When a competitor dangles a big raise, is it foolish to let loyalty to the current employer stop you from jumping ship? In the marketplace, money is the true measure, and you’re naïve if you think otherwise, right?
A wonderful young woman named Frances faced this question. She came to me for advice.
Like me, Frances had grown up in Lockport without much money. She had never known her dad. Her single mom struggled mightily to support Frances and two other children.
With a scholarship from our Give Something Back Foundation, Frances attended Ohio State University, and landed a job in a company, as she described it, “that I loved and that loved me back.” The company was especially supportive of Frances when her mom died of cancer.
Down the road, a recruiter from a rival company learned about the talented Frances, and set its sights on her.
“The interview turned into an offer that blew my mind,” Frances told me. “It was three times what my mother ever made in a year in her whole life.”
She went on: “When you grow up having money challenges, the first question tends to be, how much?”
But she had reservations. She had heard the owner of the company had a “sleazy” reputation. She had serious doubts about whether the employer would do the right thing by its customers.
“I needed an outside opinion,” Frances would later write in a note that I cherish. “Not many people get to phone a Fortune 1000 CEO when they need advice, but the Give Something Back alumni do. This wasn’t just any CEO, but someone I could relate to, who grew up in the same town, with similar obstacles, and who had taken the time to get to know me.”
Frances and I talk regularly. She has come to family dinners at our home in Princeton. She has come along to ballgames. I care deeply about this fine young person who is making her way in the world without a parent.
When she described her new job offer, I asked a lot of questions.
“Would you have the same passion in a sales role for this other company?”
I was especially concerned with her misgivings about the ethics of the potential new employer.
“No amount of money is worth working for a company that you don’t believe in and doesn’t do the right thing,” I told Frances.
What’s more, I was concerned that if she took the job, she ultimately wouldn’t be as successful, because she wouldn’t believe in the product she was selling or the company she was representing.
Frances passed on the offer. Some friends told her she was insane to walk away from the big bucks.
But she was working in the right direction. Not long afterwards, her employee gave her a big promotion—and then soon came yet another promotion.
That was four years ago. Frances, who works for a respected insurance company, today makes about twice as much as she had been offered by the competitor.
“I could have made a terrible decision,” she said.
Frances, who is now 29, today finds herself in a position of counseling other young employees about what really counts.
“If a company is good to you, invests in you, believes in you—and you believe in them—be patient,” she said. “Good things will come. It paid dividends for me.”