Advice on the Ethics and Potential Pitfalls of A Job Search
May 19, 2016 5:16 AM   Subscribe

I’ve started a long term job search and would like some advice on the ethics and potential pitfalls of approaching a company that I’ve been working with in my current job.

Currently I’m working on a project implementing a production/inventory/sales system in a factory setting. It is essentially a mix of being a project manager and product owner. Over the past year I’ve been learning computer programing and related skills and am at the point where I feel I’m ready to start seriously looking. It’s become clear that the role I’m best suited for, taking my work experience and new techie skills combined, is something in the product owner/manage project manager field. I’m also considering starting my own thing.

As background info I wish to leave my current job due to a combination of really poor management, minimal and way below industry standard pay for my job duties and lack of any real future in the company with the type of work I’m interested in doing.

I’m at the stage of planning who and where I’m going to search and during this process something clicked. The CEO of the company that we’ve been working with has mentioned several times over the past month of moving more into North America. They are mostly in Europe at this point with only us and 3 other businesses using the system in both Canada and the US.

I really like this company, have a good relationship with the developers I’ve been working with and really like the type of work. Doing what I’m doing now in a broader context would really be perfect. Thinking on it more I would be really good for them as I’m one of a handful of people in NA that has actual experience in a real setting with the software. I can see myself really liking the work and working for them.

The question I have is whether expressing my potential interest (on my private time of course) is business ethics wise okay, or is it a totally sketchy no no thing to do. My current work does not and will not know I’m looking elsewhere in general. I do think that I trust the company CEO to inform my work if I contact them and it goes nowhere but I’m also aware that if they are interested that keeping a working relationship with my current company is important. I realize that they may just not what to negotiate that and that’s okay.

Has anyone had experience with sort of thing? Should I consider it? If I do are there good ways or doing it and ways to avoid?

Any advice would be helpful as this is not something I have any experience with.
posted by Jalliah to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This sounds totally reasonable. I don't see anything in your question that indicates this would be unethical. I could see it being unethical if, for instance, you had some company secrets and your main value to the new company would be sharing those secrets, or something like that. But just expressing interest in working with somebody who you currently work with through your job? That happens all the time and is a good way to find something new because they already know you. Just tell the CEO, or whoever you work with closely over there, that you've noticed they are planning to move more into North America and would be very interested if they have any opportunities for you.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:26 AM on May 19, 2016


Becoming an expert on X, then upgrading your job by moving up the food chain to the provider of X is not at all uncommon. Your biggest hurdle may be navigating any possible contractual issues between your current employer and the company. Part of the engagement contract could very well forbid either side from hiring each others employees for a period of time beyond the conclusion of the project.
posted by COD at 5:52 AM on May 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is a classic pitch strategy and occurs all the time. A few considerations:

1) Do the pitch and the preparation on your own time and not on the time/using the tools or intelligence of your employer;

2) Do not leverage any secrets about your own company that may improve your ability to achieve a position/contract with this client;

3) Check your employment contract before proceeding - anything in the non-compete, conflict of interest, and side-job type spheres;

4) Based on #3, if you are at all concerned that the company may react badly to finding out you're pitching a client - consult with a lawyer and have a firm plan for what you will do if the CEO is not as trustworthy as you think or the information leaks somehow.

This would include developing a scripted answer for how you deal with the question "did you approach our client for a job?"

5) Be prepared for a lag time between the pitch and the job. Do not pull other irons out of the fire until you have a firm commitment. Continue to engage fully in your own job.

A lot of really good pitches are immediately interesting but the logistics of getting them going are much harder, particularly if it is expanding into markets/territories the company is unfamiliar with.
posted by scrittore at 9:25 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I do think that I trust the company CEO to inform my work if I contact them and it goes nowhere

Assume you mean "to not inform my work ..."

Scrittore has good advice. To add to that:

1) Take care to choose communication channel to CEO that will pass through the least number of people on its way to the CEO; as in zero, if you can.

2) Deliver the communication face-to-face (or maybe over the phone), if you can. This will require careful scripting so that you say what you have to say in a business-like way. The absence of any written record gives everyone (what might eventually prove to be very useful) deniability.

3) Make it clear in your first communication that you understand the delicacy of your "request" ("inquiry", or whatever you call it) and are prepared to accept a quiet "no, thank you" and simply continue with your commitment to provide top service to them as a client. This is not apologizing for your action, only that you understand that it is unusual and that you know the CEO might have a different view of the ethics of it all.

And, especially ...

Be prepared for a lag time between the pitch and the job. Do not pull other irons out of the fire until you have a firm commitment. Continue to engage fully in your own job.

Even if the CEO thinks this is a great idea, it will probably take much longer than you think for all the relevant parties to be brought into the loop and a decision made.

Good luck. Sounds like a great opportunity.
posted by John Borrowman at 2:07 PM on May 19, 2016


Thank you so much! I marked them all the best because they all have great information and things that are great to know.

I feel much better and more confident about doing it now. The good thing is that I don't have a contract and I saw nothing in our service agreement about hiring employees so I won't have to navigate any legal issues.

I was also thinking about whether its better to phone or email and the advice about deniability for both is good. I'll be phoning on my own time.
posted by Jalliah at 7:05 PM on May 19, 2016


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