And when they do, there are two types of people – those who jump ship and those who join the crew. Except, in most cases, job seekers aren’t focusing their efforts on business who are foundering amid negative headlines, scandals and dropping stock.
If you’re looking for work and you come across a job posting from a company in crisis, don’t be so quick to dismiss the opportunity. Just because the firm’s literal and figurative stock is plummeting doesn’t mean you should run.
Quite the contrary, say the experts we talked with as we pondered the question, “Should you apply for a job at a company in crisis?”
Judge the Crisis: Lasting or Temporary
Your preliminary step in answering this question should be an analysis of the type of crisis the company is experiencing.
Eli Howayeck, found and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, says some issues have long-term implications that could lead to the company’s demise.
“The nature and long-term impact of the crisis matters. In many cases, companies are resilient and bounce back from crisis,” Howayeck said. “In other circumstances, going to a struggling firm that has failed to innovate or keep up with the market will ultimately lose. You could be signing up to fight an unwinnable uphill battle.”
How Joining a Company in Crisis Can Pay Off
One theory about joining a business in crisis is that it’s similar to buying stock when it’s low with the belief that it will rise in the future and validate your gamble.
And this, says success strategist Carlota Zimmerman, is the big upside to joining a foundering organization.
“For anyone who has the mindset and courage to initially ally themselves with the sinking, or rather listing, ship, as part of their strategy, and goes into the endeavor with a plan, I think it could be a brilliant gamble that pays off,” she said.
Exactly how it pays off is something that comes in multiple forms.
You Can Advance Your Career Quicker
A rock-solid company can stonewall your chances at moving up because the managers in their current position plan to be there for as long as they can.
“At many large companies, career growth is limited as you wait for more senior team members to retire or otherwise vacate their roles,” said Michael Roberts, human resources manager at teambuilding firm The Great Guac Off. “Young employees at the beginning of their career may wait years or even decades to join the management and senior management teams.”
As the company in crisis churns into unstable waters, senior managers who value stability may be willing to rescue their career and join another firm.
“Many of the more senior employees will be risk averse and want to move to a more stable organization. As these employees leave, you may be able to fill their roles and really gain upward momentum in your career,” Roberts said.
You Can Be a Hero in the Turnaround
Another benefit of joining a company in turmoil is that, if your skill set and creativity are right, you can be instrumental in the organization’s resurrection, Roberts said.
“A company in crisis is like a battlefield in need of heroes; you can prove yourself by rolling up your sleeves and helping to turn things around,” he told us.
Now, surely there will be others you work with who play a part in the company’s turnaround; you won’t be the only one. However, your willingness to navigate uncertainty will reveal your courage and true leadership.
“It takes true courage to fix problems, and bring something back to life, and that’s what true leaders do. It’s so easy nowadays to go on LinkedIn and deem yourself a leader because you post an article every week, or your latest headshot looks sexy AF,” Zimmerman told us. “But true leadership is seeing an opportunity where cowards smell fear.”
The Difficulty Sharpens Your Character and Skill Set
Our experts conveyed no illusions about the difficulty of working for a company in crisis. It’s going to be difficult; don’t romanticize it.
However, choosing to enter the turmoil is something that, through all the stress and unknowns, will strengthen you, said Velina Getova, COO at resume site Enhancv.
“Joining a company in turmoil with curiosity can help you to practice your coping mechanisms, learn how to tolerate uncertainty, and grow other pillars in life that withstand no matter what happens at work,” she said.
How Joining a Company in Crisis Can Burn You
Fairytale, this is not. For every story of a Phoenix-like rise from the corporate ashes, there are countless narratives of companies who settled into oblivion without a TechCrunch post-mortem. And even the big companies who eventually succumb are forgotten quickly.
No professional wants to be a part of that corporate tragedy but … it happens.
Christopher Lee, founder of consulting firm Purpose Redeemed, said that the redemption quest that you seek in a failing company may very well end up a failure.
“Understand that your hopes may not become reality. As you work there, you will face challenges you didn’t know about,” he said. “You may get what you want but need to make unanticipated trade-offs. With any job, expectations seldom pan out the way we imagined. This is especially true in companies experiencing crises.”
And, if it does all come crashing down in the weeks or months after, don’t worry, Zimmerman said. You can use the failure of the company as a backdrop to highlight your courage.
“Even if the company fails, as long as you can explain to future employers why you felt it was important to join and truly make a difference, not just the pretty lip service,” she said. “Trust that the right company is going to sit up and take notice. That’s how true leaders and innovators act.”