Read the contract

The process to get a job today is straight forward. You start by browsing job boards and look for the perfect fit. You find a nice company that is looking for those exact skills you have and some trivial ones no one has (5 years experience with chipmunk.js). You write a cover letter catered to this specific company, you attach your resume and send it. Hopefully your application ends up in the hand of someone in human resources and you get a call.

The mindset you are in will determine the outcome of the interview. If you are desperate for a job, things can be very difficult. Desperation only breeds pity. If you were given a job because someone feels pity for you, the chances of the company taking advantage of you are very high. By taken advantage of I mean getting a pay lower then what the market offers, working longer hours, doing favors without pay, and of course you will be the one bringing coffee.

The interview can go well. You like the company and you would like to be employed here. Your interviewers like you too and give you the thumbs up for hire. Then comes the thing we all ignore and just do whatever it is asked of us.

You are given a contract, you make sure the salary matches what was agreed upon and you sign. Nobody likes to read a contract. When you put on your glasses and start reading the contract you are given the look.

The look

The look

I have to admit, I have never taken the time to read all the contract before accepting a job. When an interview goes well for me, it feels the same as when I make knew friends. I trust them. I take the contract, look for where to sign, make my mark and sign the date.

The first days at a job is always confusing with excitement and realization. The fairy tale starts to fades away after a few days and I realize that this is the place where I will be possibly spending 75% of my awake hours. Reality settles in. That's when I go back to the contract I signed to give it a second glance. This is not an exaggeration: contracts are written by trolls that feed from the damp foul matter that was disposed by an animal that only eats its prey after the cadaver has rotten for a few years.

The few people that I had heard talking about the wonderful contract their company offered them are either lying, or trying to infuse hope into me. The company always looks out for itself first. It makes sure there is nothing you can do to hurt it. You basically becomes it's property, therefore everything you create is also its property. It basically has the upper hand.

Because with your contract you are also given some legal documents required by the government to complete and sign, the assumption is that your work contract is of the same importance. It is not. You are under no obligation to agree with it or sign it.

No, not signing it does not mean you are not getting the job. Not signing it means you do not agree. This is not like software EULA. You can negotiate.

The look

By reading this clause, you agree to send me your all your user names and passwords in CSV format.

Your work contract is negotiable. Most people will ignore this because they just want to get the job. It's fine, but at least you should know what right you are giving up. A contract is something to take home and read over. In some cases, you might even need a lawyer. If your employer is pressuring you to sign it right away, it is ever more reason for you to be suspicious.

Imagine working in a company as a developer. Like most developers you probably have some side projects. Imagine waking up one day and seeing that all the efforts you put in your side gig finally paid off and you can quit your job and focus solely on it. Now that project you worked on, you got the idea while you were in the office. It wasn't a busy day so you used the spare time to research it and make the basic prototype. So technically you created your project on company property and your contract stipulates that everything you create on company property and time is property of said company. You ignore it and your idea becomes bigger and gets more traction. Your now ex-employer finds out, sues you and you lose everything.

If you hadn't succumbed to that stupid little look the HR guy gave you, you could have read this line in your contract and asked for it to be removed.

There is no shame in getting screwed over. But better be safe then sorry. Read the contract and negotiate.


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