Career Move or Poor Form? Bailing on a Job Assignment

Career Move or Poor Form? Bailing on a Job Assignment

There has been a situation this week at people2people that happens all too often, is uncomfortable and presents all parties with a dilemma.

Recently, in the news, as well as on the people2people blog, the issue of age discrimination in the workforce has been discussed. Many mature age workers are struggling to get into the workforce. Similarly, youth unemployment and underemployment in many parts of Australia is reaching levels not seen for thirty years. One of the people2people consultants saw beyond any ‘age barrier’, recognising the skills and experience of a ‘mature age’ candidate who had been out of work for six months. 

The people2people consultant, through his insight and experience, secured the candidate a temporary role, albeit for only four weeks. Great news! But this is where the dilemma arises. The candidate was then approached after one week in the temporary role with an opportunity to take on a six month assignment elsewhere. What was the best course of action? In this instance, the candidate chose to leave the four week role and take the longer assignment.

What would you have done? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. You have given your word to complete a contract for four weeks and yet break that contract, although there are no legal ramifications. No one can be forced to work.
  2. You are placing the consultant (the consultant who secured you a role after six months being unemployed) in a situation where they are not delivering to their new client what has been promised. As an aside, the consultant had been trying to win business from this client for nearly two years.
  3. There are no guarantees that the new role will last six months, because any employment relationship is reciprocal. Just as you can leave at short notice, so can an employer cancel a temporary job at short notice.
  4. The consultant has stated he will never be able to assist you again, as he can no longer trust you will keep your word.

I would be keen to know everyone’s thoughts, so please comment below.

For what it’s worth, here is my advice to any candidate placed in this situation: think long term. Trust is reciprocal, so if your consultant can trust that you will keep your word and perform to the best of your ability, then the likelihood of receiving more assistance in the future is dramatically increased. There are no guarantees, but, by breaking your word, you are increasing the likelihood that it will be difficult to help you.

Of course, I am neglecting the obvious dilemma, that another job has become available for a longer period. If this were your priority, then why accept a short term role? If the new role were a permanent one, then I can understand why this would be the preference. But I would advise completing your assignment first, with notice. Most people currently in a role have to give four weeks’ notice, so finishing your assignment should not be an issue. If it is, then I would reconsider accepting the four week assignment initially.

In a footnote to our story, the candidate called people2people at 3:30pm, leaving at 5pm on the same day from our client’s premises. After our consultant expressed his disappointment, the candidate then went on to tell the client people2people had secured them the new role, a complete fabrication. All of this ensures we will not help this candidate in the future, no matter how much experience they have, because we simply don’t trust them.

Was this a good career move or poor form?

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Mark Smith

Mark Smith

Managing Director at people2people
Commencing his career with Deloitte in the late 1980’s, Mark is a qualified Accountant. In 1994, he decided to make a career switch to the recruitment industry. During his early recruitment career with two listed recruitment entities, Mark recruited and managed teams in both temporary and permanent disciplines, in the Sydney, Brisbane and London markets. In February 2005, Mark established people2people with Manda Milling and Simon Gressier. Mark is a Certified Practising Accountant (CPA), a member of the Recruitment & Consulting Services Association (MRCSA) and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD).

1 comment

  1. Joe Johnson says:

    In response to your 4 “things to consider:”

    1. “Keeping your word?” Oh please. If an employer tried to play that card on me, it would be difficult for me not to laugh at them. That no longer applies in business situations, if it ever did, especially as a contractor. Contractors are viewed as disposable resources more than ever by employers today, who only care about the company and are infamously short-sighted about this and have no problem cutting short any such agreement and breaking THEIR word. This works both ways. PS and oh btw, some of us are just trying to make ends meet; we don’t have the luxury of being more concerned about “honoring our agreement.” Paying the bills is about, oh, 5 million times more important.

    2. If they have any clue about staffing whatsoever, both the consultant and the employer know this comes with the territory and is bound to happen now and again.

    3. The odds of that 6 month assignment lasting (much) longer than 4 weeks in most cases probably approaches 100%, making it the easy choice.

    4. See #2. And really, that consultant is IMO a unprofessional joke, allowing their emotions to rule their professional decisions (I have ran into this before and for far less). They aren’t cutting ties because they “can’t trust the candidate to keep their word,” they’re just mad because the client is mad (and once more, see #2). Frankly I would say good riddance to this recruiter. I hate to break it to them, but they are a dime a dozen (thanks in no small part to the overseas outsourcing) and losing their assistance in finding me a job isn’t likely to damage my opportunities very much if at all. Just like the company they seek employees for and/or the staffing company they work for, I am (to quote the great Robert Ringer) looking out for #1. They don’t find me jobs or offer me jobs out of the kindness of their hearts; they do it because they think it’s in their best interest. Same for what job I take or move to.

    I will say this, you are correct in saying think long term. Therefore taking the 6 mo job over the 4 week one is an easy choice.

    That all said, their was (very) poor form in this example in terms of both the timing the candidate gave to leave and the lie they told. For that there is no excuse.

    (PS, a minor site note: most people do not have to or are expected to give four weeks’ notice. Two weeks is still the standard.)

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