mechanical heart

Dear JobLorn: I have a complicated relationship with my ex-company. We had a bad breakup about a year ago, and (since I’m not in California), it included a two-year “non-compete” agreement. I’m barred from working for competitors, the office equivalent of a Temporary Restraining Order. I love my old niche market, but had to take a product management job elsewhere to pay the bills. I’m just going through the motions.

I’ve been approached by a new company, offering me a promotion and a pay bump in an entirely different market. The money and responsibility would be (ahem) stimulating, but I still think a lot about my ex-product.

Should I take this tempting new gig, and drop my current company after only a year? I don’t want to get a reputation for short-term product relationships. Or should I stay where I am for another year, then try to go back to my old niche?

– Still Longing for an Unlikely Turnabout?


Dear SLU…  Longing –

Ah, to be young and product-specific! Let’s take each thing in turn:

  • Honestly, it doesn’t sound like you’ll be getting back together with your old market segment. There are only a handful of competitors — none in your metro area. That means long-distance fix-ups during the next year, and moving your family. Expect some hurtful references from your ex: we know how catty employers can be. It may be time to let this segment go.
  • About the hot new position… You’re just “dialing it in” to your current gig, which won’t work in the long term. Make sure that this next new opportunity is a real catch, though, not just a financial rebound. You’ll be committing to a roadmap, and have to bring passion to your new product every day. So slow down, imagine pitching your hundredth prospect, and see if you’re still excited.
  • One short stint on your resume won’t spoil your reputation. But you don’t want to make a habit of it. (I live in San Francisco, so I try not to judge, but some Silicon Valley resumés look like Taylor Swift’s Instagram feed.) You’d rather be judged by how products thrived under your care: did you provide enough stability for them to reach their potential?
  • If you do leave your current company, make sure it’s on good terms. Be appreciative, plan a good transition, and own the decision. (“It’s not you, it’s me.”) Your city isn’t that big, and you’ll be bumping into ex-co-workers.

Finally tell people right away. They shouldn’t see it first on LinkedIn.

Have a job concern of your own? Drop a line to Rich