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Choose your Employer Wisely

For years, would-be employees have undergone scrutiny by employers during the Interview process. In addition to our resume, we have to provide personal and professional references. We have to pass drug tests and personality tests. We have to prove our education and in many cases, whether or not we actually served in the military. It's all for a good cause of course, but rarely is the topic of employer suitability mentioned in the job hunting context.

These last couple of years have been unprecedented in regards to company ethics and business practices. One doesn't have to look far to hear a sad tale of over-promised benefits, stock, and promotions from companies who are now nothing more than memories. The recent Enron scandal has even further rocked our beliefs in the stability and ethics of corporate America.

With all the recent layoffs and "restructuring" now is a great chance for employees to take time out to evaluate their next employer. Employee happiness is possibly the most important area of a person's overall professional satisfaction. Thus, it is not to be taken lightly. Nothing else matters if you go to work for the wrong company - not even if you've been out of work for a year and you simply need the money. Sooner or later, you'll be back in the same jam.

So how does a person define a "Good Employer?"

For most of us, a good employer is simply one that pays a fair wage for our time and expertise, appreciates our efforts and rewards appropriately, and does not ask us to do anything that they wouldn't ask their mother to do

Hopefully if you've read my book and the many other fine articles on this newsletter, you have an idea of the kind of work you want to perform. Now, as important to the type of work that will make you happy, is the type of employer that will make you happy. Unfortunately, the only problem with identifying the right employer is that often you may not know whether it is or is not the right one until after a couple of interviews. Even more depressing still, you may not know until you've worked there for a week or two.

We all want the best for our families and ourselves but at what cost? What should we legitimately expect from our employer? Universally, we all want the same things:

These are all things that you are entitled to and should not have to be written into your offer of employment. Benefits like 401K, vacation, and stock options are negotiable; values however, should not be.

In addition to the universal desires we all have for our employer, there is one more area of employer ethics and values that is overlooked and in some cases, even unnoticed by today's workers. Much like home schooling, not everyone sees the value in it, but it is gaining popularity. .

Thanks to the advent of the laptop and modem, we spend more time working away from the office. Not because we're Telecommuters (we should be so lucky) but because we are overworked already and feel obligated to "get out that memo" that we didn't have a chance to do before we left work.

Unfortunately, there is no law protecting you from a 60-hour workweek if you are salaried. Hourly employees at least can bill for overtime, but the majority of today's white-collar jobs are salary. Works out well for the company payroll. You get paid xx dollars every week, regardless of how many hours you work.

Let me stop for a moment and make is perfectly clear that I do not believe there is anything wrong with putting in a little overtime for the big project deadline. That is, as long as it is the exception, and not the norm. Ah, the exception. Now that's where it gets tricky isn't it?

In an effort to cut costs and headcount, companies are piling more work on existing staff and expecting the same level of output. Since none of us want to be fired or laid off, we do as much as we can, thus perpetuating the problem. Soon the exception becomes the norm. It's all making sense now is it not?

All this is a roundabout way of pointing out what I consider a major employer work ethic black-hole that is overlooked by most job hunters; an employee's personal time.

An employer should respect and even encourage an employee to enjoy their family and social life apart from work. Even the U.S. military requires its employees (soldiers) to take 2 weeks of vacation per year. They realize the importance of the separation. This goes against the grain of what many companies are trying to sell employees on these days. They promote "friendship" and "social bonds" in the workplace, even going so far as requiring weekend "retreats" and offsite meetings outside of company hours.

While this is not a bad idea per-se, it is quite obviously a psychological ploy playing on an employee’s sense of responsibility that serves to help us associate work with social identity. It's true - don't you sometimes FEEL bad for not working more? Do you slink out of the office at 5:15 p.m. when everyone else is staying late? Our society defines us by the work we do. I'm not saying this is right or wrong, but just that our professional and social identity have become closely linked.

Starting a new job is the perfect time to make a stand for your personal and social values in an employer. Look for one that has the right mix of what YOU want and not necessarily what THEY want. If you are currently employed and feel that you are not being fairly treated for your time and effort, make it known. If you feel so empowered, take a stand and demand a change.

At the end of the day as we are sitting in gridlock going over what happened over the course of the week, we should at least feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that we did the best we could do according to our own morals and values. While our professional life is only one part what defines us as people, when we are happy with our job, we are much more fulfilled as individuals. Don't trade off what you value in your life for the sake of a good salary and a snazzy job title.

-Christopher Souther
Chris is a Corporate Writer and Trainer in the Atlanta area. His professional services include a wide array of Corporate and Freelance writing
Also read Chris' free E-book on Job hunting at:
Copyright © Chris Souther 2002