Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career planning 11: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 5

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 10, 2017

This is my 11th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-10.)

I began to more systematically address a set of issues that are coming to reshape and redefine employment and employability, and certainly in developed-world countries such as the United States in Part 9 and Part 10, where I briefly touched on the issues of:

• Automation and robotization with their combined impact on what types of work can be and will be cost-effectively available to human employees,
• And non-compete agreements as they have started to be more widely used to rebalance and skew the power dynamics in the employer/employee relationship, and the range of opportunity that employees can have in shaping and controlling their own employability and their own careers and work lives.

At the end of Part 10 I offered a brief set of news stories links that point to reporting and news analysis pieces that came out between 2014 and 2017, highlighting that second bullet point and its issues. I pick up on that narrative again here, by repeating one of those links and offering a new one that would best be understood in light of that June, 2016 news piece:

To Compete Better, States Are Trying to Curb Noncompete Pacts (for the earlier article), and
Quit Your Job for a Better One? Not if You Live in Idaho.

Some states in the United States are in fact actively beginning to push back against what is argued to be unwarranted and even ridiculously constraining overuse of non-compete clauses in hiring and terms of employment agreements. But some, and states such as Idaho in particular that are governed from the politically “conservative” and the “ultra-conservative” perspective, have taken an essentially entirely pro-employer and anti-employee rights approach here. Right now, this issue is playing out at a state by state level in the United States. Yes, as this becomes a larger and more overtly visible and discussed issue, pressure will arise for the United States Congress to address this at a national level – unless that is the US federal court system and the Supreme Court in particular, takes this up first. But in today’s polarized climate and with so much at stake and so much taking everyone’s complete attention in Congress with the Trump presidential administration scandals, and with the Republicans in Congress skewed by numbers to the right and to conservative and ultra-conservative positions, Congress will not and cannot take this up with any possibility of resolution soon. And when and if the Supreme Court or even just a regional federal court takes on this issue – that in principle could happen any time but that probably means years from now. And that might only happen after Congress acts nationally on this with the passage of affecting legislation, if that new law is taken to court and challenged for its constitutionality.

I can summarize the core message inherent in that paragraph in a few simple words: this is a growing problem that genuinely needs a nation-wide, federal governmental response and resolution but that will not happen for years. Because of that, individuals will have to find their own ways to survive and even thrive professionally in the face of these contractual employment restrictions – just as they have to when facing the inexorable shifts in the workplace and in employability that are arising from automation. And that leads me directly to, and I add into the closing note that I appended to the end of Part 10 where I indicated in brief outline, the types of issues that I would address here:

• “I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least briefly consider the issues of legal challenge to the open ended use of non-compete agreements. But more importantly, I will discuss this as a new source of disruptive change in a career development context, and how networking and other approaches that hold value in addressing disruptive change, can hold value here too – and before any court or legislative action limits the use or reach of these restrictions. And I will further discuss how seemingly separate and distinct changes and disruptive changes in employability interact, in how they arise and in their overall collective impact – and in how that can be more effectively addressed by people who seek to take ownership of their own work lives and careers.”

I just raised, and for now and for short-term dismissed the possibility of legal case and legislative action remediations to the blanket use of non-compete clauses. And that has left me with a need for at least suggesting more effective tools that individuals can use to remain as flexibly and effectively employable as possible as they pursue jobs and careers that would be best for themselves.

I have discussed the role of open and more widely reaching business-oriented social networking in several installments to this series, and return to that topic here and with a specific networking goal in mind, that calls for some very specific steps on the part of the networking individual before they begin reaching out.

• You need to know precisely what a non-compete agreement that you would face if you took a new job, would entail and how it would limit or block you later on as you might wish to take a next jobs and careers step. What precisely would this limit you’re being legally permitted to do and both for specific skills used and for specific applications of those skills? And what is the geographic reach of those restrictions? Would they only apply in the one state where you would work in this new job, or would they potentially follow you across state lines or even beyond, for more international businesses? And how long would they remain in effect? Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements for protecting a former employer’s confidential or proprietary knowledge can be open ended for duration, to put that question into perspective. Could you get out from under the restrictions of this non-compete clause by moving to a state that was more restrictive in how it allowed them to be applied as barriers to further employment? You need to know the implications and the potential for what you would agree to for this, as a basic due diligence check-list issue in deciding if a new possible job would be best for you, or if it might in fact hold long-term negatives in it that would outweigh any possible short-term gains, given your more immediate short-term and here-and-now needs and their pressures.
• And as a part of this, you have to ask yourself and know what types of entanglements you might already be facing from prior jobs and their hiring and terms of employment agreements, that you have already signed and legally agreed to. This means addressing the same questions and issues raised in the above bullet point, but from the perspective of response to what is already in place, and not entirely from free and open choice on your part. Can you even take the new job offered you in the first of these bullet points, or have one or even more than just one prior non-compete agreements signed, prevent you from taking it without risk of legal action from a previous employer, who might have you in their sights because you just left them and not of their choosing?

Know where you stand now and what types of minefield you might already be in from non-compete clause restrictions as they would specifically apply to you. And know where and for how long they would apply. Now, what can you do with your current skills and workplace experience that would, through reframing and other means, not by disallowed there? Would for example, a change in industry worked in be sufficient to unblock you?

• Think this out and do your research – and keep copies of the agreements that you do sign with employers as part of your ongoing career documentation.

You should do this anyway, to document for your own use precisely what you have done professionally and in what contexts, but changes in the employability landscape such as the widespread emergence of non-competes makes this an absolute necessity.

Now openly reach out and network. Do this to help you find new paths forward in your work life and career path, if you feel hemmed in and for whatever reason: from workplace automation, non-compete agreements or whatever. And do this for information and insight that might better help you understand and navigate your way forward, and around these challenges, as well as for helping you find specific new opportunities.

• Do you need to retrain in some way and if so, how? This might mean learning new hands-on and related skills, but it can mean learning a new language too: the professional slang and perspective that is commonly taken for granted as known in some new-to-you industry that you are considering switching to.
• Network with a goal of finding out more fully what you already have identified that you need to learn,
• And with a goal of identifying gaps in what you know, that you have to learn and be able to demonstrate, that you have not already identified as being important or even essentially necessary for you.

Open and wide-ranging networking and a willingness to step out of your current tried and true comfort zone is essential to you here and it can be vitally important for your overall and long-term career planning and even just for your here-and-now employability.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to the second half of the to-address note that I appended to the end of Part 10, that I repeat here for clarity and ease of reading:

• “And I will further discuss how seemingly separate and distinct changes and disruptive changes in employability interact, in how they arise and in their overall collective impact – and in how that can be more effectively addressed by people who seek to take ownership of their own work lives and careers.”

Note that many of the points that I raise here regarding non-compete clauses and their challenges, apply to workplace automation and I add other widespread disruptive workplace and employability changes too, and how better to face them. With that stated I will start the next installment to this with some further notes on addressing the non-compete clause challenge as it is now and as it is still emerging, absent any legislative or court-decision remediation. And with that in place and in its context, I will delve into the issues and questions of this now-reduced to-address point, and the emerging flood of disruptive change in the workplace as a whole.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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