Tech & Work

Should you follow your friends to new employers?

Is the grass greener on the other side of the cyberfence? Jeff Davis recommends thinking twice before you quit your job to follow a friend or a coworker elsewhere.


You have to like the people with whom you work. If you don’t believe that, compare the number of hours per week you spend with coworkers compared to the number of hours you spend with friends and family. If you don’t like your coworkers, you’ll be miserable at work, and your job performance will suffer for it.

When you land a job with an ideal manager, decent working conditions and remuneration, and likable coworkers, you get in a comfort zone. Unfortunately, the only thing constant in IT is change, and some of your favorite managers and coworkers are going to move on to bigger and better things.

Now, suppose your IT manager leaves the company—voluntarily or otherwise—and accepts a position with another employer. Soon after taking that position, that person calls you and says, “How would you like to come work for me again?"

Before you resign from your current job, I recommend you think long and hard about following a manager—or even a good friend—to a new employer. Here’s why.
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The pros and cons of professional loyalty
I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t network with your friends in the industry, and occasionally job-hop for more money and better opportunities. However, if you change jobs solely because you want to work with a particular person, you could be making a big mistake. Here are some of the issues to consider.
  1. Don’t take your friend’s word for it. The person recruiting you is going to be biased in favor of the new employer, but don’t take his or her word for it. Before you consider interviewing for a new job, do your homework. Find out everything you can about the company. If possible, talk to some of the other people who work there. Don’t take the job if the company’s long-term stability is in doubt.
  2. Are you getting a better deal? A lot of IT people won’t take any new job unless they get a minimum of a 10 percent increase in salary. Before you quit your current job, make sure that the new gig will provide at least the same or better pay, working conditions, and benefits.
  3. What if your friend doesn’t last? Recently a former coworker called to invite me to apply for a position in his new company. I interviewed and received a generous offer letter. However, on a hunch, I turned down the position at the last minute. In hindsight, it turned out to be a good choice, because my friend—who would have been my manager—left the company just six months later. Before you follow a manager to a new company, try to determine if your job will be safe in the event that the manager leaves.

Respect versus cronyism
If you make the decision to follow a friend to a new employer, you must carefully consider how you present yourself—and your relationship with the person who brought you into the fold—to your new coworkers. In my experience, one of two things will happen:
  • You will enjoy built-in credibility. If the person responsible for recruiting you is respected, then that person’s recommendation should carry some weight. Your new coworkers will assume that you, by association, are worthy of respect, too. Of course, you still must continue to earn that respect the old-fashioned way, by doing good work.
  • You will suffer from preconceived doubts. On the other hand, suppose the person who recruits you isn’t particularly well liked in the new company. In that case, your new coworkers may brand you as a coattail-riding crony, hired not on your merits but based on your relationship with your friend. This problem can be particularly sticky if you get hired in at the management level. No matter how qualified you are, some “legacy employees” at the company will resent you for taking the job they felt they deserved.
Have you ever followed a coworker or a manager to a new employer? Or maybe you’ve lured your friends away from a former employer? Share your experiences, good or bad, and help your fellow TechRepublic members who are facing similar situations. To do so, post a note below or follow this link to write to Jeff.

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