Sometimes it's time to move on. And while sometimes that's obvious -- like when your work environment is downright dangerous or toxic -- sometimes we can get lulled into staying somewhere we really ought to move on from because it's comfortable.
In this week's episode of Industry Focus: Financials, host Gaby Lapera and Motley Fool contributor Dan Kline explain how to know when it's time to move on from your job. Then the cast looks at how to find a new job while you're still working at your old job, how to network, how and why to leave your old job gracefully and tactfully, how honest you'll want to be about your resume -- spoilers: pretty honest -- when it's appropriate to take any position to get your foot in the door and when you'll want to avoid that, and more.
A full transcript follows the video.
10 stocks we like better than Wal-MartWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, the Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*
David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Wal-Mart wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.
Click here to learn about these picks!
*Stock Advisor returns as of September 5, 2017The author(s) may have a position in any stocks mentioned.
This video was recorded on Aug. 3, 2017.
Gaby Lapera: Hello everyone! Welcome to Industry Focus, the podcast that dives into a different sector of the stock market every day. You're listening to the Financials edition, taped on Thursday, August 3rd, 2017. My name is Gaby Lapera, and joining me in the studio is Dan Kline, one of my favorite writers here at The Motley Fool and jack of all trades. Hello, Dan!
Dan Kline: Hello and thank you! I didn't know that. Top ten or top 100?
Lapera: I'm not going to tell you, and also don't tell the other writers. [laughs]
Kline: Well, you can be quite sure that none of the other writers ever watch a podcast they're not on.
Lapera: Fair enough. So, this show is pre-taped. I have no idea when it's going to go out, so if there's some sort of huge financial news that I'm ignoring, it's not on purpose. I'm probably sick or on vacation. I promise I'll cover it when I get back next week. But I bet Motley Fool Money or Market Foolery has said something about it in the meantime. Anyway, turning to our show today, I don't know if you guys remember, but Dan and I did a careers-based show a while back. I don't know how far back, because I don't know when you're listening to this.
Kline: Fourth of July, basically.
Lapera: Over Fourth of July. It was really great, and we got a lot of really good feedback about it, so I invited Dan back again. We're going to talk about two main topics today, one of which is how do you know when it's time to leave a job, and how to find a job when you already have one, and how to leave gracefully. So, those are the two big topics. How to know when to leave a job, I know it varies from person to person but there's a few big things. You see the writing on the wall.
Kline: Yeah. I think the big thing is, people get very scared. They have a job, they're getting a paycheck, they have health insurance, all the things they need.
Lapera: Oh, I love health insurance.
Kline: And they don't think about happiness. You're not going to walk in and quit your job when your job is good enough. But you should start thinking about it. You should start looking. You say "the writing is on the wall," and that can mean a few different things. Maybe you're up for a promotion and you don't get it. Maybe there's just no place to go. You're looking and you're saying, "I could do this job for the next 20 years. Boy, I would have to do this job for the next 20 years." And you should think about those things, and not be afraid to open your eyes. It doesn't mean you storm into the boss' office and quit, it doesn't mean you leave Friday and don't come back on Monday. But you should be open to the idea, even though that can be terrifying.
Lapera: Definitely. To circle back around to reasons you might want to quit, but you're not in a huge hurry to quit, like you said, having health insurance is great. But I don't know, you look around the company and you see that maybe there are money issues, and maybe you're worried about the future of the company. You don't think it's going to go bankrupt tomorrow, but you're not really sure if they're going to be around in 10 years.
Kline: What you don't want to be, and I've worked at companies that have run out of money, I've worked at companies that have been teetering. I came up through the internet age, where I worked at a very large internet company that went through something like $80 million in two years.
Kline: Which was normal back then. You didn't make money, but you might in the future. None of those companies exist anymore. But if you're working at a company and you start to see things like your direct deposit is two days late, or if you still get a physical check, which I think only about 30% of Americans do, but you still get a physical check and you have to race to the bank because the exact amount is in the account, those are things when you start looking. If you work even with just a handful of people and the company does go out of business, you don't want to be the sixth person from that company who's sending out a resume. So there are situations where you want to get ahead of it. And sometimes it's quality of life. You might have a job you like and your boss leaves, and the new boss, it might not even be a person who's mean, it just might be a style that you don't like, or your talents and their talents are too close together so you don't have the autonomy you once did. It's OK to leave your job because you don't love your job anymore.
Lapera: Yeah, definitely. I will put in a plug that if you work in a toxic work environment, probably time to find a new job.
Kline: Sure. We've written about this a lot. There are a few scenarios where you can leave your job and not give notice, and one of them is if it's dangerous. If you're working for a boss who's saying things like, "Yeah, I know you think driving 10 hours a day is enough, but I really need you in California tomorrow, so drive straight through until you get there," that may not be a safe scenario.
Lapera: Any place where OSHA requirements are being ignored, maybe leave. And I'm not talking about, "Oh, I stood up on my spinny chair to change a lightbulb because maintenance wasn't fast enough."
Kline: See, my family is in the ladder business, that kind of stuff drives me insane. That's a good example, if you work someplace where they don't have the proper tools and they ask you to do dangerous things, and you have to judge that for yourself. Maybe standing on that chair to change a lightbulb that's six feet in the air doesn't seem that scary. But if they have an eight foot ladder for a job that needs a 12 foot ladder and you're standing on the top step that says "not a step," which is my email address, if you see an email from me, that's time to go. And other situations -- if you're being sexually harassed, if you're being threatened. But those are not the biggest scenarios. Obviously, they happen. And it's really more of a case of, you have to evaluate. You have to look at your job, and when you stop wanting to get up in the morning ... not all of us can say, "OK, I don't like this anymore, now I'm done," because we still need money and we like to eat. But that's when you can start being open to other things beyond just, "Yeah, I look at the classifieds for my industry, whatever internet form that takes, and if the dream job was out there, maybe I would apply." Maybe you start looking at things that would be lateral moves just to shake up your life a little bit.
Lapera: That's actually a really good point. If you get super comfortable at a job, and you look around and you're like, "What am I doing with my life?"
Kline: Look, there's times in your life, and I'm older than you, as I'm sure anybody watching this can tell, when my son was born -- he's 13 now -- I specifically took jobs based on that I could not be a newspaper editor and have a newborn at home. You can't have a 02:00 AM deadline every night and also be a decent parent. I'm sure people have done it. I don't want to insult anyone who has. But it wasn't going to work for me. So I took a job in my family business in the construction area where very rarely did customers ever need me at night. It was a 07:00 AM to 04:00 PM kind of job. And after two years, I was good at it, and I was looking around going, "What am I doing with my life? I'm an editor and I'm a writer," but I had to wait until my son was a little older and I could move on. So, sometimes boring is OK. But if you don't have those impediments, if you don't have things in your life or reasons -- maybe you have a health issue and you don't want to risk any change in coverage, or something. If those aren't there, life should be exciting. We work a lot. I don't know about you, but 07:00 AM to 05:00 PM can be normal for me. I see that you guys are on, you edit things of mine at 11:00 at night.
Lapera: Yeah, I'm a little bit more of a night owl. That's my issue. So, I get to work late, but then I'm also at work late.
Kline: Yeah. And if you like your work, I think that's great. I'm sure getting to read stories I've written at 11:00 at night is basically like a new show premiering on Netflix, I'm sure it's delightful.
Lapera: Definitely, it's scintillating, I just can't look away.
Kline: But if you don't feel that way ... and maybe it's simple. Maybe the co-workers you had lunch with have all moved on, and the parts you enjoyed about your day have just become drudgery. You can leave. In most cases, you have more value than you think you do. And it's generally easier to get a job when you have a job, as opposed to being unemployed, you become a little bit tainted in the eyes of the people doing the hiring.
Lapera: No, definitely. I think, there's nothing wrong with being comfortable. There's some people who really love their jobs, and they could go into work every day and do the exact same thing for 20 years. And that's awesome. I think that's incredible. I'm not one of those people.
Kline: Neither am I. This is the longest I've ever been working for the same company. But what's interesting about what we do here at Fool, especially those of us who are work from home writers, is that you can make the job whatever you want it to be. So, I work on these podcasts sometimes, I do other special projects. Nobody ever calls and asks you, most of the time, "Hey, would you like to be involved in a special project?" You usually have to stand up. So, sometimes it isn't leaving your job. Sometimes it's going to your boss or other people in the company and saying, "Things are a little stagnant for me, boy I would love to learn this department, we should be in this field." So you don't always have to leave to leave. You might transfer. You might just create new little wrinkles in your job. It's something you've done here bunch of times.
Lapera: Definitely. Yeah, like, podcast, I was originally not allowed to do that, and now here I am because Kristine hated the financial sector. She used to do this podcast, actually. And just a quick point about that, there are good and bad ways to ask to do new things. A bad way would be going to your boss and saying, "Hey, man, I'm super bored and I hate my job now! Fix it!" [laughs]
Kline: You have to approach everything as a positive. There's one major caveat to this. You cannot go to your boss and ask for new responsibilities or even different responsibilities if you're not doing your job well. So, it's very important, when you get bored, to not let that leak into your performance. So if you're someone who's always eager in meetings, and over the course of time becomes someone who sits in the back and doesn't participate, that's going to be noticed. And if it has happened, you need to address it. You need to go to your boss and say, "Here's what's happening, here's why, I'm going to correct this, but I would also like to move into these areas." But if you've done a good job, then you point it out to your boss. And sometimes it is, "I'll do this extra, I'll take this on on the side to see if we can create revenue, momentum, a reason for this to exist." And we've seen that here at Fool over and over again. You and I both work on the Careers content, which is a relatively new -- which is why we're talking today -- area for us. And we've tried lots of different experiments, and they don't all work. [laughs]
Lapera: Oh, yeah.
Kline: But it's delightful when one does work, and it becomes something we do. And I think, if you work in an office and you have a well laid-out plan that isn't a huge expenditure, and you walk into your boss and your boss just wants things to be exactly as they are, well that tells you a lot about your job and your future and whether you want to be there or not. So, that might be a sign where you say, "OK, I've tried here, and now it's time to go."
Lapera: Definitely. Just to recap a little bit: reasons that you might want to leave your job. Maybe not a bad work environment, but a boring work environment where there's not a lot of opportunity.
Kline: You've done it all.
Lapera: You've just done it all, and there may be no opportunity to progress or do anything new. Maybe you've been passed over for a promotion, and there's no more opportunity for promotion. Or maybe you just don't like who you're working for. It's not horrible, but you just don't like them very much.
Kline: We're not really talking today about obvious situations, where they made you take a pay cut so you're going to quit, or something terrible has happened. These are just sort of the [groans]. And when life becomes [groans], then it's time to pack up your desk.
Lapera: I'm going to love seeing how the transcriptionist writes that noise. Sorry. [laughs]
Kline: Hey, if they could handle the singing on Answers, I'm pretty sure they'll be able to figure that out.
Lapera: OK, let's turn to our second topic, which is actually leaving a job. Again, we're still talking about a job that you find tolerable, but maybe not life-affirming. And not all jobs are life-affirming, I know that. I've had plenty of non life-affirming jobs. But you're getting ready to look for a new job. What are some of the things that you should keep in mind?
Kline: First of all, if you have a job and you're not going to be there for 30 years -- if you're a school teacher or nurse and that's what you do, and your goal is to stay in the same place, these things may not be as important. But most people, when they take a job, go in with the idea that it's probably not the rest of their life. Networking is the most important thing. And I don't just mean big ticket, like, "I'm going to go to the industry trade show and meet the president of so and so!"
Lapera: But you should do that.
Kline: You should do that. But I mean, really going through your LinkedIn contacts, your Facebook, your Rolodex, which I know isn't a thing anymore, and you probably think it's the candy with the caramel inside. But no, your Rolodex is your contacts, everybody you know. And think, "Hey, does my former intern now work someplace where she could put in a word for me? Does my mother's friend have a contact?" And the important thing to do is, you want to warm up those relationships, because you don't want to just be the person who, after three years of no contact, emails someone and says, "Can I have a favor?" So, that might be as simple as just interacting with them on Facebook by putting a comment on their photo of their dog, or whatever it is.
Lapera: Yeah, asking them out for coffee.
Kline: Yeah, asking them out for coffee. Just having them know who you are in a way beyond, when you ask them for the favor, you have to email them and say, "You may remember me from three years ago when I was your intern supervisor," or whatever it is. But you really should look to everyone out there. And if you don't have the contacts, let's say you really want to change professions, you're working in one area, go meet the people that are necessary.
Lapera: And this really isn't that hard. I think a lot of people get really intimidated by this idea that you can literally just email someone and be like, "Hey, I would love to work in," this actually happened to me a couple months ago, "I would love to work in online media. Can I grab lunch with you?" And I was not particularly interested in meeting this person, but they were a friend of friend, and I was like, "Sure, you know what, let's grab coffee instead," because that's less of a commitment. But I was happy to help out this person that I had never talked to in my entire life.
Kline: It happens to me all the time, because parents gets scared, their kids are in year three of communications school, they're getting a degree that doesn't correspond to a job. And sometimes it's just helping them talk it out. I have a very good friend whose son was in the financials space making really good money and he wanted to work in sports journalism. So we sat down and talked it out and we talked about [how] a lot of radio hosts are also the sales director. So, you have all this business experience -- he's actually a producer for Sirius XM now, of business shows. So he's not quite in sports, but he's closer to what he wants to do, and he's in radio, which is something. So, it really is, most people like to be a hero. That's a phrase you'll see me use in articles a lot, we've talked about it here. If you contact someone and you go have coffee and you say, "Yeah, I really need a foot in the door here," somebody somewhere down the line is going to ask them, "Do you know an entry-level person? I need an assistant, I need a part-timer, "or whatever it is. And they might go, "Oh, yeah, I do know someone." And that's how you get your foot in the door. And it might be your way out from a situation you're not that happy in.
Lapera: Definitely. I think the other thing to think about when you're looking for work is you need to think about what you want to do, and you need to think, what are the things you're looking for in a job that will make you happy? Or that you really need in your life? You mentioned having a set schedule so you could pick up your son from day care, or whatever it was. Or maybe you just graduated from law school and you have a ton of debt, and you're like, "I'm going to work for a law firm that I don't really like for a little bit because they have a lot of money."
Kline: Yeah. You sort of need to make your pie chart of priorities. And they're going to change. There might be points in your life where, pretend two years from now you're getting married, and you and your future spouse are sitting down and you want to buy a house in three years. In my case, I have a son going to college in five years, which is terrifying. And you say, "Boy, I'm going to need X amount of money." You might take a job that you don't love because it pays better, knowing it's not forever. But even when you do that, you want to make sure that the skills you get from that job help you get to the one you want. So, if your goal is to get to a certain place, it's OK to detour for money or for schedule or whatever, but don't detour so far that you can never get back to where you're going. That's a very important thing to remember. And you really need to sit down and figure out how much you want to leave. There have been times when I've had jobs where I liked the job well enough, but I would be willing to apply for things that, if I got it, not only would it be awesome for me, but when I went in to tell my boss I was leaving, he or she would look at me and be like, "Oh, yeah, of course. You're going to be a clown in the circus? You have to do that. Who wouldn't do that?"
And then there have been times when I've been at a job where I've applied for anything that would pay enough and get me out of the situation I was in, sometimes even if it was a bad job. And another area, and I've talked to my wife about this a lot over the years, she has a PhD, she works on nonprofits, that sometimes, if you like the people and there's things in an organization you eventually would like doing, it's OK to take a job that isn't the job you wanted. At times in her career, she's wanted to work at universities. And I've said to her, "Well, they may not hire you as a professor, but if you're the grants administrator and you want to adjunct, you're going to have a much better chance of adjuncting than someone from the outside." So, sometimes you make those decisions and just get your foot in the door. That's very true of government work, or at a big company like a Microsoft. Once you've been there a year, you get access to jobs before they go open to the public. You have to look and see if a company has a stigma about moving around, but a lot of them don't, or allow it after a certain period of time. So, you really have to set that bar of what's going to get you to move.
Lapera: Yeah. And I want to touch on something you said earlier, which is, you're at a job and you're applying for other jobs, and this is something to keep in mind -- it's way easier to get a job when you already have a job.
Kline: It is. It shouldn't be, but we said it before, there's just something about, you're more in demand. It's kind of like if you're in a relationship perhaps more people think you're attractive when you're out at a bar. That's probably a confidence issue. But that also comes through in job interviews for most people. And you have more salary flexibility when you're working, or your ability to say, "Hey, I want four weeks vacation." If you're unemployed, you get all vacation. So there's no negotiating point. It is important, though, to remember that a lot of industries are small, and as you apply for jobs, you want to be careful and discreet, and be aware if your boss is friends with her counterpart at the similar company down the road, maybe don't apply for a job there unless you're willing [to have] your boss find out.
Lapera: Yeah. Being discreet when you're applying for jobs when you already have a job, maybe don't apply for jobs when you're in your office.
Kline: Never use company resources to apply for jobs. Meaning, if you have a company laptop and they let you take it home, don't have your resume on it. Even if you can wipe it, all the things we can do to cover our tracks, don't print out your resume on the computer there. Don't use the fax machine. Because jobs are one of the only things ever that sometimes still require a fax, some very big companies still use that method. Don't use theirs. Go to Office Depot if you have to, because you probably don't have a fax machine at home.
Lapera: And if you don't have a computer, go to your local library.
Kline: [laughs] I've always heard that advice, but the computers at the local library are terrible.
Lapera: Yes, they are.
Kline: Go to a work facility where you can rent a computer, as expensive as that is. Go to a FedEx office. Honestly, you can buy a serviceable laptop for $150. Go buy a laptop.
Lapera: That's true.
Kline: Buy a printer. There's electronic faxes. But don't steal paper from your company. It's not just about leaving, it's also about how you leave. That's something we're going to talk about in the future.
Lapera: Actually, that's a great transition. Let's talk about [laughs] how to leave.
Lapera: No, I think we covered everything about finding a job, being discreet, thinking about what you want, networking, having a job while you look for a job. And if you do have some sort of gap in your work history -- like, I have three months where I did not work and I was not in school, so I went backpacking in Europe for three months.
Kline: And I think you want to address that on your resume. Luckily, as journalists, it's very easy to do one freelance assignment and say, "Oh, yes, that six months I was out of work, no, I was freelancing."
Lapera: Or say you took some time off to write the next great American novel. Just say you took that time and you were trying to do something with it and it didn't work out, so now you're looking for work.
Kline: Yeah. I think it's OK to have done the dream trip or something. Most employers, if you get that interview, they may ask, "How come for four months, you didn't work?" And if your answer is, "Because I always wanted to walk through New Zealand," I don't think too many are going to go, "Well, that's a waste of time. Why did you do that? You're not hired," unless you're in a field where you have to keep your skills current, where you'll also want to demonstrate, "Yes, I did these things, but I still read the industry journals or kept up or took whatever tests were needed. But in general, be up front about things like that.
Lapera: Yeah. Don't lie-lie, just lie a little. [laughs]
Kline: It's funny. A company I used to work with hired an editor to replace a job my wife had actually left, and I was consulting with them a bit on it, and the person who got the job -- [who] has since left the job -- put on her resume that she had been freelancing, and the reality was she had a kid and she had done nothing other than parenting. Which, if she had said, it was a family owned company with multiple generations running it, their kids in positions -- she got the job, but she almost didn't because she was deceptive about it. If she had said, "I took time off my career to raise my child," she probably would have got a pat on the back. So, honesty is generally the best policy. There's gray areas. If you're freelancing 50% of the time, but it wasn't intentional, it's just to pay the bills, it's OK to say, "I spent that time freelancing, but I would really like to go back to an office setting." If you're not really, don't! You'll get caught.
Lapera: Yeah. And it's OK not to share everything with an employer. Say you needed to take six months off because of some sort of embarrassing disease, just say, "I needed to take some time off for my health." You don't have to say everything that happened to you.
Kline: I think in general, you want to be careful with disclosing health things, because certainly while it's discriminatory to not hire someone because they had just gone through cancer, I'm sure women your age deal with discrimination if you walk into a job and say, "Oh, I just got engaged," because a male boss of a certain age is going to think, "Is she going to have a baby? Is she going to leave and I'm going to have to pay medical leave?" In general, stuff you don't have to divulge, don't divulge it.
Lapera: Yeah. If they ask you, say something. If they don't, just don't say anything at all. Anyway, we've definitely gone off track.
Kline: Yes we have. So, how to quit.
Lapera: We'll do a future show about what to say about your resume. It even rhymes, so it's a perfect title. How to leave your job. You want to make sure that you leave well. That means a few different things. First and foremost, it means you want to leave without having burned any of your bridges.
Kline: The first thing is give proper notice. In many industries, proper notice is two weeks. In a few industries -- if you are a teacher, proper notice is the end of the school year. If there's a dire emergency, perhaps the turnover at Christmas time. But, if you're a doctor, there might be different rules. But in general, you should give whatever the standard notice is, and I'm not a fan of giving extra because you become a dead man walking and people stop inviting you to meetings and it just becomes very unpleasant. But two weeks in most cases is enough for them to figure out what you do. And, as you're leaving, one, do as good a job as you possibly can. Don't leave early, don't stop putting the extra effort in, and do whatever you can to make it easy for the company. Meaning, if that means on the weekend you have to write up a guide to what you do and all your passwords and all your different accounts -- there are probably 10 things you do, and three things I do, that our bosses have no idea that we do them.
Lapera: Probably, yeah.
Kline: So, sometimes it's important to have a hand-over document. Now, if you're on a line of 20 people who all do the same job, that's less necessary. And as you leave, just be upbeat about it. Don't make the people who are staying feel bad. It's OK to say to your coworkers, "Yes, I got an exciting new opportunity." But don't say, "Oh, I can't wait to get out of this hellhole." They have to stay.
Lapera: In a hellhole.
Kline: And you never know -- your boss might be the reason you're leaving, but if you start slacking off, your co-workers are the ones who are going to bear the brunt of that. And you never know when today's person who's three levels below you is going to be sitting across the desk deciding if you get the job. Or even, the phone call comes, "Hey, I know you used to work at this place where so and so used to work, what was she like?"
Lapera: Oh, yeah. And that's happened to me in real life. I shared earlier with you that I worked for someone and I moved on to another place and he applied for a job there, and I was asked, "What do you think of him?" And I didn't even say anything particularly negative. I didn't discuss any of the actually really honestly awful things about him, but I was like, "Oh, you know, he was a little bit hard to work with." And that was enough to kill it.
Kline: You need to be as upbeat as possible, especially if the reason you're leaving isn't because the place is terrible. If you're leaving for a better opportunity or just because you need a change, it's fine if they get you a cake on your last day or whatever, but take co-workers you like to lunch. Make sure you plan drinks with people after work that you enjoy. Send your boss a thank-you note for your time there. Don't be over the top. Be yourself. But you want people to know you appreciate it, and you want to leave a good feeling, even if it's a bad work situation.
Lapera: Yeah. The other thing to think about is, this is while you're job-hunting, but also for future jobs, make sure that you leave in such a good way that you can always get a good reference, or at least someone to pick up the phone and say, "Yes, they definitely worked here."
Kline: Yeah. It's funny, we've written about this before, so many companies won't give references. But even a company that says, "We won't give references," they all will legally verify employment, but they don't have to return that call. They could always not be at their desk. They could cause you real problems by simply avoiding a phone call for a few days, and then you don't get the job because maybe you lied on your resume about working there. So you really want to think about, even if it was a bad situation, if they're not bad people -- and if they are bad people, and it's dangerous, don't give two weeks' notice. Just leave. But if it's just not for you anymore, even if it's a very unpleasant two weeks, it's only two weeks. It's going to be over. So, upbeat, really respect everybody, and try to smile as you leave, even if the second you're out of there you're going to crack open a bottle of champagne and tell all your friends how terrible it was.
Kline: One last thing, also -- social media is public, no matter how private you think it is. So, even if you only have family as your Facebook friends, don't on your last day post "never have to go back to this dump with these jerks!" And I'm cleaning up your language. But don't do that, because you never know how things might get out there or what searches might happen or who's going to get hacked. So, just, you can talk quietly with your friends, but keep it to that.
Lapera: Yeah, definitely. This was a really great show, I think, personally. [laughs]
Kline: [laughs] Well, we're both going to find out one way or another.
Lapera: Fair enough. But we talked about a lot of different interesting things. I wanted to close the show with kind of a fun question, well I don't know if this is fun, but let's talk about what your worst job ever was. Dan?
Kline: Well, I worked for a company that was bought by Playboy, and I didn't actually ever end up becoming a Playboy employee, but for about 90 days during the transition, I was back and forth to Chicago. And I don't know what they're like now, it's a very different company, but at the time, they were the most boring, awful place to work, where lawyers checked everything. So, I had this hip young internet company, they're buying us to be hip and young, and everything hit a brick wall. We went from, "Think of an idea in the morning to get it up on the web in the afternoon," and this was the late 90s were that wasn't so simple, to everything had to go through so. And by the time it finally got approved, often it no longer made any sense. So, as a 10 year old boy, you think, "Someday I'm going to work at Playboy! There will be naked models everywhere!" There are not.
Lapera: It's full of lawyers instead.
Kline: It's full of lawyers, it's full of dress codes. And once again, that was 1999. I'm sure they're all lovely people and it's very different now, and there's probably now naked models everywhere, and it's the bacchanal you would expect it to be. But boy, going from an internet culture where you just did what felt right to a corporate culture was just a huge shock.
Austin Morgan: I haven't had a ton of jobs. This is my first job out of college. But, while I was in college, I worked about a month at a summer camp, it was elementary school age kids, and I got strep throat twice in the same month.
Lapera: Little kids are ... I don't know how to say this kindly, they're a cesspool. They're a cesspool for germs and disease. I like them, but they're dirty. [laughs]
Morgan: Yeah. So, that was probably the worst outcome I've got from a job.
Kline: To be fair, if this is his only job, he had to say that. He couldn't say this job.
Lapera: [laughs] That's true. That's part of leaving kindly. OK, I think it's my turn. I worked for a researcher where my job was to keep thousands upon thousands of fish alive, but I think the worst thing that we did, maybe the most interesting thing that we did, too, was we would show these fish horror movies. It was, like, fishy horror movies. So, we would make the fish watch other fish being eaten by fish, and then we would record their behavior. And we had this set up where they couldn't get away from the movie in the tank. They were forced to watch this snuff film, essentially.
Kline: What was the point of the research?
Lapera: We were studying their mating behavior. We can get into it later. But it was just, the constant drudgery of keeping these fish alive. They did not want to stay alive, mind you. They would jump out and hit you in the face with their little tails before plunging to their death below. And then, I realize that they're fish, it's not like showing children slasher films, but at the same time, you're like, "I'm forcing another living being to watch the demise of another living being."
Kline: Did the rate of fish suicide go up when you showed them the movies?
Lapera: No. Fish are not bright animals. And I like fish. I like to eat fish. I think fish are pretty. Which is maybe one of the dumber things I've said in the last couple of weeks. And not to put down people who really enjoy fish, but this was just not a great job.
Kline: Are you sure this was a real scientist?
Lapera: It was a real scientist. She had government funding and everything. She was very respected in her field. It was just not the job for me. It was just drudgery. But someone had to keep those fish alive, and I was one of those people.
Morgan: Fish are friends, not food.
Lapera: Fish are friends!
Kline: Do you still keep in touch with the fish? Are they still alive today?
Lapera: Probably not. Also, I have so many funny stories from that job. But we'll save that for another time. Thank you everyone for listening. I shut my computer, and you would think I had this memorized by now but I don't. Here we go. As usual, people on the program may have interests in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks -- or quit your job -- based solely on what you hear. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by tweeting us @MFIndustryFocus and let us know what your worst job was. Thank you to Austin Morgan, today's totally rad producer, and thank you to Dan Kline for joining me in the studio.
Kline: Thank you for having me!
Lapera: Always a pleasure! Alright everyone, have a great, excellent week in the future sometime!
Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Facebook and Microsoft. Gaby Lapera has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends FedEx. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.