Are you cheating on your employer?

I’ve read a few things on doing a job search at your office – that is, at your employers office, with their computer, internet connection, etc. I was surprised to read one article talk about how to do it – make sure your boss knew, make sure you knew what the HR policies are, etc. That may be good and true, but even if it is within the policies at your office, you really are opening yourself to your employer (you know, the “internet cops”). I realize that this is a little different in a contracting environment.

But here is the problem. In my last job, I was the General Manager of what was essentially a start-up IT firm. I felt that if I would do things that everyone should be doing (networking, having an updated resume, etc.) I was essentially *cheating* on my company. Actually, I felt worse about *cheating* on my employees. How does it look if your boss, the guy that is trying to instill a strong culture and work ethic, is spending his spare time working on the “safety net”… especially at a small firm? Not too good. I spent a lot of time with these guys talking about where we were headed and building momentum that was exciting – and made it exciting to work there.

… and then I was laid off. Really, I should have been working on that safety net. Here is what I wish I would have been doing:

  1. Keeping an updated resume
  2. Maintaining relationships with recruiters
  3. Keeping tabs on the job market – I had been in small business for so long that I wasn’t up to speed on certain common job titles, roles, responsibilities, what skills are considered current, etc.
  4. Have at least 2 interviews a year – sure you aren’t looking, but this is a great way of networking, and seeing how other companies do things
  5. Go to network meetings – rotary or alumni sponsored or local interest (within or close to your specialty), etc.
  6. Written more articles to be published in my arena – this builds credibility and gets my name out (in other words, builds/reinforces my personal brand)
  7. Tried to get at least one speaking engagement a year – whether at a university, association, etc. Again, build/reinforce your personal brand – you should establish yourself as an SEO in something
  8. Network
  9. Network
  10. Network… and network some more

I think one of the hassles of networking is keeping track of the relationships, contact info, etc. using JibberJobber helps you keep track of all of this information – you should focus on the relationship, not on a tracking spreadsheet that you are constantly tweaking. Of course, I’m preaching to the choir, right?

So, go ahead and cheat on your employer. Create expertise, build your brand. In reality, doing this adds value to your employer – I think that’s what people refer to as a win-win!

10 thoughts on “Are you cheating on your employer?”

  1. You know that old saying, it’s not cheating if you’re not married? (Not saying I believe it, just using it for illustration) I think it applies here. Employer/Employee relations have changed a great deal even since 2006. It’s not (and I dare say hasn’t been in my lifetime, a marriage) And having a consultant mindset is something that every employee should cultivate, because your employer certainly is. Viewing yourself as a resource (as in HUMAN resource) you need to make sure that you are renewing and sustaining what you have to offer. One of the best ways to do this, while simultaneously benefiting your employer is through some of your suggestions, like speaking engagements and learning new skills that will benefit your employer and also allow you to expand your personal repetoire. Good post, it’s stood the test of time. 🙂

  2. Jason,

    I think this is one of the most difficult things for me to get my head around. I know it is important to keep connected to those around us, and to keep our options open, but I also believe that you shouldn’t look unless you are willing to move. Even if you are willing, doing so on the boss’s dime is a bit uncomfortable to me, unless you know that you are already on the way out.

    I think it is much better to keep contacts as much as possible outside of work, but at work be as focused as possible. Without it you may be unemployed faster than you would like!

  3. @Maren, that’s funny… and a very interesting perspective. thx for weighing in.

    @Barry, thanks for the comment – it is this very thing I had a struggle with. Here’s a simple idea… in your work you would bring more value to the table if you have a strong network that you can tap into to help you solve problems, right? If that’s the case, why not go to a network lunch here, a Friday afternoon network meeting there? Do it as a representative of your company (if you can justify that), but understand one thing:

    All of the relationships that you develop are relationships that you should nurture during the rest of your career – not just in the capacity of your current employer.

    I didn’t understand how networking would help me in my job back then… now I see how it would have helped me.

    Also, as a company representative you can do things like write articles, etc… this helps your company and puts you in a position of thought leadership, right?

    How cool would it be if the next time you land a job it’s because the right opportunity found you… not because you were out of work and looking?

  4. Funny you should let this one go today, Jason. I had this conversation with the resume client from this morning. He’s considering upgrading his package to include LinkedIn profiles but only if this resume doesn’t work within 6 months. He is employed… he just has a weekly commute 3 states away and would like to be home with his 4 children.

    I told him that he needs to look at his resume and his job search strategy as a life long career strategy that extends even beyond the field he is in currently. Developing an online presence on LinkedIn, building networking contacts, continuing to learn about options, so that down the road, he is the one people are looking for… not him looking for the next position.

    I believe this is true for everyone and though I don’t think you should abuse your employer’s time, I think all networking you do for the company should be done knowing that the connections you are making value you the person… not just you the company representative.

  5. Networking and the like is not cheating on your employer. However, updating your resume or going on interviews on company time is. I am probably a little unique in that I am fine with my employees looking and have even encouraged some in finding other employment when it better fit their career goals. However, I do expect my employees to be loyal to the company while at work. If you are using company time to start your own gig or to seek other opportunites, you will be shown the door.

  6. I believe in being fully present wherever in time and space I am.
    To do a day’s work for a day’s pay is my moral obligation to the company who hired me to address their need. However I also have to honor an obligation to myself to continue evolving as a person, so I am grateful for the valuable lessons of this article. “Staying in the loop” in the industry, “keeping an ear to the ground” for opportunity and “keeping in touch” are among the positive things to do to continue growth (increase your value) while you have a job.
    The correct, honorable way to do this is the art that must be learned.

  7. Jason,
    With 65 newly unemployed workers in our training room on Wednesday the 15th, I used your 06 posting asthe basis of a talking point. The reaction by most were ” I wish I had known now what I should have been doing all along.” “I just blew my spare time watching TV and fooling around with Facebook.”

    I introduced them to project management techniques and they go Ahaa! They never made the connection that career management is something you can do at home using the same techniques you use at work.

    I encourage our customers to create a brand at work – be known as the “GO TO” person just as Michael Jordan was the “GO TO” player during tight games during the Chicago Bulls heydays! This recognition gets noticed by management decision makers and “GO TO” people are valued – read seldom terminated.

    I agree with Edia in being fully present – I urge my customers to be “Moles and Prairie Dogs” – Moles get into the system learn its foundations/underbelly and after a time morph into a Prairie Dog that plays well with others and is alert to threats and opportunities, while helping out the group.

    Every one of us want from our jobs what most jobs can’t deliver – long term secruity. We have to accomplish that via our jobs and how well we manage those 10 points Jason outlined.

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