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I recently finished my degree and got my first job on the 25th of Jan. Since this was a consultancy company, they asked for 6 weeks to find a project that could put me on, which made my planned start date the end of February.

On the day before I joined, the manager called and said that since they could not find any projects for me, my start date has been delayed by another 6 weeks to April. Both times they have assured me that they will find some project for me, with the most recent assurance being that if they can not find me a project, they will still honour this start date, but since they have failed to deliver once, I am beginning to doubt them.

The company is very reputable, but I don't know what to do. Should I look for other opportunities just in case?

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9 Answers 9

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"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me"

Don't get fooled twice. Find a different job, if you can, and tell this company to take a hike. They promised to employ you at the end of February and they did not. Whether or not they had a project for you to work on is their problem, not yours, and they should be employing you whether they have a project for you or not, because that's how employment contracts work; you sign the contract, set a start date, and starting on that date you are employed and you are expected to be paid.

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    Unless you are a contractor, whether they currently have an assignment that demands your attention shouldn't affect bringing you on staff,; they can have you help with something else. I'd resume searching, while pointing out to them that you need an income so if they don't put you on payroll now you have to find someone who will.
    – keshlam
    Mar 7, 2023 at 18:52
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    If they don't have a customer PO they shouldn't have an open JD.
    – Ertai87
    Mar 7, 2023 at 20:17
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    Nobody can answer that for you; we don't know the company, the industry, or your locale; even if we did it would be difficult to answer such a question. But if the company had already burned you once by not hiring you as promised, you're still a free agent and should behave as such.
    – Ertai87
    Mar 7, 2023 at 22:01
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    It might be implicit from @Ertai87 answer, but I suggest don't tell the company you are looking for a different job. Wait until you have signed a new contract then call. In the meantime you keep them as plan B.
    – Alex L
    Mar 8, 2023 at 13:21
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    @TigerGuy my employer is a reputable UK-based consultancy. We frequently hire without a customer PO, based instead on forecasts of upcoming work, because there can be a long lead time between starting looking to fill a role and a new starter starting. We're fortunate enough to have internal projects that we can put new starters on in the (in the current market, unlikely) case where a new starter lands and there isn't a chargeable project for them, but I believe our competitors also recruit for opportunities they don't yet have, and just put new starters "on the bench" if so.
    – James_pic
    Mar 8, 2023 at 17:31
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You tagged your question united-kingdom and ask "Should I look for other opportunities just in case?"

It's very simple: yes.

You don't have a job with this company; you should still be looking for a job.

In the UK, the outcome of a job search should be a contract signed by both parties, detailing a start date, salary, how much holiday (there are minimum legal requirements here), place of work, duties, and how much notice each side needs to give to terminate the contract.

And when the start date comes, you turn up at the place of work, and work!

I worked for one of the big IT consultancies a decade ago, and when there wasn't a project for a person to be on, they were "benched". It wasn't pleasant, since if there isn't enough work the company can give you your notice (typically 1-3 months in the UK), and then you have to look for another job. But you are being paid during that time.

This company is taking advantage of you; do not consider them "very reputable".

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    You don't have a job with this company From my understanding of the question and your comment about the nature of UK contracts - they do have a job in that company. This job starts on the day specified in the contract.
    – WoJ
    Mar 8, 2023 at 10:59
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    @WoJ Given the company unilaterally changed the start date at the last minute, they either don't have a contract, or the company is in serious breach of contract and the OP should contact a lawyer. Mar 8, 2023 at 12:18
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    @MarkRotteveel Or OP agreed to the change in contract? In a comment on the question they say: "Yes there was a contract, and now i have a new one with the only difference being the start date." To me, that sounds like the signed a new contract.
    – Dnomyar96
    Mar 9, 2023 at 14:24
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    @Dnomyar96 Then the OP has themself to blame for accepting the change. BTW, that comment wasn't posted yet when I wrote my earlier comment. Mar 9, 2023 at 15:15
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    @MarkRotteveel In the UK there are no consequences for reneging on a job offer beyond those written in the contract itself. They would owe him his notice period, which will likely be nothing for the first month of employment, and perhaps a week at most. Mar 10, 2023 at 10:26
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No, it's time to move on. Imagine the conversation between you and your landlord or your local utility company, telling them that something came up whereas you're going to pay all of your bills 12 weeks late. Yes, imagine that!

You should take the latest developments with this company as a hint of how things would work in the long run. Think of what would happen if you went to doing work on a client's project and it came to an end. How long would they keep you on the bench before laying you off? Right now you don't have anything credible toward continuing to deal with this employer. In fact, you have a broken promise on your hands. They are decidedly non-committal. There's no reason to abuse yourself any further.

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Instead of stalling you, the company should be putting you on training courses and familiarising you with their product/process.

If they're not paying you, then you're free to continue your job hunt and treat this as a "maybe" or a backup.

Since you have not signed a contract, there is no requirement for you to stay available. Keep applying for other positions until the company comes back with some more useful info, like a start date.

"You've been friend-zoned in a business way."

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    It's a consultancy. The only "product" they have is people like him.
    – Barmar
    Mar 8, 2023 at 14:59
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I've worked at two different British software consultancies recently and have quite a few friends in the sector. Currently, for a number of reasons, many consultancies are struggling to put all their employees on projects and quite a few have hiring freezes in place. It's temporary and there are still plenty of software engineering roles across the sector (many of which are in-house rather than consultancy roles), but as of right now it's risky to assume that things will get better inside of six weeks.

Your prospective employer has already shown you how much they prioritise you (i.e. not at all). They most likely started the graduate recruitment process back when they expected more demand and are now faced with the choice of paying a (relative-to-senior-developers fairly cheap) salary in order to guarantee that they can have you, or letting you potentially go somewhere else. If they felt confident that in six weeks there would be a placement for you, they would hire you now and make sure you were ready to go onto the project ASAP. I would assume from the sounds of things that they are either in financial difficulties or struggling to place a lot of their current employees (possibly both).

One of the upsides of working for a consultancy is that while your employer doesn't pay you the full amount that the client is paying them for your time, you still get paid during training/holidays/sick leave/time spent off project (i.e. non-billable time). They are not holding up their end of the bargain and that's a major warning sign.

A last point to consider is that a consultancy which is struggling to place all its software engineers might not be a good place to work in any case. At the start of your career you want to be exposed to good practices and a good working environment. This is a chance to learn as much as possible. If you wind up working at this place without getting placed on a project for months and months, you're going to be missing out and it will delay your career progression (the first few promotions/job hops in the UK software sector are incredibly lucrative).

Overall I would say to start applying to other roles. If none of them work out you can always see what winds up happening with this company, but it shouldn't be your first choice.

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That's poor behaviour from the company, but in your position I would not recommend walking from the job. Straight out of uni, it's really important to get a job in your chosen career and start your progress. A job in the hand is worth two in the bush.

However, I would start looking for and applying for jobs again. If, and only if, you can find a different job to start around the same time should you end your association with the unreliable employer and, if they decided to mess you around again, you're already well on the way with your new job search.

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    The company has already proven that this isn't a "job in the hand". At best it's a potential opportunity which may well fall through again.
    – Graham
    Mar 8, 2023 at 8:19
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    @Graham: Right, which is why the second paragraph recommends looking for a new job straight away. But walking away from this before getting that job is foolish. Mar 8, 2023 at 8:20
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Insist on the start date! You have a written contract, right? They must adhere to it. You need the income to pay your bills.

What could happen in the worst case? They lay you off immediately, but they have to pay you for a couple of months. Okay, then the company is not reputable and you have to look for a new job anyway.

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Always be looking for better work. Finding more work is part of your work. Your career is far more than merely your current job, and it requires you to pay attention to it as a whole.

Whether or not you are employed, you may at any point find somewhere which values you more highly, or which you value more highly. And you can and should be willing to leave your current occupation and move on. I've worked some places for ten years, some for a few days.

If you are not currently being utilized to work, then looking for other roles should probably occupy 8 hours of your day: sending applications, doing practice questions, etc.

This is particularly important this year, when most large companies are expecting a recession and tech companies in particular are laying off people in droves.

Even once you do get employment, you are unusually likely to be laid off, as a new hire in a recession year, so you need to be taking unusually proactive steps to mitigate that risk.

So even once you do get employment, you still need to spend a few minutes when you get home each day to ensure you have more opportunities lined up, or at the very least have your resume up to date and your next few dozen prospects ready to apply to.

Yes, it sucks. Applying for jobs is so not our core competence, and so not what most of us we want to spend ANY time on at all. But it's critically important.

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I work for an IT consultancy company, albeit in a different country and for us to onboard a new person we would expect 1-2 weeks as a minimum to learn our systems, how we approach client work etc. For a first time worker I would expect that to be longer, so for the company not to be making use of this window to cover off all those boxes tells me that they are running things pretty close to the line. However, it is a recession year and some of these businesses are having to make hard decisions. I would be splitting my time two ways in your position at the moment:

  1. It's fair for you to be looking for another job. They are not paying you so you don't work for them. Depending on the number of options in your area this may be close to a full time commitment for you. You may get a better offer from someone else, but equally you may find this is an industry-wide situation and you may end up repeating your experience of delayed starts at a new company.
  2. Depending on the size of the business they may have multiple graduates in the same position as you. Your other focus should be making sure that if they decide to only employ one of those graduates the one they chose to keep is you. Ask if there's any training you can do to prepare you for your start date, ask if there's a senior consultant you can shadow for a day, ask if there's any internal process or policy documents you can familiarize yourself with so you can hit the ground running on start day. Whether they chose to take you up on that, and whether you then chose to do it is less relevant than the fact you have put yourself forward as enthusiastic and keen to provide the best value possible for the employer.

One of the things that is a little frustrating to technical people is that your ability to do the technical job is only a fraction of what actually makes you good for a job. The bigger part is your ability to form, develop and maintain relationships both with co-workers and clients. Focus on that and your employer will remember you, even if this gig doesn't work out, and your clients will soon be asking for you by name. And then you have shifted the power considerably in any future employment negotiation.

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