I joined a company for all the wrong reasons. I quickly realized my mistake and that particular professional journey came to an end. Here’s what happened and the lessons I learnt from the experience.
Changing companies is a balancing act. As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
My name is Alban, and I work in sales. In the summer of 2017, I was working for a company that sells a solution used to send structured data between retail suppliers and distributors. I’d explored all the possibilities offered by my position and the product. Looking for a change, I quietly reached out to my network.
At 30 years of age, I was an old pro. I soon got some interviews lined up and they went pretty well, and it wasn’t long before I found myself with several offers.
While I was meeting with these businesses, I saw the teams from one company in particular more than once. The package and the job were impressive, and I felt I was a good fit with my potential coworkers. I got to meet the sales team and the boss. In all, it got off to a rather good start. The company had a lot going for it—it had some solid investors on the horizon and a three-person sales team with tons of projects to develop. One member of the team had already been there for two years, and the other had just been recruited, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Most importantly, someone I trusted had suggested this job and put me forward for it, so this had to be a good sign. Basically, there weren’t any alarm bells going off.
“Someone I trusted had suggested this job and put me forward for it, so this had to be a good sign. Basically, there weren’t any alarm bells going off”
Yet there are times during the recruitment process when you sense something just isn’t right. In this case, I’d mentioned my desire to manage people, to take on responsibility, but I was never given a clear answer on the subject. I’d be coming in as a business developer, but with “opportunities for growth.” In fact, at no precise moment was I offered the professional situation I’d envisioned for myself.
And that is precisely where it all started going south. The moment I arrived, the managers asked me to lead the sales team and the boss signed me up for management-training courses. In all, I had three days of training, but I hadn’t been introduced to the team as their manager, which meant I didn’t have the legitimacy required to lead people who were at the same level as I was. Before long, my manager was criticizing me for being individualistic in my sales approach. At the same time, I was in the awkward position of having to structure the team’s results when we were all at the same level—on paper at least.
“I hadn’t been introduced to the team as their manager, so I didn’t have the legitimacy required to lead people who were at the same level as I was”
This situation was never going to work—after all, the scope of my role hadn’t been clearly defined. For my part, accepting the position meant I was jeopardizing my own career goals, which is never a good idea. During my interview, I wasn’t given a clear picture of what was going to be expected of me, and more importantly, I wasn’t given enough time to build up the skills required for my new duties. No one becomes a manager overnight.
That’s how it all came to a screeching halt. One fine Monday morning, at the end of our weekly numbers review, and just two months after I’d joined the company, the founder announced that my trial period was over and I wasn’t going to be taken on permanently. I was floored. She’d made the decision entirely alone, without discussing it beforehand. Maybe talking about it could have put things back on track. But, hey, the deed was done.
“Two months after I’d joined the company, the founder announced that my trial period was over and I wasn’t going to be taken on permanently. I was floored. She’d made the decision entirely alone”
I’m not sure if there’s a right or wrong way to fire someone, but when it happens, it comes as a bit of a shock. And yet, paradoxically, it was for the best.
I say “paradoxically” because it was still an unpleasant situation to be in. I’d left my former employer for this new company and very quickly found myself with nothing. I should maybe put this bump in an otherwise “smooth” road into context by saying that I’d already spent 10 years fluidly moving from one professional experience to another. I found myself with no access to unemployment benefits because I’d resigned a few days too early from my former company. Despite my girlfriend’s help, I was under financial strain, which was actually a good thing because it forced me to take action.
I took a step back. I often challenge myself and, at that moment, I decided to play the philosopher. I told myself that if something doesn’t work out, it’s because it wasn’t meant to be. There had been quite a few things that I couldn’t have done anything about, such as pretty bad communication—plus, it’s not like I have access to a time machine… So when you have no choice, you move forward.
“If something doesn’t work out, it’s because it wasn’t meant to be”
It had happened just before the Christmas-holiday period, so I took some time to catch my breath. I set out what I was going to do and I outlined an action plan. By January, I was back in the swing of things, getting up at 6 AM to work out and applying for jobs. It wasn’t long before I had three or four offers for sales positions lined up, all in the same ecosystem, but with companies that were very different from each other.
I knew that I wanted to work for an organization that was a good fit and had projects that were right for me. I chose the one where I now work because the position was interesting and gave me my independence. I’d noticed that every level of management in this company displayed kindness, which I hadn’t encountered before. Moreover, the base salary, plus bonus for targets met, was very attractive.
When I look back, I think there are plenty of “bad reasons” to join a company. For example, if you join on a friend’s recommendation, you risk undermining your relationship with them and losing the job. Joining for the title or the salary, despite the team not being a good fit, can be dangerous, too. And if you accept a sales job knowing full well that the targets are actually impossible to meet, it won’t last long.
One way to limit the risk of heading straight for disaster is to impose specific criteria on yourself. It’s as simple as listing what it is you do and don’t want. You have to prioritize the desired criteria and avoid any significant compromises. Another great way to get a good sense of the company, after you’ve met with HR and management, is to talk to senior employees and other current employees. This won’t necessarily prevent a sudden bout of back luck, but it still reduces the chances of total disaster.
“There are plenty of ‘bad reasons’ to join a company. One way to limit the risk of heading straight for disaster is to impose specific criteria on yourself. It’s as simple as listing what it is you do and don’t want”
And if, despite all your efforts, you still find yourself in a professional jam, I suggest talking about it as soon as possible so that the situation might get resolved. Is the job unsuitable? Are the demands unrealistic? Is the team not the right fit for you? Time and time again, I’ve seen how talking defuses tensions. And even if that doesn’t work, no one benefits from being stubborn when a move doesn’t work out. I prefer the idea of calling it quits right away so that you get the chance to bounce back.
“No one benefits from being stubborn when a move doesn’t work out. I prefer the idea of calling it quits right away so that you get the chance to bounce back”
Today I love my job and my company. In many ways, having to leave the previous one turned out for the best. Since I’d spent time analyzing and processing the whole situation, I was able to talk about it calmly in interviews. Failure is usually painful, but since I managed to bounce back, learn from the experience, and stay on good terms with my coworkers, I left with some peace of mind.
That episode is an integral part of my professional life, but I am convinced it could happen to anyone. Whenever you change jobs, you have to confront the unknown and the risks that come with that. That said, the unknown is also part of the joy of starting a new adventure and it’s what gets us excited about something new.
“That episode is an integral part of my professional life, but I am convinced it could happen to anyone. Whenever you change jobs, you have to confront the unknown and the risks that come with that”
Translated by Andrea Schwam
Photograph by WTTJ
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