Contrarian Job Advice

Contrarian Job Advice by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Are you looking for a new job? If you’re employed (by others, not self-employed), a high percentage of you have just landed a job, are looking for a job, or will be looking for a job in the near-term. I won’t share all the statistics that exist regarding the “job market”, but suffice it to say that people change jobs nearly as often as they change houses. Maybe the two are correlated (a bit of cause and effect).

There are countless books on job hunting, career transitions, resume/CV writing and the like. Look at the picture above. This book will tell you how to “land your dream job.” Sounds great doesn’t it. After all, who wouldn’t want their “dream job?” … Sidebar: Ironically, what I’ve noticed is that many of the formerly disgruntled professionals who changed careers, and now have the “perfect” job, landed a job in the career transition field. In other words, they’re now writing about it, consulting about it, or trying to get you to buy a service related to it. “It” being job hunting, career change, resume and cover letting writing and the like. They got out of the “corporate” world and have entered the “career transition” world.

I may not have the “dream job”, but as a professional for 27 years in 5 industries, I have made several observations about jobs and career transitions. A couple key observations: 1) There are always jobs available, and 2) Not all job advice is true.

No matter the market, there are jobs available. Yes, the market may be tight. Yes, the compensation may not be ideal. But for top performers who know how to work the process, there are always available jobs. What organization cannot find room for a top performer who can add revenue, or reduce cost, or lead significant change? The second point is a bit more confusing and not so apparent – “not all job advice is true.” More on that in a minute.

But first, a bit more about “jobs.” You know hardly a week goes by without a colleague, family member, friend, or professional acquaintance talking to me about jobs. In some cases, they’re describing their ideal job. In others, they’re asking if I’m available. In others, they’re asking for advice. In others, they’re asking about what it’s like to work at a particular company or in a particular industry. In others, they’re asking me advice about their job or career.

If you’re employed, you already realize that spend a significant part of your life at work. I hope you like what you do. I hope you find fulfillment. I hope it’s a good match. I hope you’re well compensated. I hope you’re appreciated. I hope you add value. Yet the fact remains that many (most?) people are not satisfied with their job. Are you?

I probably get asked 3-5 times a month (by an executive recruiter) to consider a particular opportunity. This is a result of being around for a while, developing a reputation for delivering world-class results, leading major transformational change, and growing top talent. These are things I excel at. Sometimes I consider the opportunity. Other times I politely say “no.” Other times I refer them to someone else.

Why do I talk with these recruiters? Isn’t that being disloyal to my current employer? No. I talk with recruiters for a number of reasons and you should too. It helps me learn about the job market. It helps me learn about other companies. It confirms whether or not I’m “satisfied” in my current job. In fact, talking with recruiters relates to the second “thing” I’ve observed regarding jobs: not all job advice is true. You should not prevent or discourage your employees from looking at other jobs. You should encourage your top performers to “look.” To look at job offers. To look at recruiters. To look at trends in the labor/job market.

This is certainly Contrarian Job Advice. If you want to be a world-class leader, one of the things you should do is “allow” (even encourage at times) your top performers, your A-Players, to “look” at the job market, talk with recruiters, and considers opportunities.

Why? Here’s the secret. If you truly want world-class performers, then they have to be absolutely convinced that they have the best job. That all things considered (boss, compensations, workload, location, etc.), they are currently in the best possible position. The best possible job. If you have a top performer who believes they could do significantly better somewhere else, it will be a distraction. It will negatively impact their performance.

The key to retaining top talent is simple. Love them. Pay them well. Respect them. Provide growth opportunities. Etc. … In sum, you must create an overall job environment that is the best. If you want to attract and retain the best, you have to work at it. If you work at it and have a world-class job environment, then you can confidently allow or even encourage them to test the waters and see what else is out there. Once they realize their situation is the “best”, they’ll stay and deliver the best. Their loyalty will increase because they know they’re being well taken care of by you and the current organization.

Are you open-minded enough to allow your top performers to consider (even interview for) other jobs? Are you confident in your ability to retain top talent? To create a world-class job environment?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]

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