There are always some sure-fire ways that you can tell your company is in trouble.
The floors haven't been vaccumed in recent memory because the cleaning crew is now one 80-year-old woman who comes in every other month to dust. You are asked to re-use ovenight envelopes -- and not because the boss cares about the company's carbon footprint. Unknown people are seen going into top brass offices and holding closed-door meetings for hours. You catch the boss working on his resume.
All signs that the ship is sinking, and the rats are headed for the exit. Time for you to join the exodus, right?
Not so fast.
Have you ever thought about leaping onto that sinking ship because it could be the smartest career move you've ever made?
Sounds crazy, but it has worked for plenty of people. I once interviewed a woman whose company was in deep financial doo-doo and was doing everything but selling the copy machine on eBay in order to survive. But while others were frantically sending out resumes, she decided to stay put. She volunteered to take on duties left by departing employees, and soon had access to key managers and top decision makers.
The woman told me that the organization became much more open to new ideas, including ones she proposed. She took on duties that challenged her, and was considered a key player when things started to turn around. While she left a year later, she says it was those skills and opportunities presented by the floundering employer that taught her the most.
So, before you grab the resume and head for the exit of a troubled employer, consider:
* The opportunity to grab a dream job. Even if it's only offered on a temporary basis, the chance to fill a position that greatly interests you isn't an opportunity that comes along every day. It gives you a chance to learn the needed skills and really see if it's something you want to pursue.
* The chance to work with others who are at the top of their game. If you're a new employee, chances are it might be years before you gain access to some key people. Even if these people also depart, any chance to work with them for a short time and form a professional relationship could be key in netting you future opportunities.
* The atmosphere may provide more education than an MBA program. Companies that are in trouble can adopt an "anything goes" style, allowing you to try out a variety of skills and learn at a rapid pace. It's a go-ahead-and-try-it environment, and that's something many MBA students would kill for.
* You're going to be on center stage. Floundering companies don't have time to handhold anyone. You're going to be asked to deliver immediately, and your limitations will be only what you make them. Sleep? Who needs it, right?
* It can help you set up your own company. Sometimes learning what not to do is the best lesson . There are lots of successful people who will tell you they learned most from their failures. Just think of how much you'll learn about what to do -- and what not to do -- being on the front lines of a failing enterprise.
How about it -- do you think the possible rewards make it worth the risk to stay with a failing company?