Don't trust your friends
Despite mostly taking the piss out of everything you do, our friends are the beacons of guidance we go to for all our major life decisions, as well as the tiny, inconsequential ones that really don’t matter in the slightest bit, but which you labour over far too long, like, ‘should I buy this waxed leather jacket or will I look like a member of the 19th century gentry?’
They know us well and understand our fears, so we trust them enough to ask for their opinion in the hope they’ll make the right call when we don’t always know what to do.
I’m 100% in favour of this, and am forever calling on my friends for style advice, relationship tips, restaurant guides, child-rearing recommendations and whether or not I should go to my Aunty Mildred’s Christmas party, even though she actually smells like mildew and always forgets I have a wife and incessantly tries to marry me off to Janet, my third cousin twice removed. However, in a fit of frustration and being totally fed up, I’m drawing the line at taking career advice from your friends. Not because your friends are out to sabotage your career, but rather because they’re fundamentally unable to take their own experiences and hearsay out of the equation before discussing potential job moves, and that’s a dangerous thing.
As I interview candidates I’m finding more and more of them say things like, ‘oh my friend worked there and had a bad experience’ or, ‘I’ve heard the culture is bad so don’t want to interview with them’ or even, ‘I hear that line manager is awful to work for.’ It feels like we’re in the middle of a huge game of Chinese whispers and basing huge job decisions on nothing more than rumours, hearsay and the company structures of four years ago.
Because the thing is this; YES, that line manager might be awful, but they might not even work there anymore. And maybe the company culture was terrible, but that was four years ago. And of course, it’s entirely plausible that your friend did have a terrible experience, but that that was your friend and not YOU. Business moves fast and quick, especially e-commerce, and what was true six months ago may no longer stand today. The growing importance of culture and employee engagement has brands radically transforming themselves month on month and although we’re in a candidate driven market, we cannot let our career decisions be driven by the experiences of another person’s time with a brand.
What I’m saying is, when it comes to jobs, your friends talk only from their own agenda and ability.
You are a different person with different skill sets and vastly different potential which means your career trajectories will be necessarily different. Just because your mate worked in the buying department of a certain brand three years ago and hated it, doesn’t mean that the job you’re going for in the marketing department is going to be exactly the same. Don’t we at least owe it to ourselves to go in and do our own due diligence? To perhaps have a little more care than when we ask for restaurant recommendations or what book to read next?
I understand we live in a time of peer reviews and influencer marketing. I also understand that Glassdoor exists because people do want to know what it’s like beneath the shiny exterior of a well-polished interview process and understand what they’re really diving into, and I’m in favour of prodding and poking, but don’t refuse a first interview because you heard something about the brand from your mates mate who worked there this one summer.
Research extensively yourself
Talk to hiring managers
Get a vibe for the person sitting opposite you
If you’re still unsure, bring it up in the interview process.
Discuss your concerns, and let them know you’ve heard a few negative things from past employees. If they get their back up and start bringing out the defences, you’ve got your answer. If not, perhaps your friend is bitter or unhappy about the way things went for them personally with that brand and perhaps they don’t want to tell you their own shortcomings in the workplace. Which is not to say your friends are bad at their jobs, but actually, how often do we tell our friends when we’ve been bad at work or missed deadlines or failed or didn’t’ deliver. These are not the things we usually talk about and so it’s easier to warn someone away from a brand because of a personal agenda.
If you need a new hobby or want to know whether it’s worth going to see the latest Mission Impossible movie than definitely, ask your mates, but don’t put your career choices and potential future success in the hands of your friends without asking further questions, digging deeper and doing your own trusted research.
After all, no one knows you quite as well as you do…
A due diligence fanatic