‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. & Dale: At my last job as an assistant manager at a hair salon, the owner asked me to sign a non-compete clause. I applied for a manager position at another salon and was selected. When I told the owner about it, she threatened to sue both me and the person hiring me, so I told her I would not go. A week later, the owner told me she “accepted my resignation,” although I’d made it clear to her that I was not leaving. She said she was doing me a favor by letting me resign, rather than be fired. — Samantha
J.T.: The truth is that a lawsuit is a costly process, and your old boss probably wouldn’t have sued you. But you never know, so I understand your decision to stay.
Dale: And now the non-compete still may be shadowing you. It would be well worth the cost of an hour of an employment attorney’s time to get some questions answered, including, “Is the non-compete even valid?” According to the “Guide to Workplace Law” from the American Bar Association, a non-compete “is enforceable only if the company has a substantial right, unique to its business, that it is trying to protect.” (It goes on to give an example of a company with an employee who’d been given specialized training developed by the company.) I’d hate to see you have your employment future restricted by a non-compete, which is supposed to protect a company’s rights, not keep you in employment bondage.
J.T.: Yes, get the non-compete behind you. Then, when it comes time to explain your last job in an interview, keep it short and positive. Explain the facts of how you ended up leaving the last job, and then say something like this: “I learned a lot from the experience and am glad that I’m now free to find a new position. I am really committed to this profession and want to find a salon management role that will let me build a thriving practice for my employer.” The key is to move forward by talking about the future, while saying nothing negative about your past.
Dale: And never forget what your past is telling a prospective new employer: You already were offered a manager’s job, and your old boss wanted to fight to keep you. That’s employer catnip — everyone wants to hire a person other employers desire.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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