I was working for a tech startup for 8 months and everything was fine - I loved my job. But lately payments started to be late, 1-3 days late (which I was fine with then but probably was a red flag) became week or two late. And finally my employer called me, told me that they ran out of money (since it's bootstrapped business) and are suspending for an unlimited time till they sort out the finances. And offered to find myself a job at some web agency meanwhile.

My situation is that I'm a student and will do a placement/internship in about 8 months, so I just need a temporary job, to make living meanwhile.

The main thing which is holding me in this company is that during this time I made some good friends with most of the colleagues and just miss working there.

My question is, is it a no brainer to say good bye to the current employer?

Because I think a solution proposed by my employer might be a bit unprofessional (no matter how much I love the job) - get a new job, then leave it, come back and hope we won't have problems again.

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    Chances are in a few months this business will not be around... if they are I doubt they will be in a position to hire more people. Wish that company luck and hope that in a year they have managed to right their ship. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 8 '12 at 20:32
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    Startups don't blow up. They whittle away. Your experience is kind of common, and it sucks. Good luck with the next one. – MrFox Nov 8 '12 at 20:55
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    And most of them start with pay being a little late and before you know it they are a month or more behind... but promise they have a solution that will have them caught up any day now! Been through this a few times myself. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 8 '12 at 20:57
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    @Chad is 1000% correct. This is a no-brainer. Leave immediately. – Jim G. Nov 9 '12 at 1:41

Because I think a solution proposed by my employer might be a bit unprofessional (no matter how much I love the job) - get a new job, then leave it, come back and hope we won't have problems again.

No its not unprofessional, as long as you don't promise to come back.

Find another job and take it, Once your current employer is ready to take you back, listen to his offer and make the decision then based on your (new) current situation. No reason to burn bridges.

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First off, working with people you love for free is volunteering, not work.

If you are seeing enough red flags to become nervous, then you may have your own answer - the likelihood of this business remaining viable for any duration is fairly risky. There are really no fixed answers in this space - but the prospects are not particularly stable.

There is no harm, per se, in taking a temporary position where you give the company notice of your intended length of service. The unprofessional side would be to mislead any employer and imply that you are seeking a full-time engagement, when in reality you are both working until (at most) your placement/internship comes up, or (at least) until your current position can afford to pay you again. There is an option, in some engagements to do a month-to-month arrangments where you and the employer agree that it's short term and that you or the employer are likely to opt out on short notice. The trick is to agree, very clearly, on what that notice must be and abide by those terms.

Realize that in these types of situations the sword cuts both ways - an employer willing to take a highly temporary employee is also not making any intense commitments to that employee. You are free to abandon them, they are free to abandon you.

If you really, really love this company, and really, really don't mind the instability of such an engagement, then go for it, but be clear with your employer.

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Well, what have you learned?

You gained working experience, which is priceless. You've learned the disappointing lesson of startups.

My advice:

  1. A willing horse will be worked to death.
  2. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
  3. No, really.

Your skills are your daily bread and there's a line of people prepared to take advantage of your better nature wrapped around the block. Not saying you should burn the building down or anything; remain awesome friends and add everybody to your linkedIn if you haven't already.

As far as continuing to work with these folks, probably the most dignified approach would be exploring the possibility of an equity partnership or something, where you set aside a block of time to be available, ideally outside of "premium" working hours. Limit that block, and be strict: priority has to go to the work that buys your lunch. And they have to be crystal clear on that point. Burnout is no joke, times ten on an empty stomach.

Plus side to this, though - "ramping down" sounds a lot better than "unemployed."

Consider picking up short-term projects contracting as a freelancer. Billing for your time absolutely sucks in my opinion, but on the bright side, contracts often offer more flexibility to negotiate work arrangements, time commitment, and include remedies to make sure you get paid. (Nother positive: should you find yourself in a pinch, financial institutions often consider unpaid invoices valid collateral for lending.)

Don't hold out for them to get straightened out; it's probably mostly over already anyway. At the very least, get a letter of recommendation for your resume / portfolio, if they'll give you one. Going forward, those things can be solid gold.

Oh, and you might qualify for unemployment. Apply. It beats a kick in the pants.

GL, HTH :)

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Its just fine now to shake hands with your employer and go find a new job. Its a usual thing, that you are having a lot of affection at your current job. I guess everyone loves their first job.

But you cant put your career at an edge for the sake of I just love my job. You have just started your career and initial years of your career are very important, you should gain good experience in this time.

You can get back to them anytime they are upto their funds and if they can afford you at that time.

A new job will definitely provide you with some new friends, whom you will not try to loose at that time.

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It is a no-brainer. No matter how much you like the job, you can't work for free. Payroll must be an employer's top priority, and any irregularities in getting paid is a huge red flag.

The proposed solution may not be unprofessional, but it certainly sounds desperate and unrealistic, which could explain why the company is running out of money.

Before I would consider going back, I would ask for back pay with interest, plus an advance on the first couple weeks of work. If they can't manage that, then their financial situation is probably still tenuous.

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    The op is not suggesting working for free, nor is he complaining about not being paid what he is owed. What is unrealistic about a college student finding a temporary job at web firm? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 8 '12 at 20:55
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    Unrealistic that the employer would expect the OP to find another job and then come back after a relatively short period of time. I realize pay wasn't the main issue, but it could be if the OP decides to stay with the company. – mcknz Nov 8 '12 at 21:40
  • I doubt employer expects there to be a job to come back to in a few months... They can not say that though. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 8 '12 at 22:46
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    The OP seems to think so. – mcknz Nov 8 '12 at 23:33

Pay can come in other forms than cash. If you really believe in the idea, the business plan and the rest of the founding team you can always offer to stay on for a stake in the business. But then you are a partner/founder, not an employee anymore.

That's a tough decision to make though, and one that confounds people a lot more experienced than you. A lot also comes down to what you can afford and how long you can go on without any cash flowing in. And then it comes down to how big of a stake you would want. That depends on a lot of factors like the maturity of the company and most importantly, your expectations.

But like I said, this all hinges on how much you believe in the idea and the people and how confident you are that you can make it a success. And forget everything about friendships and how it's "nice working there" when considering this; this is a decision with immediate and high impact on your personal, financial and professional future so if you don't believe in it and you're not ready to invest 100% of your time and effort for a foreseeable future, then get out. Who knows, maybe they'll be able to turn things around and get more funding and want to hire you back, but deal with that if and when it happens. And unless you're going to commit to becoming a stakeholder, assume that they won't and move on.

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