Honoring a verbal commitment

Q: I have been with my current company for seven years.  I was
recently promoted to a sales rep for a region.  I have been in this role
for six months.  The first three months, my company provided extensive
sales and account management training to me.  I was told that the
training cost the company thousands of dollars.  I am finally
functioning pretty independently.  When I accepted this position, I gave
my word that I would stay in this position for one year at least. 
However, there is a competitor who has tried to get me interested in a
new role within their company.  I am flattered but I am torn.  How would
you handle this?

A: Careers are full of twists and turns.  Good for you for remaining
employed with your current company for seven years.  It sounds your
company values your hard work and has rewarded you with a recent
promotion.  Additionally, your company has made an investment in your
professional development by providing extensive training.

When a competitor comes knocking, it is indeed flattering.  There is
no harm in talking to the competitor.  You may learn some new
information that could be useful to you in your current role.  It is
always helpful to have a contact elsewhere so if your role or career
becomes uncertain, you have options.  However, your situation is a bit
different.  You have been with your current company for seven years. 
You were recently promoted and you gave your word that you would remain
the current position for one year.  Your word is important.  Your
current employer also invested quite a bit of time and money into
developing your sales and account management skills.  I, personally,
would have a hard time, ethically accepting another role within the
one-year time frame.   Again, it can’t hurt to talk to the other company
but I would think seriously about making a job change after you had
given a one-year commitment to your current role.  I know you did not
sign a document , but your word and your reputation are both important.

If you do talk with your competitor, I would be gracious and thank
them for approaching you.  At some point in your career, the contact at
this competitor may be a valuable contact for you.  I would explain that
the timing is not ideal though.  Hopefully they will understand your
dilemma and respect your decision and your integrity.

Finally, you know your current company.  You know the internal
workings, the culture, the customer base, the sales process and the
product or service.  There would likely be a learning curve if you
joined the new company.  There may be surprises with a new role in a new
company.  Keep the connection and remain in contact with this
competitor.   The world is an uncertain place and it helps to have
well-placed connections.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.