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission -- documents that summarize a public company's performance. Networking is also critical, says Ms. Marks. Seek out referrals to past and present employees at the company you're considering joining to get their opinions and more information about the organization.
Candidates also should try to secure a severance package as part of their employment contract and have an attorney review it before accepting a job offer, says Ms. Marks. Propose the same size package your current employer has promised you if you were to be dismissed, she advises. Should you want another amount, offer what you're most comfortable with. If your request is rejected, consider turning the offer down. 'You have to protect yourself,' she says.
It's wise to weigh the pros and cons of a job change with a professional career coach or mentor, says Ms. Marks. 'Don't discuss it with friends and family. They bring their own baggage, their own fears.'
Sarah E. Needleman
面临如此动荡的经济形势，员工们可能有足够的理由对跳槽保持谨慎。猎头公司BMW Group Inc.的合伙人威斯(Ron Weiss)介绍了一个IT员工的遭遇。这位员工辞去了纽约一家投行的工作，在9月底接受了一个年薪12万美元的管理职位。就在他准备开始新工作的几天前，他的新东家──纽约一家对冲基金决定不再提供这个工作机会，给出的理由是金融市场动荡。
芝加哥猎头公司Mergis Group的董事总经理布鲁克斯(Aaron Brooks)说，现在求职者在决定是否接受一份工作时也要花更长时间；公司需要意识到一点，也就是求职者比他们想像的要有更大的决定权。
纽约高管猎头公司Battalia Winston International董事长兼首席执行长文斯顿(Dale Winston)说，职业人士应该考虑到，当公司需要裁员时，有时候是按照“后进先出”的原则进行。有些情况下，则是整个部门全军覆没。
纽约高管猎头公司Gilbert Tweed Associates的高管指导、执行合伙人马克斯(Paula Marks)说，求职者或许可以直截了当地向未来的雇主提出一些问题，以在一定程度上保护自己。比如说，公司的财务状况如何？员工的流动速度如何？你预计公司短期内会被卖掉吗？你们上次裁员是在什么时候？裁员的标准是什么？
Sarah E. Needleman