I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.
Person 1: “What do you do?”
Person 2: “I’m a Senior Director of Product Management at Johnson & Johnson.” (Person 2 thinking in his head: aren’t you impressed by my title and company?)
“Johnson & Johnson? Wow!” (Person 1 thinking in his head: Johnson & Johnson? Wow, this guy must be somebody!)
Person 2 used to be me. I was easily impressed by job titles and big name companies. If you had a director title and worked at an easily recognizable company, you had my attention. My mentality changed, though. I’d go to networking events, and the more I went to them, the more I noticed that people were really impressed with their job titles and employers. But what happens when you don’t work at those employers anymore? The next excuse I want to tackle as to why people don’t leave their jobs is that their self-image is tied up in their job title and employer.
People with impressive job titles and employers will captivate people like me at first, but when they stop working for those companies, does that mean they’re not captivating anymore? We put so much stock in meaningless things. People will do anything to work at a big name company. They’re willing to humiliate themselves during the interview process and put up with ridiculous demands on their time once they have the job, but why?
Big name companies can be quite arrogant. They know that people will break their necks to work for them, so they make interviews unnecessarily difficult. I was recently reading an article, “19 interview questions you may have to answer if you want a job at the highest-paying company in America.” While reading these questions, I grew increasingly angry. A question from the list was, “What would your previous manager say about you?” This may seem like a reasonable question on the surface, but dig a little deeper, and it isn’t. Essentially, the interviewer is asking the job seeker to come up with platitudes that his former employer would say. “My boss would say that I’m a hard worker and dependable. He could always count on me to take initiative and get the job done.” What a lame answer! I suspect every job candidate will give some variation of this answer. And if that’s the case, what good was the question? It’s doubtful that Steve will say, “My former boss hates my guts and the feeling is mutual.”
When people finally get the job, they’re so proud of themselves. I work at Company X, they’ll say. I’m the envy of all my friends. But then the work starts. These companies know people want to work for them, so they know they can get away with unreasonable requests because people won’t want to leave. I busted my ass to get here, people will say. I’ll be damned if I leave now! Just think of any associate attorney working for a well-known law firm. It’s typical for these associates to work 80 hour work weeks with very little vacation time. They are so wrapped up in their status as associates as these firms. They will tell anybody who will listen about their employers at cocktail parties.
You want to know something about big law firms? They lay people off like it’s their job. Huge swaths of people gone in mere days. The former employees’ self-esteem plummets because they aren’t affiliated with these firms anymore. But should it?
Of course not. An employer is an organization that pays you to do its work. There are millions of them. Some well-known, others not. But who cares about the name? Does that organization’s mission resonate with you? Is the work interesting? Are coworkers a pleasure to be around? These are the things that people need to think about when it comes to a job – not the title and employer. Titles are so arbitrary anyway. Vice president. Senior Vice President. Executive Vice President. Senior Executive Vice President. The titles are probably the result of demanding a higher title. The job didn’t necessarily change, the individual just got a shinier title to keep him happy. Big deal!
If the only reason you’re staying at a job you don’t like is because you can’t imagine not having your title and working for that employer, remember this: after a bad quarter or two, you can be out of a job. The employer is gone and so is the title. But you’ll find another job, or create your own. Don’t be impressed by fancy titles and big name employers. Be impressed by what matters: the work and the people. And money, of course!
Another day, another excuse bites the dust. On to the next. Stay tuned.