Job Search Strategies: You get the job but it is a disaster

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

I have noticed that when you land a job really fast, you answer the job posting or make a call where a colleague introduced you and the employer seems ready to bring you on, as in starting yesterday, something is not right.

A couple of years ago, a colleague was in a not-so-great job when she got a call from the president of a mid-sized import-export business. A friend of hers had told the CEO about my friend and the CEO got on the phone and interviewed her right then and there. My friend really liked her on the phone and was excited, we were all excited for her as well. It sounded like a great job, in-house counsel for a thriving business, lots of hats to wear, shoulder-to-shoulder with the CEO.

The CEO demanded to meet with my friend immediately, that very afternoon, she was going out of the country on business and had an urgent need for an attorney right now. My friend re-arranged her schedule, prepared herself mentally and ran to the interview.

The next day my friend came in to give her notice, which was immediately (not a good move, by the way) and told us all about the company and the job. She loved the CEO,  and it looked like a once in a lifetime opportunity to get in on a great business.

My friend and the rest of us had not voiced our misgivings until then, but then we all had to say that we were worried, that this might be one of those “too good to be true” deals. My friend had been a litigator and an immigration attorney previously, not a corporate lawyer. She had no legal experience in import-export, or business. Why would she be selected for this particular job? And so quickly, with very little vetting? The salary was high, not what you would expect that kind of business would be able to pay.

My friend’s quandary was this: should she turn the offer down because of uneasy feelings and facts that seemed not to add up? The company was properly registered with the state, nothing seemed amiss. She liked the CEO and the people she met at the interview. The business seemed legitimate. How could she not take the offer?

A couple of months later, my friend quit her new job. She was embarrassed to tell us what happened. The CEO had never paid her. After the first two weeks, they told her they paid monthly. After a month came and went, the CEO told her she was having cash flow problems and would pay her in a few days when a customer payment came in, to be patient. After two months, when my friend still had not been paid, went to the CEO with firm words about being taken advantage of and demanding to be paid for her work. The CEO responded by saying my friend was not behaving professionally by “harassing” her, the CEO, about money!

This is an extreme example, I realize, and not something that happens frequently, but similar things happen often enough that we all need to be aware that when a job situation appears fantastic, it may not be. Knowing when to say no is the hard part though. You could be passing up a great opportunity because you are too suspicious or mistrustful.

On the other hand, taking a “bad” job can scar you for a while, not to mention worsen your financial position.

My friend was devastated by this experience and it took her awhile to locate another position. To make matters worse, her old employer would not hire her back because even though she had been a good attorney and employee, she had quit without notice.


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