There must be 50 ways to leave your employer... right?
October 23, 2009 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Should I get out of this uncomfortable job? Complication: nepotism.

I'm a recent college grad. After all the fun-sounding, relevant-to-my-degree jobs I applied to this spring either rejected me or were canceled due to lack of funding, I accepted a job at a relative's business. It's in a very, very different field than the one that I went to school for and that I plan to pursue as a career. There's no way I would have been hired for this job were I not related to my boss.

Here's what I like about my current job:
1. The paycheck
2. My boss, being a relative, is understanding when I need to take time off
3. It's a relaxed work environment.

Here's what I don't like:
1. Like I said, this isn't the field I want to go into and I'm not really qualified. I'm also not very good at the work. I can do my tasks satisfactorily, but it's excruciating and takes a long time. I don't take pride in my work because I don't enjoy it, and I feel guilty having this job when there are a lot of unemployed people who would actually love it.
2. It's a long commute from my home. I wouldn't mind if I enjoyed being at work, but I feel like I'm spending most of my day being unhappy.
3. I get along well enough with my coworkers, but I have very little to talk with them about. They all have pretty similar goals, outlooks, and even hobbies, but I don't share them. Stupid as it is, I feel like (to give a poor example) a cowboy stuck at an eternal cocktail party with a bunch of software programmers, or an awkward, out-of-shape girl who ended up on a cheerleading squad out of nepotism.

An additional piece of information, which is either good or bad: I was hired this spring on an at-will, hourly-pay basis with the promise that I'd be brought on with a full-time salary and a year's contract at the end of the summer. This hasn't happened, despite my prodding ("we're too busy right now"), so I'm still technically an at-will employee. I have a verbal agreement with my relative that I will leave next fall no matter what.

At this point, I have not expressed any desire to leave to anyone at work (or to anyone in the family). I have, however, sent my resume out to a couple of potential employers in a field I know I like and am qualified for-- nothing fancy, but jobs I would enjoy going to every day.

If (and I realize that's a big if in this economy) I get an attractive job offer: Have you ever quit a job wherein your employer was a fairly close relative, in a way that didn't cause a family feud? How did you go about that?

Or: Is there a compelling reason (beside the economy) that I should suck it up for the next year and stay in this job?

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you finding a new job is a win all around - you will be happier and your relative can hire one of those people who will love the job, and presumably do it better. Since you aren't even a full-time salary employee that makes even less paperwork for everyone.

Of course, be sure to tell your relative how grateful you were for the work while you were getting on your feet in your actual field.
posted by mikepop at 6:50 AM on October 23, 2009

If they wanted to keep you, they would have offered you a contract, right? And if your relative expects you to leave next year at the latest, why would he be surprised if you decided to leave earlier?

Just tell the relative that you're grateful for the opportunity, but that you've now found something a bit closer to what you plan to do as a career, give your two week notice and be sure not to burn any bridges.
posted by inturnaround at 6:50 AM on October 23, 2009

You don't really have a job yet. Your next one will be your first real job.

Like I said, this isn't the field I want to go into...

Then you should keep applying for jobs that are in your preferred field, make no secret about it, and ask for time off when and as needed so you can go to interviews.

If this is really a family thing, they will already know and understand that it's not your career path. And if they don't know that, they should learn quick.

When you get that new job, thank them for helping you out when you needed work, and promise to return the favor if you can ever help your relative-boss out with something else in the future.
posted by rokusan at 6:54 AM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

(And just swallow and ignore all that contract and commute stuff. That's not important, and it makes this sound like too much of a normal employer relationship... which is exactly what you don't want.)
posted by rokusan at 6:54 AM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you should get a new job (or at least look for one), but when leaving emphasise how grateful you are to this relative for giving you this job to keep your head above water in this economy, etc. Given that you're an at-will employee with an agreement that runs out next fall anyway, I think they will be fine with it.
posted by Xany at 7:04 AM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think that leaving to pursue your career goals is something that shouldn't bother a manager of a family business, especially if it's clear that you're not, let's say, the apparent successor to management/ownership.

Be sure to thank your relative in a heartfelt manner for the opportunity to work at the company, and be as flexible about your departure as possible (offer to train your replacement, work some flex hours at the old place while you're in the new job, etc.)
posted by xingcat at 7:08 AM on October 23, 2009

I worked for my dad for a while in a job I hated. I love my dad & we're very close & I felt horrible for hating the job, especially b/c I'd taken it to get out of a different job that I hated for different reasons. Ultimately, though, he was my dad & he could tell I was unhappy & he knew that working in that field wasn't my life's ambition, so it caused zero friction when I quit. I think it helped that I was quitting to pursue something that was in my field of interest.
posted by oh really at 7:18 AM on October 23, 2009

Keep working at your job while you apply and interview for the others. When you get a new job, quit the one you have and move. A lot of employers prefer stealing someone away from current work than dipping into the unemployment pool. It ain't fair, but that's often how it is.

And, BTW--the economy is a pretty compelling reason to keep a paying job right now. This is not like the 90s when people could just quit their job and be employed somewhere else, for sure, within six weeks. Depending on your field, which you don't name, you could be looking at 6 months or more of unemployment. Even in skilled work. Especially right out of school.

Also, it sounds like your boss-who-is-also-a-relative is expecting you to leave in the future anyway, so it doesn't sound like they would be upset or flabbergasted if you showed up and said you had found a position elsewhere. If there are really lots more qualified people for your job out there, they will be able to replace you easily.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:44 AM on October 23, 2009

Unless your field is recession proof, this is a terrible job market. If you get a job offer you like before you become contracted, then great. But if you are about to be put on contract at your current job and have no prospects, you might want to wait out this economy there.
posted by spaltavian at 7:48 AM on October 23, 2009

You're in a somewhat enviable position compared to many jobseekers, because your boss/relative will be more understanding of you taking time off for interviews, etc. So luckily you don't have to sneak around pretending you have dentist's appointments.

Keep applying for jobs in your field and view the job you have as a necessary evil for the time being, one that pays your bills.
posted by vickyverky at 10:26 AM on October 23, 2009

Your uncle is doing you a favor. By moving on to a more appropriate job, you'll be ending your reliance on his generosity, which is a good thing for both of you.
posted by anildash at 11:33 AM on October 23, 2009

I'm sure there are cases where leaving a family member's employment caused friction, only you can know if that is the relationship you have here. But, the best way to face this is to do your best where you are, look for a job and when you find something else, express sincere gratitude for their generosity. A normal family member who is looking out for your best interests will wish you well and feel good that they were able to help you out. I like to assume people are normal until they prove otherwise.

Good luck!
posted by amanda at 2:07 PM on October 23, 2009

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