Dating and work

Pre-script: Don’t judge. At least, not until you’ve read the whole post!

There are some stark similarities between the two areas of life that take up a large part of our lives: Work and Marriage. Preposterous, some might say, as I compare a holy institution with a platonic one. While some others ponder which one is which. Allow me to explain!

Living in India and seeing the generation before ours, the similarities are sure there. In the olden days:

  • Marriages were arranged by parents, jobs were arranged by placement departments in college
  • It wasn’t rare to see one marriage and one job see you through the entire life.
  • To consider another partner/job made the society look at you strangely
  • Both alliances were holy and YOU were the one who had to make adjustments and adapt.

Fast forward a few years, aspirations have grown, and so has restlessness. And where does the comparison stand:

  • The arrangements are starting to be made consciously by people, after they finish their engineering and are figuring out what profession to choose 😛 (Sarcasm Detected!)
  • The mortality rate of jobs has fallen steeply. The number of unsuccessful marriages has increased too but not as steeply.
  • There is realization that people make an organisation, and not the other way round. Both companies & marriages are not holier than thou anymore, and people are truly trying to find their match in both.
  • When marriages and work relationships hit turbulent times, you still try to adapt but it’s now a two-way street. Employers are more flexible and provide options like lateral movements, sabbaticals etc. And if it still doesn’t work out, you part ways.

Funnel1

In case of a relationship, you would typically go through phases as you get to know the other person better. Initial phases of filtering might be against some set criteria. If things progress well, the dating phase would allow you to know each other better and evaluate compatibility. Some might go into the living in phase. And eventually, if there are more things looking good than not, then you would commit and get into marriage.

Visualise these stages like a funnel with validation and filtering happening at each stage. And this is for a decision which is more heart-driven than mind-driven. Agreed, Indian society is still largely far from the validation funnel, but I see things moving more and more in that direction.

In contrast, think of choosing a company/employee, which is supposed to be driven more by the mind that the heart. There is a filtering stage where companies and people eliminate. Subsequently, there is an interview stage where you talk, discuss and get to know each more (A lot of companies still don’t see interviewing as a dialogue but that’s a complete topic in itself). Some companies like to do a 360 degrees interviewing, which lets you meet the people you’ll be working with.

Funnel2

But then, if you make it through, you’re suddenly faced with the marriage question and you have to decide based on the information you have. At this stage, the information you have is either from your interviewing phase, where the company is often putting it’s best foot forward. Or it’s based on what people on the internet say (Glassdoor), which could be stage managed to protect a brand. There are answers around, but they might not be for the questions that YOU have.

And that’s where the biggest disconnect lies. There is no Dating or Live-in phase in Work.

The side effect? You might start working somewhere, not like it and decide to quit after a short duration. But it’ll show on your record, like a failed marriage. Too many of these and it might become difficult to explain.

These failed alliances are expensive for companies too. There’s a huge cost associated with hiring, training and if an employee churns before they’ve contributed enough to break-even, then you lose what you’ve invested and are forced to incur that cost again.

Sure, there are some forms of dating equivalents in the work industry, but this is why they don’t work.

  1. Internship: could be seen as a way of trying out a job, but it’s only there for fresh graduates, and not experienced people.
  2. Sub-contracting: you could be employed or for an intermediary company but working for their client. And if it works well, you could convert to a full time employee for the client, and the client needs to pay the intermediary some compensation. There’s often a clause in employee agreement which forbids them from quitting the intermediary and joining the client company. This form of arrangement is often tilted in favour of the intermediary company since that’s what their business and margins are. And most employees would find themselves in this arrangement by chance, not by choice.
  3. Probation periods: Again, they are part of the employment contract and insures the company against severance cost in case of a bad hire. Probation period is actual employment, so looks like a shirt stint for an employee.
  4. Hiring from Hackathons: companies conduct Hackathon which are open to the developer community. Gives companies a chance to see the engineers at work, and the companies can contact them to explore hiring them. Again, a good option for companies which limits the risk of a bad hire. But for an individual, hackathons don’t really give the feel of how it would be to really work for the company.
  5. Contract to hire: people could be employed as contractors, and if things go well, they could join as permanent employees.This option provide a trial to employees, but it exists to protect the company against bad hires, severance cost, and liability. It’s often seen as an inferior choice by employees since the durations are long and it’s seen as actual employment. This is the closest option we have right now to trial employment but sadly, it doesn’t have equal rights for employees and employers.

I wonder wouldn’t it be great if you could truly ask out and date companies? Where you could choose to go work for a company for some time, maybe part-time, and then decide whether you want to join them. Of course, there are thorny unknowns like employee contracts forbidding double employment, and non-disclosure agreements which would need to be addressed. But if something like this existed, wouldn’t it help you find your true work match rather than jumping from prospect to prospect, relying on luck, and be tagged as a job hopper?

If you’re here reading this, do comment and share what you think!