Should I Look for a Job with a Competing Company?

AW wrote a few weeks ago asking for help about a new job he started not too long before that in software sales in the Asia-Pacific market. He thought it was a dream job, but the dream turned out to be a nightmare for him. He originally was recruited with the possibility that the job might let him use his Mandarin and cover territories he wanted, but that turned out not to be the case. And so he was worried about what to do and whether he could leave so soon after starting a job if he had to.

Well…things still don’t look any better, and here’s his latest question:

Dear Work Coach,

I’ve started looking around, and some friends suggest look around if there is similar position available in their competitors, because I still like the product, have the passion to work on Asia-Pac market. How do you think of this idea? What should I say to competitor if I have an interview opportunity? Thank you in advance.

By the way, there is no need to talk to my boss. One of my colleagues has given me enough background information and informed me clearly that any conversation would be a waste of time. Anyway, I don’t like “bad mouth”, I’m glad that people trust me and willing to tell me the truth… All I need now is to find a job. 🙂



Hi again AW!

Sorry to hear that the job is still not going well. But if you have indeed made the decision to move on, then I applaud you for taking things into your own hands and looking for a job that will work well for you.

But FIRST I must talk about your words “there is no need to talk to (your) boss”. It’s true that if you’ve decided to leave, then talking to him might make no difference. And you may very well know some things about him that also make it useless. But let me offer a few possible reasons it might still be worthwhile:

1) By going to him and asking for his help and advice and letting him know you want to succeed in your job, you may be surprised by what can be accomplished if you really listen and show him you are determined and strong and willing to do whatever you need to do to be a star.

2) You have a slight chance of improving any references you may get if you are straight with him and keep him informed along the way. If you give someone no clue and no chance to help you improve, then it leaves a bad taste in their mouths when you do leave.

3) It helps teach you how to establish relationships with bosses. Whether here or in your next job, the only way you will get ahead is to be able to do that – and to learn to nurture the relationship in a way that works for both of you.

4) It shows your boss you are not afraid and are the kind of person who can take things into his own hands and try to find solutions – including solutions to increasing revenue from your accounts.

5) Colleagues may have their own reasons for offering “advice.” Is your colleague a star? Does he know your boss well or does he have his own fears and career issues?

Of course, in your case, your colleague may know your boss well and be giving you the right advice. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that early in my career I once worked with a very nice man (or so he seemed to everyone) and he gave me similar advice and acted as my friend and fed me information about my boss that made me keep away from him. And it turned out the “nice” man wanted me out and was undermining me.

Again, I know this might not apply in your case. But whether in this job or the next, it’s helpful to remember that a successful person builds his or her own relationships and doesn’t rely on second-hand knowledge. Although it’s very helpful to take that information into account when strategizing how to approach a person, you still want to trust your own instincts and give yourself a chance to build those instincts first-hand. What you learn now – even if your attempts feel like failure – can help you succeed later on. It’s all part of building our business smarts.

Now, if you think your boss will fire you for just talking to him, then I certainly understand why you’d want to avoid even trying. But imagine what it would do for you and your career (there or elsewhere) if you could meet with him and find even one thing that can be improved.

Putting yourself into the “I’m taking charge of making my own life better” mindset instead of “there’s nothing more I can do here because of how he is” would be a lifelong gift to yourself. Maybe you’d get nothing but then again you already have that. Successful careers require some risk and the resultant growth in ourselves, so maybe there is a lesson to be learned and won after all.

And now I return to regular programming.

Of course, sometimes a company is just a bad company and no matter what you try, they are not the right place for you.  If this is the case and you’re ready to move on, then by all means use this experience to look elsewhere in the industry.

One caveat: I don’t know your industry, but I assume you have to do this carefully since it can get back to your boss and be a reason for him to fire you. Also, in some cases there are no-compete clauses in contracts, so read carefully what you signed. But if none of that is an obstacle, then of course it’s a great idea to look where you have passion!

I provided some ideas for what you could say to a recruiter or potential employer in the original post. The only way that wouldn’t work if you were applying for a job in the exact same territory you don’t feel comfortable working in now. That would be very hard to explain, because they’d want to know why you didn’t achieve more success where you are.

Your best bet for the market you’re interested in is to play to your strength which is your knowledge of Mandarin and the culture. If you seek jobs in that area, you shouldn’t have any problem using the reasons I suggested earlier. It’s ok to say there was a misunderstanding, and explain that the territory you wanted wasn’t available and you tried your best, but you know now that you really want to work in a market where your strengths can help bring in lots of new business.

A potential employer would love to hear about your passion and commitment to a market they want to conquer. And it seems like you have skills they would want. And, of course, the biggest skill is the inner strength and determination you bring with you.

If you have decided to look for a new job, then just make sure you create a very strong resume and go after this with all your heart. This is the time to show how much you have to offer the right employer. Help them understand that you’re looking for the right match, and, unfortunately, your current job just doesn’t seem to be it. (Would be very helpful to back this up with even one company you increased sales with or added to your client list to help show you gave it your best, but would rather be putting your effort into the territory you want to build your career in.)

One last thought: Wherever you go, be secure enough in who you are and what you have to offer to build a strong relationship with your boss to help you succeed and advance. Just give it your all and don’t stop until you’ve achieved what you want. We all have much more inside of us than we know. 🙂

Good luck AW!

Ronnie Ann


In case you’re curious, here’s the original post and comments this post came from:

Help! Recruiter Lied. Now I’m Stuck in a Job I Hate!


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Hi, Ronnie Ann

    Thanks for the post. You are always willing to listen, willing to analyze and provide valuable,professional advice.

    Just a quick update: from April to June is my first official quarter of managing India area sales. I made 95% of my target, and the actual revenue is 80% higher than the same quarter of last year! You know what kind of circumstance I’m facing right now, and I still made it!

    But my boss did not say a single word of my contribution, and also because he was managing that territory last year, so when he did quarterly review with me and found I brought 80% more revenue than he did, guess what he said? “It is because I did not spend time on them (means India customer)”

    So this is the reason I said there is no need to have further discussion. It is not because I’m afraid to be fired. I can take any challenge from business perspective, but I’m not willing to work with a boss that never recognize employer’s value and contribution. It is time to say “have a nice day”…

    I’m on my way, and will keep you posted for the final results:-)

    Thank you again, I really appreciate everything you did!


  2. Hi AW!

    Thank you very much for explaining. I see now why you’ve decided to look elsewhere. I get so mad at bosses like that. But I also feel sorry for him in a way. He’s missing a chance to ever be a great manager. And he will push away good people like you – probably in other places as well as work. But that’s his problem and his life lesson.

    As for you…you did great! Wow. I’m impressed. With all the difficulties and lack of support, you made 95% of your goal? Just imagine if you were covering a territory you felt comfortable with!

    Good luck finding that real dream job. I see exciting things ahead for you. Just think of this as a slight detour. 😉

    If you think about it, it really turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to see how well you can do even under less than favorable circumstances. And it will help provide the stepping stone to the job you really want. So maybe a lucky detour after all – despite the way your boss is!

    I hope you are as proud of what you did as I am. This will be great for your interviews.

    Yes…please let us know what happens. I wish you much luck!

    Ronnie Ann

  3. Hi Ronnie Ann

    You should still remember me, and I’m just back for a quick update:-)

    I have been super-carefully looking around, also sent 2 resumes. Luckly I had phone calls from both companies. The first one is a recruiter. After 10 minutes conversation, the recruiter said he understands my situation and willing to help. He will notify me once the right opportunity coming. We have been keeping communications since then. The second one is a brand-name company but the hiring manager seriously wondering why I switched 2 jobs within 1 year.

    Of course I know I could not “bad mouth” a manager, no matter how bad it is. I could not convince him with the reason that the territory I’m managing is not that I was informed initially,etc… and at the end, he suggested me stay longer with current company, at least for a few more months before looking around.

    Well, the company IS good, the product IS good, but I can not get along with a manager that has serious personality problem. Too bad I can not say anything about it.

    I have been in this company almost 6 months. I’m able to establish good relationship with some co-workers. Surprisingly, as soon as they start trust me, the FIRST thing they say, is to leave this manager ASAP. This advice comes from co-workers in marketing department, technical department and admin people.

    Well, I just need to try harder, but this job requires travel and it impacts my interview~~ sometimes I really want to quit so I could focus on looking for an ideal job, because I never seen such a disgusting person in my life. Managed to take credit, never recognize your contribution, nit-pick everything you do, from a phone call to a simple email… By the way, he complains every day that my email is too confusing, he could not understand what I want to talk about. He says I have “serious communication problem”. You know what my reaction is? Laugh– in my heart.

    Anyway, won’t take too much of your space to tell my life story. I believe the green life is waiting for me somewhere, dig harder to find it, and embrace it:-)

  4. Hi AW!

    I think you’re doing all the right things. While you will never change your boss (and yes…he does sound HORRIBLE), at least you realize you can’t take his opinions to heart and still do your best. Seems he has a warped way of looking at things and a terrible management style.

    Since the recruiter knows your industry, it would be ok to ask him if he has any good way to explain that you’ve always gotten along well with people, but in this one case, you landed in a situation with a boss that was bad from the beginning…and still you’re managing to meet your goals, etc. Maybe he has a clever way you can phrase it that will make the story easier for a potential employer to understand.

    If not, all you can do is stick with the version you’ve been using and wait to find the right person. In-house HR people are often a bit more rigid than other people in the company, so if you can find the name of anyone else in the company and get them interested…

    Please let us know if you find a way to explain this that others might benefit from. You’re not alone in this kind of situation. But explaining your way out of it while not bad-mouthing anyone is certainly tricky!

    Good luck. Love your positive attitude. I’m rooting for you, AW.

    Ronnie Ann

  5. Dear Ronnie Ann

    I’m back again:-)) Just to let you know, I’m still with the same company, and with the same bully boss. I’ve tried my best effort to stay for over 2 quarters, and see how much I can do. Well, I did it, hit 120% of my revenue target.

    Now it’s the end of it, I’m going to quit. I know if I don’t quit, I’m going to talk to a lawyer about this boss, his constant shouting and humiliation.

    The good news is, after careful consideration and spoke with a few recruiters, there are a few interviews scheduled in the next couple of weeks. Since I have had this terrible experience, I would like to “interview the interviewer” as well, and I need to find out hiring manager’s management style. I just can not afford to jump into a black hole again.

    I have thought about some questions, such as:
    1. How do you motive your sales rep?
    2. How do you reward or celebrate success?

    I’d like to have your ideas, suggestions. I need to ask some questions to find out the management style, while the questions should not be offensive.

    Thank you in advance for your help. I look forward to hearing from you soon:-))


  6. Hi AW!

    First…congratulations on making and surpassing your goal. Not only did you prove to yourself and everyone (even your bully boss who will never admit it) that you have terrific skills, but you created an irrefutable track record to take with you when you interview.

    I support you wholeheartedly in your decision to move on. You’ve given it your best and your boss, who is making your life miserable, is not going to change.

    As for the questions to ask a potential boss/company…while I’m not an expert in your industry, the two you mentioned seem like a good starting place. Not only is this important for you, but it shows employers you’re really thinking about what it would be like to work there. Good interviewers like that. They know it’s a two-way street.

    As for a good question to help you assess management style, there’s nothing wrong with simply asking “How would you describe your management style (or philosophy) ?” Anyone who would find that offensive is not a boss you want to work for anyway. And by keeping the question so simple, you can see where the person’s mind goes with it. That alone will tell you a lot.

    You can also ask what they look for in an ideal employee. Even though the question sounds like it’s about you, their answer combined with the others will help you piece together a picture of them.

    You want to hear the words they use and not just the concepts. Are the words human in tone or is it all about the business? “We’re looking for highly motivated people with their eye on growth” is not as human-centered as “Ideally we want self-motivated people who are able to contribute at all levels by meeting their goals, of course, but also coming up with new ideas and adding to the spirit of the over-all team.” Now I don’t expect you to hear either answer exactly, but you’ll notice if they show any awareness of the needs beyond meeting sales goals.

    But more than just the words, as they answer, see whether their eyes meet your eyes and whether they lean into you or sit back as if they are the king (or queen). Also notice if their body language ever matches yours – that’s a sign of a good interview and connection.

    And the best advice I can give you is go in totally open to finding a great new situation. Don’t let the awful experience you just had make you so protective you radiate something other than who you really are. All this preparation is excellent and will help trigger good instinctive alerts, but when you enter the building, let it all go and just be there 100%. You can go over what happened after the interview. 😉

    Best of luck, AW! Whoever gets you will be very lucky. PLEASE let us know what happens.

    Ronnie Ann

  7. Hi Ronnie Ann

    Thank you for the wonderful questions! Now I have more clear ideas of what to ask, and how to tell if the interviewer is “workable” or not.

    Needless to say, you have offered tremendous help in the last several months. You have strongly supported me to go through the extreme difficult time in my life. There is no word can express my gratitude.

    For sure I will keep you posted. 😉


  8. Hi again AW!

    I’m so happy and honored to be able to help even a little. You have so much to offer the right employer. I wish you all the best and look forward to your updates! 🙂

    Ronnie Ann

  9. Hi Ronnie Ann

    Hope all is well. It has been another 5 months, I am back for an update and would like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind.

    Needless to say, it has been a very very dispressed 5 months. Since the bad economy downturn, I am still not landed a new job yet. Make long story short, I did several interviews, declined couple of them and was rejected a couple times. That is normal, I am not complaining. Due to the extreme bad experience in my life, I need to be very careful.

    In the meantime, I am doing my best to manage the life under an extreme selfish, irritated manager, who constantly scream, picky about everything I do, and very good at finger pointing instead of encouraging. Meanwhile, this is such a double-headed snake, he can quickly change his face while a senior manager in place. What a terrible personality!!!

    All right, forget about him. Now I am in another real depressing situation. I interviewed one company, good company, nice manager, professional environment. First interview…second interview… third interview… 10 days ago, finally the sales manager asked me to email their HR my reference person information, driver license number…etc. Sounds something is going to happen, right? She even called me to meet her in her office on Monday. So I went… Monday, Feb 23rd. We sat down, discussed starting date, company benefits, what I am going to do when I get on board… at the end, she said the background checking is fine so far, I will have the offer on Wednesday.

    You can image how excited I am !! but wait…

    Tuesday, Feb 24. One of my reference managers called me and expressed his congratulation. I knew they are checking… so I picked up the phone and asked another reference manager, she said she did not receive any calls like such. I was a little bit concerned… I called the hiring manager and told her only 1 reference manager received call. She said “Oh, no worries, HR may check one person only… I will talk to you tomorrow”

    Wednesday. Feb 25th. Nothing happens until 3:30PM. No email, no phone call. I was nervous. I called the sales manager and left message… no response… I called again at around 5:45PM. She picked up the phone and told me she has not received anything, she will email me as soon as she receives the paperwork from HR.

    So Thursday morning, I emailed the HR guy (I have his contact information since I sent him my reference person and other information), asked his help to speed up the process since the sales manager asked me to start at Mar 16. Only 2 weeks left, considering that I need to give current employer 2 weeks notice. I quickly received an “out of office auto reply”… I knew I have no chance to receive anything last week, since the HR guy is out of office on Thursday, and the sales manager is out of office on Friday.

    It was such an anxious and difficult weekend… Now today is Monday, still nothing happened. I’m not only become more anxious, but also become suspicous. What went wrong?

    In this case, I’d like to ask your professional opinion, since you know so much about HR.
    1. Do you think the delay is only because of HR slow process?
    2. Is it possible they knocked my back door (I mean check my current employer) and find something? I did not give them current employer number, and did not authorize them to do so.
    3. Should I call or email the sales manager again tomorrow to check the status? Would she feel I am too pushy, or feel I am desperate to leave the current employer? (you know the reality IS! even I have tried so hard to control myself)

    I understand things may change overnight because of the current situation. I have had couple of good interviews but received a “hiring freeze” answer at the end. This case is beyond that. I was requested to provided all personal information, plus I had a good conversation with the hiring manager and we even discussed the starting date and many other things… it would be a serious joke if they turn me down, and I really will be crying…

  10. Hi AW! I wish you all the best, but must stick to my new policy of not answering individual questions (see above at the end of this post) or I’ll be right back where I was – which was not blogging. 😉 (Of course, if anyone else wants to offer AW your thoughts, please feel free!)

    This explains more: Work Coach Cafe is Back – with a Twist

    Good luck!
    Ronnie Ann

  11. Dear Ronnie Ann

    I want to share with you that I finally received the offer and my new job will start next month.

    I am sooo excited and want to take this opportunity to thank you for your continuous support. It has been tremendous, especially during the last several months, it probably was the most tough time in my life!!

    Now the nightmare is over, I look forward to a wonderful new career!!

    Have a nice weekend!

  12. Oh AW! This is wonderful news. WUHOO!!!!

    Thank you for your kind words, but I have to compliment you on your determination and continued faith in your own ability to find a job that is right for you – and appreciates you!

    I wish you all the best, AW. It’s been a pleasure.

    Good luck!

    Ronnie Ann

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