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Greenville Business Magazine

Switching Sides: Going To Work For The Competition

By Ashley Pastore

Marketing Representative, CORA Physical Therapy

My parents both devoted their entire professional lives to one company. In fact, they worked for the same company for 64 years collectively.

Let that soak in for a minute: a married couple who concurrently worked for the same company from college graduation until retirement. While it sounds impossible, this is not a corporate urban myth … I have the matching Waterford crystal lamps awarded to them on their 30-year anniversaries to prove it.

During their careers, my father and mother accepted a three-year assignment in the Philippines (where I was born), transferred and were promoted internally, assisted with selecting a new company logo (mom), earned a utility patent (dad), worked in the factory during a union strike (both), traveled to more countries than we can now recall, and even hosted the then-sitting POTUS for a plant visit. We were a Caterpillar “CAT” family.

Never in my wildest dreams could I envision either parent leaving CAT to work for John Deere, Komatsu, CASE, or Hitachi. Like the true sports fans we are, my younger sister and I booed those other earth movers. Maybe I still do, in my head, because we will always cheer for CAT – plus, I am certain a good chunk of those CAT paychecks went directly to my college education.

So, with my years of employment inching toward ten with one physical therapy company, I sat in a state of shock when it came to an unexpected end one arbitrary Thursday afternoon. Although it had been a decade-long roller coaster ride, I saddled up and remained loyal throughout the highs and lows. I focused on serving the Southeast region and always assumed problems would level themselves. Unfortunately, there was no righting that ship.

Ironically, it was my mom who texted me the job post for “Marketing Representative, CORA Physical Therapy.”

With the sting still fresh from an over-the-phone breakup, and unsure about even staying in the physical therapy arena, I clicked and submitted my information. It felt as though I had reached across enemy lines - until I received a call later that day.

I repeat, later that same day.

Only hours after hitting ‘complete’ on my application, the warm voice who would become my next boss sparked hope.

During the interview process, a nagging urge to call my dad for sage fatherly advice was an itch I could not scratch. Just before losing him almost three years ago, our last one-on-one conversation happened to be about changing jobs. I had recently returned from a meeting in Atlanta, yet a different competitor had persuaded me to come talk, and dad posed a question that has stuck: “It seems like you have a good thing going, why would you leave?”

1. Why are you leaving? Well, it is either your choice or they ask you to go. Best case scenario: your former boss writes you a glowing letter of reference. Worst case scenario: your former boss is the star witness in your upcoming criminal case.

If you are considering an exit from your current employer, as my dad would ask, “Is something broken?” If not, what can be renewed, what is missing, do you really need to leave the company altogether? If nothing is broken, what is causing you to explore other options? Maybe an internal department change, or goal-setting session, could shed new light.

However, if something is broken, what is the best solution? Have the reason clear in your mind and then plan an exit strategy. That or begin strategizing when they release you into the wilds of Indeed, CareerBuilder, LinkedIN, Glassdoor, Monster, iHire, etc.

2. What is the impact of your departure? Examine your employment agreement or contract to see if you have a non-compete clause that prohibits you from working for a competitor for a certain time period. Consult a lawyer before accepting a job offer from a competitor if your agreement does have a non-compete. If you unknowingly void the terms, you may find yourself out of work and potentially facing litigation (see aforementioned best vs. worst case scenarios).

3. Is working for a competitor your best option? When it comes to licensed professions, like physical therapist, it is almost impossible to remain in a geographic area, leave an employer, and not find your next job with a competitor. For more general skill sets like recruiting, marketing, sales or jobs in finance, IT, HR, retail or manufacturing, you might consider transferring your proficiencies to another kind of business.

If being on the job hunt was not your choice, avoid purposely seeking out the competitor just to get revenge. However, if an amazing opportunity pops up and it happens to be with a competing company, add it to your list for consideration and weigh all possibilities. You do know the industry, can speak the language, bring good experience and could direct that all into a route along the high road.

All of this to say, there is no “right” amount of time to stay in a job or with an employer. If you are the type who wants the good guy to win, make sure you are working and expending your efforts for the good guy! I agree the grass is not always greener, but maybe there is a more talented gardener (at your current company or a competitor) who provides the exact type of fertilizer you need to grow.

Ashley Pastore is a marketing representative for CORA Physical Therapy. After that CAT money helped her get a degree in marketing from the University of Georgia, she found her niche in health care. Ashley has worked in sales for a Fortune 500 company, fundraising for a large nonprofit health agency, admissions in skilled nursing and recruiting for physical therapy.