A different kind of company loyalty question...

I’ve just been offered a job (that doesn’t start for a while). It’s full time, my first potential full time gig in years (I’ve been doing freelancing and contracting in the meantime). Because of the company size and industry, it’s also not as good as any other job I’ve had before (in terms of general interest in the industry and work — although since the work is still in my general wheelhouse I don’t think I’ll suffer too much in it, rules, commute, pay and benefits, and more). But then, it’s a FULL TIME JOB.

BUT, one of the things I was told is that this company specifically wants someone who’ll stick with them in the long term and train up. I’ll be looking to bolt when and if I can get a job in my preferred industry (in fact, I just sent in resumes to a couple a few days before I got the job offer).

So I ask, do I owe the company any kind of warning of this? Am I obligated to stop pursuing other jobs (especially the ones I just applied for, which I may not see progress on for weeks, if indeed there’s any at all) for any amount of time because of this?

I don’t know a lot about how corporate culture operates but on the one hand I’d say you don’t owe anyone anything, just do what you need to do to get where you want to get…
OTOH, don’t expect a real great reference from them if you promise to essentially be a ‘lifer’, and they put months of training into you and then you take off after a year. They may say “yeah, he’s a great worker, but he’ll take off the minute something better comes along”.

Well, yes, that’s why I’m asking whether I should, either implicitly or explicitly, be making that promise in the first place, all things considered.

I wouldn’t encourage outright dishonesty, but I see nothing wrong with being a little bit mercenary. You really only have an obligation to do what you agree to do.

If the company really wants to reward a long-term hire who will be with them forever, they should design a training and/or compensation package to produce the desired result. It’s a little unrealistic for them to expect people to stick around “just because.” And if they did structure the contract to encourage long-term employment, then leaving early will wind up saving them everything they were planning on paying you.

It seems to me that your most awkward period might in the 6 to 12 month period. You’ll have been at this new company long enough that leaving the job off your resume would create a gap in employment, but putting the job on your resume makes it look like you don’t stick around. Before 6 months and you could leave them off entirely; after 12 months and you can say you gave it at least a year.

I guess the thing that I’m wondering about is that accepting the job, it seems to me, implicitly creates the assumption that I will be sticking with them, as that was a stated expectation of the hire during the interview.

I don’t have to worry about any employment gap too much; I fill it with ongoing offsite contracting.

Of course you don’t owe them anything. Whatever they “expect”, you are under no obligation to stay if you find a better offer. However, you would be foolish to tell them that.

I totally agree with this.

Look at it from the other side. You could throw away chances of a better job out of company loyalty and then, in a downturn, they will just make you redundant. It happens time and again. Your priority is to your own career. I’ve had my fingers burnt enough times to realise this. That makes me sound cynical and, believe me, I’m not. If they want to keep you long term, then they need to work at it with improved prospects that other companies won’t beat. That’s the game.

And you certainly don’t need to say anything to these effects.

Unless they are planning on making you sign a binding contract to that effect, accompanied by a bonus at the end of this intangible long-term period they are talking about, then you don’t owe them the next several years of your career. They can hope you will stay, and incentivise you to do so, but they can’t demand it of you.

Never forget that. It’s YOUR career, not theirs.

You never know what will happen; maybe it’ll turn out to be a better job than you expected and you WILL end up staying. I was in that position once - I took a job that I was planning on staying on for about 6 months. I lasted a couple years before leaving. Not long-term, but 4x as long as I was planning for, and the only reason I left was that they made a complete shift in a different direction. Had they stayed on the same tack they were on for the first year and a half or so, I’d’ve stayed longer.

So yeah, go ahead and tell them that you are looking for a long-term position where you can grow your skills and blah blah blah, because you are. You just don’t think THIS position is the one for you. Leave off that last bit.

Another thing to think about: regardless of what they’re telling you now, do you think they’d keep you on for 1 extra hour if THEY thought you weren’t working out? It goes both ways; if they really want someone long-term that badly, they’d be offering a several-year contract with penalties if either party backs out. They’re not; they’re just hoping it all works out, same as you are.

That’s a good point. We hired this guy once because he put on a song and dance about how we wanted to be with us for the long haul and told us about how he was really good at whipping crews into shape and that he’d really turn the place around, he sounded like a motivational speaker…we fired him after about a month for being a moron and slacking off like the king of slacking off.

They may say that’s their expectation, but you’re most likely going to sign several forms stating that you understand that you are an at-will employee, and there is no explicit or implied contract or guarantee of future employment. Behave accordingly.

(assuming you’re in the USA that is)

Their subjective expectations are irrelevant. If they want a long term employee, let them bargain for one. They’ll lay you off in ten seconds if their requirements change.

Thanks for the thoughts so far. I guess one reason I was thinking about all this at all is if (as I really really hope) the jobs I applied for right before I got the offer work out, I’d potentially be at this job for all of… a couple of weeks or so? That just feels… awkward. But I guess I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

Mainly, I just wanted to feel like I made the right choice applying at all, given that I feel like I’m “missing out” by taking it (including a potential to visit home to help out my family, and incidentally see my nephews, especially given how much less I’d be getting in return). Thanks for the sanity check in that regard; any other thoughts are still appreciated though!

Remember that if you accept training that the company pays for, you may well owe them a period of time or have to pay the company back. I’ve worked for companies like that.

If they expect you to work for them for X number of years, it should be spelled out in a contract. That protects them and you (if the contract is written correctly). Think something like a professional baseball player.

I’ve seen more than my fair share of companies who what employee loyalty but lay off people just to keep the stock prices up.

What is the size of your local career pool? People network, people know other people at different companies, people remember people who burn them. If you do accept a job with the implication that you’ll be there for a while, and then you bolt at the next opportunity, what’s the possibility of that getting around? Could your local reputation get tainted if you lied by omission or flat out went back on an implied or expressed promise? If you are sure the answer is no, then I’d say do what makes sense in any given moment with no regard for loyalty. Too often when the shoe is on the other foot The Company will have no problem being sorry to lay you off.

Very good question. I live in a major metropolitan area, and this particular company is very small (and outside my preferred industry), so it’s possible, but not, IMO, probable.

Worst case scenario: one of the jobs I mention in my OP pans out just as I start this one, and I leave this job after a couple of weeks. I’m not 100% sure what to do in that situation, thus me asking if I’m obligated to stop with them.

It’s a bit of a sticky wicket. Still, I know this is a clear case of “bird in the hand”; I just want to consider what I’m getting into here.

The '70s called, etc.
Think of it this way - you do a lot less damage to them leaving in a few weeks than you would if you left in a year and had them spend money to train you. I bet the other candidates are still active,
If the possibilities don’t pan out, then it might be good to wait and see how this job is - but I bet they pressed you to make a decision. If so, you can’t really be blamed for switching.
And to echo the others, I bet they are not offering you an ironclad contract. So you don’t have to offer them one either.