When the company is having people pack up their desks and the light bills stop being paid, employees sometimes look around and ask, “What happened?” The downfall of a company isn’t really a surprise, there are usually warning signs, but what gets people is usually the massiveness of the fall. Things are fine one day, and the next 30% of employees are laid off. Or the government is launching an investigation. Or an entire industry crumbles.
When things get bad, great people are usually the first to jump ship. Sure, great people can usually find other opportunities because they’ve demonstrated high performance, but I think it’s also another reason. They treated their career as an investment and had an exit strategy before things went from bad to worse.
You have to think about your career in the same manner as if you were going to invest $1million in a company.
Before putting a lot of money down on an investment, you usually do research. You usually want to have an understanding of past performance, the people involved in the investment, the risk assessment, and the future projections. You want to know the short-term and long-term plans for the company, product, market expansion, etc. You also want to know if there’s an exit strategy. In doing all of this, when it comes time to write the big $1million check, you have a pretty good idea what you’re getting yourself into. And then you monitor things.
Never write a check and then walk away.
I would argue that doing the due diligence before investing in your career is more important than the research you did for that $1million. With your career, not only is your future on the line, but it could also include your family’s livelihood. Gambling isn’t an option.
Approach your career choices the same way you would do your investment research. What’s the stability of the firm? The industry? What does the firm’s past performance look like? Were you able to meet with a variety of people during the interview process? What kind of environment and culture does the company have? How easy is it to get information about what’s happening at the company?
It isn’t always easy to get this informaiton, but you should do your best to ask questions. Even a lack of information is telling.
If you take a job, great. Then remember: never write a check and walk away. Be amazing at your job, earn respect, and build a reputation for yourself. Continue to ask questions and absorb the information that’s around you. It’s up to you to see signs of how the company and industry are doing. Then know whether to continue to invest or perhaps begin looking for another opportunity.
At the end of the day, you are looking after your investment. Do the due diligence so you can make informed decisions. Then maybe you will have $1million to put towards a different kind of investment one day.