You Are A Permanent Free Agent On The Job Market

Now feels like a fitting time to unpack a deep truth driving my career acceleration philosophy:

You are a permanent free agent on the job market.

Remember LeBron’s  “Decision” in 2010? Lesson there.

When I got into Google, I was surprised when the only thing underlined, bolded, and capitalized (all three) in the entire hiring agreement was At-Will Employment

At-Will Employment means that there is no set employment length. Your employer can fire you whenever they want. For whatever reason. Just because.

Big Tech companies have (mostly) good intentions and labor relations. That’s why I encourage you to apply. But make no mistake: you are a rented asset who they will ship out the second it makes business sense.  

Any loyalty you might have is, I assure you, not reciprocated. As the current wave of layoffs show.

Not that layoffs are the only, or even the main, reason to embrace permanent free agency. 

I’ll share some of my “war stories” in a future post, but for today, let me just say this.

I’ve seen what happens when a company decides to get rid of you.

Very rarely will they instantly fire someone they want to dump from the team.

What they actually do is stalk you to find ways to get rid of you “for cause.” That way, they can shield themselves against legal liability. 

This is a very real thing. I’ve been in closed-door meetings where senior leaders openly swapped ideas for how to terminate someone. I’ve seen firings that were planned with the cunning calculation of a military coup.

Now of course sometimes people deserve it and the lengths companies go to dump them make perfect sense.

But there are also situations where an employee will be hard at work for the company that he or she feels “loyal” to –– having done little or nothing wrong –– with no idea the company is conspiring to can them.

I myself was fired from jobs after certain individuals felt I rubbed them the wrong way. So I’ve seen this from both sides of the table. 

Once the tide of opinion turns against you in an organization (for financial reasons, political reasons, or whatever it may be) you’re a goner. It’s only a matter of time. And it doesn’t matter how good your performance is or how loyal you are or any of that.

The flipside of the company being able to fire you whenever it wants…

Is that YOU can LEAVE whenever you want.

You probably “know” that already, but surprisingly few people take full advantage of their free agent status.

No –– seeing yourself as a permanent free agent doesn’t mean you have to constantly be looking for a bigger, better job. 

(Although you’ll often benefit from doing just that. One of my personal career philosophies is Always Be Looking!)

How often you change jobs, how high you aim title-wise, how hard you push in negotiations –– all of that is up to you.

A free agency mindset is simply about making YOURSELF your mental point of origin.

The same way that every single company does.

It’s also about coming to terms with the raw reality of how companies pay people.

As I covered in The Overnight 30% – 50% Raise You’re Missing Out On, no one gets wealthy by earning yearly merit raises at one company. 

Most companies have policies in place limiting how big of a raise their employees can earn in a year.

Whether the number is 3%, 5%, or 10%, it’s a number that intensely limits your compensation and career acceleration.

However –– and this is simply vital to understand –– those limits apply only to a company’s current employees. Not to new ones.

And the truth is, companies almost always pay new hires more than their own proven team.

Not a little more. Not a decent amount more. A freaking lot more.

It’s practically unheard of for a company to give one of their employees a $50,000 raise. Even if they’re doing extraordinary work. 

But my clients, on average, increase their annual compensation by over $96,000 when they join a new company. 

I would NEVER have crossed the $500,000 / year mark without unapologetically (and frequently) jumping ship.

Hell, I’ve told people to look for a new job right after getting promoted. That’s when your value is at its peak! 

If you just got a $12,000 raise, you might be able to get $60,000 or $80,000 on top of that from a new Big Tech employer. And they will write that check with a smile on their face.

So the less guilt you feel about leaving for greener pastures, the greener those pastures will be. 

Remember: I’m not saying you HAVE TO do this, or that you have to do anything at all.

The decisions are always in your hands –– that’s why Kadima’s philosophy is “you own your career, we accelerate it.”

You’ll just be able to accelerate your career a lot faster and further if you’re not held back by misguided views of the working world.

Professional athletes long for the day they reach free agency and can shop themselves to the highest bidder. In baseball, players have to wait 5 or 6 years for that chance.

You, as an at-will employee, have the right to test the market at any time.

All I’m saying is don’t be afraid to try!