For some former Google employees, the company’s reputation as a high-tech Shangri La didn’t live up to the reality of what it was like for them to work there. Those alumni’s experiences joining the company illustrate important lessons all professionals should keep in mind as they mull job offers.
TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington exposed on January 18 what it’s really like to work at Google (for some employees.) He posted comments former Google employees had left on a private online forum that Google had set up to find out why people left the company. (The comment thread had been forwarded to him.)
The comments reveal that people quit ultimately because their expectations weren’t met. Google enjoys a reputation as a high-tech Shangri La, so that’s what these employees expected. Instead, they ran up against bureaucracy, bad management, corporate politics and “penny-wise, pound-foolish” cost-cutting measures that demoralized staff.
Once these employees came on board, they quickly realized that Google wasn’t so different from so many other employers, and the perks for which Google is famous (e.g. the gourmet food that the headquarters serves for free in its café) didn’t adequately compensate in their minds.
(Of course, some people who left Google posted rave reviews about the company in the online chat room.)
The experiences and dissatisfactions that these former employees shared about working for Google serve to illustrate three important lessons everyone can take to heart as they consider job offers and plan their careers.
1. Don’t sell yourself short.
Some former Google employees took pay cuts and accepted modest relocation packages for the chance to work at Google. They thought-and had been led to believe by Google management, recruiters and the media-that Google was America’s best employer and that the opportunity to work for Google was worth any financial sacrifice.
Several former employees regretted going to work for Google and for selling themselves short on compensation, including one in India, who was weighing a high-paying job offer from IBM at the same time that he was considering a lesser offer from Google. The former Googler from India wrote:
I joined the job due to company’s name and reputation as well as I had the option to work in day shifts.
I feel sad about my decision on choosing Google over IBM … Small pay, No work, No Team spirit, No Hike in 12 months, No balance between Family Life and work are few things which motivated my move out.
I am still jobless after five months of leaving Google, but I am happy with my decision (I feel like it is better be jobless than work for Google as a Field Tech).
A former employee named Stephen echoes that sentiment: “I shouldn’t have ever taken that job. I was disenchanted the whole time, and … my regret over the poor bargain I’d made affected my performance. … I was … offered a considerable pay cut to go to work at Google. The relocation package was lame. So were the benefits.”
These two former Googlers’ experiences suggest that you shouldn’t sell yourself short no matter how outstanding an employer’s reputation and no matter what kinds of promises an employer makes about work-life balance or career development opportunities.
2. Do your due diligence.
When you’re desperate for a new job, it’s easy to accept your first offer without taking time to make sure the compensation is fair, the company is financially stable and that it genuinely is a good place to work.
You can’t blame someone for needing a paycheck. Yet vetting a company’s financials and reputation can prevent job seekers from taking jobs that they’ll end up leaving three- to 12 months later.
A former Googler named Lisa noted in Google’s chat room that she left the company just 11 days after joining. She had been whisked through the hiring process and felt pressured to accept Google’s offer, given the company’s reputation:
I had one full day of MV [Mountain View] in-person interviews, a few phone conversations, and the next thing I know, they’re calling me to present an offer. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have accepted it. …
I wish I had asked more questions and asked to meet the team I’d be managing (at least some of them!) before I jumped on board, but Google’s reputation as an employer is legendary. At the time, I felt conflicted, but then I’d think “Google wants me, and everyone knows how hard it is to get hired there. I should jump on this opportunity.
Another former employee who moved to California from the Midwest and who didn’t look into the specifics of the relocation package talked about how he got burned:
The relocation and hiring bonus’ stated values were pre-tax! That was a huge unexpected blow to the pocketbook. It may sound strange to some, but Google’s the only company that has ever done that to me. Again, that’s mostly my fault; I made a naive assumption.
3. Take a job for the right reasons.
A young woman who got a job in Google’s HR department admitted that she took the job for the wrong reasons:
All I knew before starting at Google was “#1 Place to Work According to Forbes” and “Free Gourmet Food” and “Unlimited Sick Days” and “We Want You to Be Googley!” … My twenty-two year old greedy magpie self was wholly drawn in by the idea of having sashimi anytime I wanted without paying a dime.
After she came on board, this woman realized that she “was not willing to sacrifice her personal happiness and career fulfillment-not even for all the free kombucha” she could drink. She left Google six months later because she was just plain miserable in HR.
Tying all of these experiences and lessons together is an old cliché: If it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.