Editor’s note: I have never been someone who perceives a job as a step up the career ladder. I like to make a relationship with my work and my co-workers, to believe that my interests are aligned with the company’s interests. For example, until January I had enjoyed many years in a role where I felt I added value, contributed to the bottom-line, and connected to people at work. My final responsibility was to sell an asset that would also end my role with the company. Having successfully completed that sale, I assumed that the technical aspect of separating from my job would be smooth. Then one day, conversations suddenly switched from “we” to “you”. Next, phone calls were unreturned until I signed the severance agreement. My relationship to the company became transactional. It was not that the company acted in any untoward way — it was simply how things work.
Don’t worry! Financially, I received a generous severance package, and within one week, three nice opportunities came calling. However, I might have endured less anxiety and possibly walked away with an even better package if I had consulted with someone like employment attorney, Chuck Forgang.
Chuck Forgang, W’78, P’11, is Vice President of Career Development and serves on the Executive Committee of the Wharton Club of New York.
Since 2010, Chuck has led the very active WCNY Career Development team. They serve alumni who are transitioning in their careers; leaving a job; joining a new company; gaining skills in the use of LinkedIn; interviewing; learning about careers in a different industry; joining a board; learning about career resources at Wharton; or hearing from thought leaders and coaches.
Chuck cites his team members as being vital in making the group’s work a reality, all while bonding as friends in the process:
Carl E. Rosen, WG’77, is Principal of Shelter Rock International, LLC, a comprehensive consulting and marketing organization; retired COO of Bulova and currently engaged as Bulova’s Historian. Carl is AVP of WCNY’s Career Networking, which develops programs and networking events, including non-profit and corporate board placement, industry career advancement, and shared interest groups.
Andrew Stern, W’10, works in Talent Development at Bloomberg LP and serves as WCNY’s Director of Special Programs. As a member of the Career Development team, he organizes workshops and provides access to practical services in support of Club members’ career growth.
William Saliy, WG’02, works in analytics at Barclays Capital and is AVP of WCNY’s Career Speaker Series, which presents topics of interest to career development professionals, industry experts, Wharton professors and alumni.
Here are a few events that WCNY Career Development team has hosted:
Employment Law 101: From Both the Executive’s and Employer’s Points of View.
Job, Transition and Family Change: Managing Stress at Work and Home. Chuck says, “When you lose your job, it’s often a true sense of loss. You may have suffered a problem at home that affects your work or vice versa. It’s an emotion-packed session that gives resources.” This will return in Fall 2017.
Starting and Sustaining a Successful Consulting or Small Business.
Compensation Post-Financial Crisis.
Chuck thinks on these types of issues most of the day. A Columbia Law graduate and Principal of the Law Offices of Charles S. Forgang, he practices employment law from a pro-employee perspective, concentrating on representing executives and professionals as they join or leave companies or institutions, as well as independent contractors, partners and partnerships. He is frequently called on as a guest lecturer for numerous professional organizations and institutions, including UPenn and Wharton, the Financial Executives Network Group (FENG), the Marketing Executives Network Group (MENG), and the Society for Human Resource Management.
When the economy turned down in 2008, an increasing portion of his work became representing individuals who were laid off from their positions. Normally, companies establish the rules of engagement, and they negotiate employment issues multiple times per year, much more than the average individual would. For example, Chuck explains, “What companies often call ‘standard’ or ‘forms’ often boils down to papers that represent a company’s policies and wishes — or, more specifically, they often contain language and all too many provisions that protect the company, at the expense of the employee.
“It helps to consult with an employment lawyer who does this every day. It’s like an initial consultation with a doctor to understand the big picture and to see if further involvement is advisable.” Chuck emphasizes, “The best time to call your employment lawyer is typically before the big event hits. I often work in partnership with my clients to strategize how to approach their companies with respect to an employment transition. I can often be invisible in the negotiation. If appropriate, and most frequently in a termination situation, I become quite visible and can often make the employee’s pitch at a higher level. I may even negotiate with a company’s lawyer where I have a history of good-faith dealings to facilitate an amicable resolution. While, of course, results can’t be guaranteed, at the very least, I generally believe it most prudent to identify a client’s leverage, and proceed in a strategic way to maximize results.”
I asked Chuck for some general pointers for employees navigating their transitions:
1. When a company has decided to hire you, there is often “one brief shining moment,” when the relationship reverses, and you become the buyer, and the company becomes the seller.
2. Too many bites of the apple can often harm your position — calling on Monday and asking for A, calling again on Tuesday to ask for B, and still again on Wednesday and asking for C, and so on. Typically, it is better to strategize your overall “ask” and how it might be presented as part of an overall discussion or negotiation.
3. HR isn’t always your “friend.”
4. Employees often think that the only real value or meaning of a “package” (as in a separation agreement) is the amount of the severance, but there are often other important terms that should be addressed. For example, take non-competes seriously, and address them with your employment lawyer.
5. Instead of jumping to litigation, understand rationally the facts and circumstances and comparative leverages to try to create a fair negotiation, with a goal of feeling better treated. Lawsuits bear high economic and human costs, let alone reputational issues. Chuck adds, “Remember, there often isn’t a long line of prospective employers thinking, ‘Ah, let me hire the person who just sued his or her previous company.’”
Chuck, Carl, William and Andrew — who span graduating years and interests — work closely to appeal to multiple generations of alumni. One of Career Development’s early successes was bringing Cara Costello, representing Wharton’s graduate school alumni, and Barb Hewitt, representing Wharton’s undergraduate alumni, to present Career Management Resources for Wharton Alumni once a year for New York-based alumni. Cara and Barb explain the wealth of Wharton alumni career resources available, teach best practices for an effective job search and talk about successful career progression. To find out when this event will be held, check out the Events page at WCNY website!
Chuck explained, “Our focus is to present a wide range of programming that appeals to various interests and segments of our alumni, such as learning about career resources, workshops with coaches, professor presentations, programs on how to get into specific industries such as hedge funds or private equity, kick-starting your kids’ internships at blue-chip companies, and how to serve on a board.”
Volunteers are welcome to assist in the creation and administration of programs and initiatives that support Wharton alumni throughout their careers, including those in transition, as well as those looking to position themselves for career enhancement. The Career Development team encourages Wharton alumni to “Take the Call” and support fellow alumni in developing their careers.