Working With versus Working For

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jun 26

How do you characterize your past career assignments as an employee during an interview?

You see, the language you use to describe your past positions can tell you a lot about how you are thinking about your career.

One of the principles of career management is to consider yourself to be a consultant or contractor in whatever job you are doing. Having that framework in your head means that you are personally refining your skills, building your relationships and always watching the environment for shifts that could affect your job.

Having the framework of an employee, on the other hand, often means entitlement to the position, expectations from the employer and what I view as being more ‘rules-based’ in that if you or your employer break the rules in your head there will be hell to pay.

Now, these views are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are set up that way to show how subtle differences in your language used to describe what you do can have significant connotations to you and your (potential) employer.

In doing an interview with this delightful woman for a position, she described her previous positions as “working with” a company or department. Not “working for” the company.

When you are “working with” a company, you are partners for that time going about accomplishing mutual goals. When you are “working for” a company, there is the subtle sound of indentured servant and all that implies.

Select the words for how you describe your work with care to match your orientation of career management. “Working with” is a lot different than “working for.”

Can you feel the difference?

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Or, it could also be a straightforward realization that we are all consultants to our organization and we “work with” our team and managers — not “work for.” It’s an interesting paradigm. If we’re all supposed to have personal brands, starting with “working with” language immediately signifies a personal brand.

  • darlene says:

    Very interesting post. Our words do matter. I’m sure too many people don’t feel like are in partnership with their organization. Probably accounts for the high percentages of people who are unsatisfied in their jobs and/or completely “hate” their job.

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