The Importance of Maintaining Proper Communications and Record Keeping During Your Employment
Too often we see candidates get caught up in the minutiae of looking for a new job while forgetting some very fundamental practices to protect themselves over the long-term course of their career. Some people may have every intention of staying at the same company for the duration of their career, but sometimes forces outside their control intervene, and plans change unexpectedly. An acquisition or a merger, a new management team that brings in their own favored supervisory staff, economic factors that change marketplace dynamics or competitiveness for your firm, operational issues that impact your ability to deliver to your customers in a timely fashion, relocation, unforeseen personal circumstances, and more – all these are factors that can precipitate a job change. As a result, it’s important to be prepared for an unexpected change in direction and to have your “ducks in a row” at all times. Aim for a high-level of organization and record keeping during your tenure with a company in case you need to pivot.
It’s also important to “separate church and state” when working for a company. Remember to control the assets that you use for your own personal business. One of the most common mistakes we see is employees using a company phone or email address for personal use.
In this post, we discuss some of the most common mistakes employees make, how to avoid them, and best practices for keeping yourself prepared for a career change.
Using Company Property for Personal Use
It can be convenient to use company property for personal use, and most of us have done it – sometimes inadvertently. What could be the harm in emailing your friend from a work address? Or making the occasional personal call from a company mobile phone? Usually, there is no harm, but it is a bad habit to get into. What happens if you suddenly lose your job and no longer have access to that phone or email account?
Company Mobile Phones
Using a company phone to conduct personal business may violate company policy and put your employment at risk. It can also cause you a long-term headache — especially if the company phone is your only number. If your employment status is terminated, so is your phone line. You’ll have to alert all of your contacts to a number change — including recruiters and potential new employers. Your resume, your business profiles must all be updated immediately with a new number. You also run the risk of losing valuable contact records in your phone after you return the device to your employer. The money you save by using one phone for both work and personal needs can end up costing you in a big way if you lose your job.
Company Email Addresses
Along with using a company phone for personal use, using company email to conduct personal business is another big “no-no”. Over the years, we’ve seen candidates use their company email to send resumes to prospective employers. This is an incredibly bad idea, as your current employer most likely has access to that email and may even be monitoring it regularly. Do you really want them to know that you are sending out resumes and where you are sending them?
It also sends the wrong message to a prospective employer. Some may find it disrespectful or irreverent to communicate using your company email to find new employment. They may wonder, “If he does that to his current employer, would he act in the same manner when working for us?”. Avoid this problem by using a person email for your personal business.
We’ve also seen situations where people use their significant other’s email or a family email account when looking for employment. This is extremely unprofessional. If you don’t have a personal email address, here are some simple steps for creating a gmail account.
When you create an email, make it recognizable as your own. Below are some formats we recommend using when creating a personal email address:
Companies often provide their employees with a laptop or desktop computer. The purpose of this computer is to conduct company business including email, research, document creation, corresponding via messaging systems, etc. Keep your personal documents, like resumes, on a separate, personal, computer. Remember that if your job is terminated, you will need to return your computer immediately. You may not even be given a chance to retrieve personal documents you have stored there. Sometimes, login access is shut off while you’re being terminated. You immediately lose access to all documents stored on the machine. Protect yourself and your property by keeping all of your personal documents and files on your own personal computer.
How a Non-Compete Agreement Affects Your Job Hunt
There is a good chance that when you accepted your current job, you signed a non-compete agreement. If you are looking for a new position, this non-compete can affect your job search in many ways. You may not have worried much about it when you signed it, because colleagues may have told you that such agreements are rarely enforceable. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. While it is true that many non-competes are unenforceable, the devil is in the details and it depends on the circumstances. Ideally, you should have gone through the non-compete carefully, reviewed it with an attorney, and taken steps to ensure that you don’t run afoul of its terms.
What is a Non-Compete Agreement?
Most commonly, a non-compete agreement is a contract between you and your employer, whereby you agree to refrain from entering employment with a competitor for a specified amount of time. While the specifics differ somewhat depending on where you work, and most companies structure these agreements to protect themselves from having talent leave and take customers and proprietary knowledge to competitors. For example, if you were hired to expand your company into a new marketplace, your non-compete might contain language that you cannot leave, take everything you’ve learned about what your current employer is doing to expand, and use that against them at a competing firm. But, your agreement probably doesn’t contain a blanket provision against working for a competing company in a different capacity. Non-competes cannot be overly restrictive or they become unenforceable.
The bottom line is, you need to know the details and restrictions of your non-compete before entering the job market. If you’re not sure of the specifics of your contract or need help to decipher the limitations, seek legal counsel to help you review your contract. This information is also vital for a recruiter to know before helping to place you in a new role. Like all records related to your current employment, keep a copy of your non-compete backed up on your personal computer. Or if you only have a hard copy, keep it filed away somewhere safe.
If you don’t have a copy, ask your employer for one. Yes, you may raise some suspicions by asking, but you can simply explain that were going through your records and realized that you don’t have a copy. Better yet, whenever you take a new job and sign a non-compete, keep a copy in a safe and secure spot so you don’t have to ask for it down the road.
Layoffs, Mergers or Termination of Employment
Some non-compete agreements are valid even during a layoff, merger, acquisitions, or other termination. You don’t want to find yourself stuck in a position where you can’t seek other employment opportunities due to a restrictive non-compete agreement. Especially in a niche market like HVAC or mechanical services, where there are limited positions and your knowledge is extremely specialized, you’ll want to make certain to know the ins and outs of your contract.
Transparency with a Prospective Employer
You don’t want to start your new employment off on a sour note. Be transparent with any prospective employers or recruiters about your non-compete with your existing employer. Many people operate under a common misconception that non-competes are unenforceable. This simply isn’t the case. Non-competes are enforceable depending on your own individual circumstances (eg. your state, the specifics of your agreement) and should be addressed with an employer or recruiter prior to moving forward in your job search. It’s always in your best interest to address the agreement, and again, having a copy of your agreement handy can save you time and aggravation.
While we understand that in certain cases you don’t have a choice in finding a new job like in termination or when a company is sold, but there are other times when it’s your choice to begin looking for a new role. If you are thinking of beginning a job search, it is important to get properly organized first. Make sure you have your own personal phone and email account. Ensure that you personal information is removed from your company computer and stored safely on your own machine. Lastly, make sure you have copies of all the important legal documents relevant to your current employment – especially any non-compete agreement that you may have signed.
How can HVACExec.com Help You
When you use a specialized recruiting firm like HVACExec, one of the many advantages is the experience and expertise that comes from working with candidates just like you (possibly even from the same firm) who have had to navigate similar scenarios. We can advise the best course of action and guide you in the steps to take as you begin your search.
At HVACExec.com Recruiters, we specialize in the sourcing of HVAC, Facilities Management, Mechanical Engineering, Building Automation, and Energy Conservation Professionals. We offer candidates industry insight and discuss the nuances of these niche markets. We can help you build long-lasting relationships with our clients who may become your new employer.