Edward has been a regional sales manager for an organization that I’ve done quite a bit of work with. He’s been with the firm for 10 years and because of Covid was in “lockdown” for about six weeks and then all of a sudden lost his job. It was a cutback due to the virus. So, he calls me and says that he is looking for a job. He is a good guy with some decent talent and a good track record…only two jobs in 20 years. So, he comes in to see me and we begin our job search. A day or so later he calls me and here’s how the conversation goes:
Edward (the candidate): “Tony, I decided to postpone my job search. I’ve been speaking about it with my family and we decided that since my wife works and I have 20 weeks of severance as well as then I can go on unemployment, I’m going to postpone my job search until then. She has a job so I can stay home and be with the kids all summerAnd not start looking for a job until I have to.”
Tony: “well, I understand, but how is it going to look to an employer when you go to interview a number of months from now and you’re trying to explain to them that you are a passionate, committed hard worker, but since you had 20 weeks of severance and lots of unemployment you decided to postpone looking for a job. You are looking for a regional director or vice president position. They are hard to find to begin with, but how do you think it’s going to appear to a hiring authority that you took 20 weeks off and collected unemployment because you could? How committed and hard-working does that appear?”
Edward: “well, I never really thought of that. I did earn that 20 weeks of severance. Let me talk it over with my family and I’ll call you tomorrow.”
(Next day) Edward: “well, I spoke about it with my family and even though I’m looking for a base of at least $150,000 and I’ve been earning in the $250,000-$300,000 range, we decided that I should take the time off, be with the kids and let my wife work.”
Tony: “Edward, think about this. You are going to be out of work for more than five months simply because you can afford to do it. When you go to look for a job, you’re going to have to explain what you’ve been doing for the past five months and then if you even hinted that you took advantage of unemployment you will not look like somebody that really wants to go to work and go the extra mile. Does that make sense?”
Edward: “well I’ve been working so hard for the past 20 years and I’ve never really taken much time off. Besides, I’m really good at what I do and the fact that I took that kind of a break really won’t of fact my finding a job.”
Tony: “Edward, I really like you and your good guy, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. In your eyes and anyone else you might know, you might think that you are really good and really special, but there are literally hordes of first and second line managers that you’re going to wind up competing with. And you’re gonna try to explain more than five months being out of work because you are ‘so good at what you do’… no, no, no, it isn’t going to work that way. People are going to think, ‘if this guy can afford to spend five months at home without working, what’s gonna happen the first time he doesn’t like something here? I’ve got four other candidates who are just as good that haven’t taken advantage of a ‘free lunch.’ I don’t think we want a hire Edward.’
Tony: “Edward, take a couple of weeks off…bank your severance, but whatever you do don’t take five months off and think that somebody is going to appreciate it. They are not. Unless it’s a close friend of years or someone you know, this kind of thing will kill you when it comes to looking for another job.”
Edward: “well, that’s what I’m going to do. I know my worth in the marketplace, I’ll give you a call then and I’m certain you’ll be able to place me.”
I understand Edward’s point of view. He’s been with two companies in 20 years and he has no idea what the market is over, much less, when it will be five months from now. When he tries to explain to someone that he took five months off, just because he could, they are not going to think that he wants to work very hard or that he’s committed to working at all. He’s going to try to justify doing it because, “I’ve never really taken a lot of time off…this was a chance for me to do it… I could stay home with the kids…my wife works….” Blah blah blah, he is going to have a really rough time.
So, if you’re a job seeker, really think about the consequences of what you decide to do. I haven’t heard this since the mid-70s, but I had a candidate the other day and told me he didn’t want to go on an interview because with his unemployment and the extra $600 that the government was paying him, he could make about as much money in base as the job I was presenting to him. The government is thinks that it is doing everybody a great favor by giving them an extra $600 a week for whatever time you are going to do that. They are not! When people can make more money on unemployment that they can in the workplace, somethings drastically wrong. How does a person think that’s going to sound to a prospective employer? It’s not going to sound very good at all.
Here’s the message! This is a difficult employment marketplace. It’s going to get more difficult for quite some time. Think about the consequences of what you do and how you’re going to explain them down the line to a prospective employer. When everyone’s unemployment runs out and they’re all competing for the same jobs, and employer is going to have more people than they can imagine to choose from. Any action on your part scratch that any action on the job seekers part that makes it appear that work is not a high priority will make their looking for a job a whole lot more difficult than they might imagine.
Take a lesson from Edward.