Is the Grass Always Greener?

Having worked in the recruitment industry for over 20 years I have lost count of the amount of times I have said to candidates or my own employees ‘the grass isn’t always greener’. It can be very hard to ignore those headhunt calls promising amazing pay rises or stories from ex-employees about how incredible their new company is. In reality, there are so many unknowns about what it is like to work in a different company and it is easy to make a career damaging decision.

Consider the source

Try to take the risk out of the situation by considering what the motives and backgrounds are of the people reaching out to you. If it is a recruiter, bear in mind that an HR or In house recruiter obviously has a vested interest as they only represent one company. They will sell their company to you and potentially exaggerate the culture or earning potential to get you to listen.

The same goes for head hunters/agency recruiters, try to find out what their relationship with their client is like, how long have they worked together, how many people have they placed there, do they all still work there, do they truly understand what the company does. It is relatively easy to find out the reputation of recruiters by asking friends in the same industry and checking out their LinkedIn profile and activity. Someone who has specialized in a particular industry for a long time is much more likely to be honest and trustworthy, if they were not they would no longer have any clients to deal with!

Ex-colleagues are harder through, especially if you were good friends. I would be very wary if they have not worked there for long as it takes time to find out whether promises are upheld especially around payrises and bonuses. I have also known people target ex colleagues because the referral bonuses on offer at their new company are very generous. Unfortunately I have seen people encourage others to join them and they end up all leaving when they find out the culture is toxic or there are management issues etc.

Those most at risk

Inexperienced workers or people who have only worked for one organization are those most likely to be sucked in to the grass is greener syndrome. It’s hard because why wouldn’t you listen to friends and families opinions about companies or to what social media has to say about them?

The problem is, just because John had a bad experience at XYZ Company does not mean you will. Likewise, just because Lucy loves her work culture does not mean you will feel the same way.

Reading online reviews on sites such as Glassdoor may seem like the thing to do, but these reviews are often prejudiced and are much more likely to be populated by bitter and disgruntled former employees rather than happy current employees.

The other thing to consider is that all companies go through cycles of growth and retraction and culture changes. What a company was like 2 years ago could be completely different to now thanks to changes in management etc.

So how can you find more reliable information about what it is like to work for a company?

Check out the Company’s Website

Read their mission statement, company history, the products and/or services they provide, and learn more about their company culture. The “About Us” section of the website is full of useful and relevant information.

Give special attention to recurring themes and statements within the mission statement, company/corporate values, and the words they use to describe themselves. Sometimes they have video’s featuring current employees, this can be a good indicator of the type of people that work there and their working culture.

Look at LinkedIn

LinkedIn offers company profiles that provide valuable information about a company that might interest you. Look at their jobs posted, company statistics, related companies, new hires and promotions and most importantly staff turnover.

Take a look at their employees, this gives you an indication of the calibre of people who work there and what the culture may be like. If you find you have connections at a company, they can also be an invaluable resource for giving you some feedback about the culture and what it is like to work there.

Search Google

Look up the company on Google. See what news stories you can find, are they expanding into other countries, have they won any awards, do they have a good reputation, do they believe in social responsibility etc.

Speak to an expert

If you happen to know someone senior in the industry who has consulted to many firms or has been a member of a regulatory body or industry association pick their brains! They may be able to give you a neutral opinion about the company’s reputation, culture and standing in the market place.

Conclusion

Although being headhunted is flattering and can be an easy way of finding a new role it’s important to do as much due diligence as possible and not regret the decision. Don’t be like some people I know who left a role they were successful in only to call their ex employer a few months later after realising they have made a terrible mistake and begging for their old job back!

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