The Job Change Shuffle
August 18, 2010 8:27 AM   Subscribe

I've been working as a consultant to a company that I want to work for full-time, but I don't want to burn any bridges or sour the relationship between my current employer and my (hopefully) soon-to-be employer.

I work for a very small software company, C, that's been farming me and a fellow coworker out to a large business intelligence company, E. This has been going on for about three months in my case (five or so for my coworker). I discussed the reasoning behind it with the de-facto manager of C and he's basically said that, while B makes less per-hour consulting, E will consume any hours we give them, so it's a good business decision.

I enjoy working for E far more than C.

As a small shop, C doesn't really have a process, or regular meetings, or QA, or any means for advancement within the company. We're technically a cooperative, but the founder is also the de-facto manager of everyone. We have trouble managing client expectations, so a lot of them slip into the bucket of "crazy," which is unfair to them and abusive to us. Some projects consume large amounts of intellectual energy for no real result, while the hard work of good software design gets left by the wayside to meet unreasonable deadlines. The result is that many of our projects are filled with legacy, cruft, and ugly, and have no real cleanup/refactor plans.

C was my first job out of college, and I'm concerned that I've fallen into the "new kid" slot amongst coworkers who are mostly much older than I am. Aside from an extremely generous christmas bonus in 2007, and a minor bump when I officially joined the payroll in 2008 (I had enough side work to justify semi-freelancing), I haven't received a raise. Judging by surveys and informal discussions with acquaintances in the field, I'm fairly sure I'm worth more than what I'm being paid.

E, on the other hand, is a large and growing company. They're eating up all the technical talent in the region. Assuming the status quo remains more-or-less intact for the next 5 years, this growth is sustainable and the business model is sound (as far as I can tell). They're wholeheartedly Agile. There's room for advancement, and an opportunity to try my hand at managing a team. The company is very "cool" in the way that tech companies can be cool; for better or worse, they're aping Google for company culture.

I'm well-regarded by the people I work with. I have engaging conversations with the other UI specialists I interact with, which result in some solutions that neither of us had thought of before. The parts of the project that are shown off to the execs are described to us in glowing terms.

I really want to slide out of my role as a consultant and into an employee at E, but I would like to avoid damaging any relationships if possible. There isn't a lot of work out there, and I consider some of my coworkers close friends. In a perfect world, I would dive into the shared consciousness of E and implant the idea, "you should hire me and pay me lots of money and give me a sports car." You know, all Inception-style.

TL;DR: I guess this breaks down to three questions:

First, how do I broach the topic of being hired by E?
Second, how (or can I) do I do it in a way that doesn't have major fallout?
Third, is this even a good idea? Should I just go job hunting elsewhere and leave the whole thing as it is?

(Posting this anonymously because the geographical/population area I work in is extremely small)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total)
1) If you're in a casual conversation with your manager at E, you can mention offhandedly that you're starting to weigh your options. It helps if you trust said person to not be an idiot about such things.

Your problem, as it applies to both 2 and 3 - whatever contract exists between C and E.

Pretty much every consulting contract out there has some kind of no-poach clause, where the client is not allowed, under any circumstances, to hire away employees from the consulting company. It's generally a big no-no. Many contracts stipulate a cooling-off period of anywhere from 3 months to a year or more, depending on the job.

That said, it doesn't mean it doesn't happen. People do it all the time, but it would need to be worked out between the two firms. Your current employer likely wouldn't be happy to have a valued employee get picked up by their biggest client. Compensation would be required.

So sure, explore it, but realize that it may not be feasible period, and you may need to look elsewhere for a while.
posted by swngnmonk at 9:15 AM on August 18, 2010

C needs to drive the conversation with E. You need to make E want you so bad they'll be willing to broach the subject with C. I've seen this happen many times.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:44 PM on August 18, 2010

Replace E with C and that makes more sense in my comment above. Basically you want the new employer to tell your current employer they want you.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:44 PM on August 18, 2010

IANAL. Your contract with C, and the contract between C and E, will have impacts on what options you and E may have. There can be many factors that affect the enforceability of those contract terms, but that's when you take everything to an employment lawyer and say "what's the deal".

Most contracts like this are pretty clear (as in they're written in a language normal people can understand), so look at everything yourself first to see if there's opportunity before spending money on additional legal opinions.
posted by clicking the 'Post Comment' button at 6:24 AM on August 19, 2010

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