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Does The Company You Work for Typecast Your Future Job?

Dear Stephen,

Can I be typecast from getting hired by a better company in the future because of the company I work for today? What I mean by that is if I work for a company like #HON, #Senator, or #AIS; you know what I mean, basically a dealer oriented open line; will I be forever cast as someone who may not be a match for a more elite product like #MillerKnoll, #Haworth, or #Steelcase?

I have a friend who works for an open line company now and they want to change jobs to one of the majors. They seem to be having difficulty getting past the first interview and they’re blaming it on the fact that they come from a mid-to-lower price brand, albeit a great company. I think of #Friant, Senator… you know, these are good companies but they’re not being beckoned by the #Gensler’s of the world.

What do you see in the marketplace? Can a candidate be stereotyped or typecast as someone who can’t sell a more expensive A&D tailored product? Does someone have to worry that there may be a stigma to the brand that they’re currently selling? And how it will affect their future career opportunities?

I might take it a step further and ask if the reverse applies – say you work for a company like Haworth, Steelcase or MillerKnoll, do people get stereotypes when they work for these big fancy companies and make it so the next employer might think they might miss the trappings that come from selling one of the major lines? i.e., the private jet, fancy tours of headquarters, going to #Salone, you get the idea.

Anyways, you’re the pro here, which is why I’m asking you, Stephen, is there any truth to this? Why is my friend having such a hard time switching companies?


Typecast by What We Sell


Dear Typecast,

I think this scenario that you’re describing about one company being prejudiced against another’s brand is outdated. I’m not going to say that years ago it didn’t happen that a big company like Steelcase might look down on a different brand. But that is unheard of today.

In fact, today, smart Steelcase regional VPs are hiring a lot of great people from every other manufacturer big and small, especially the smaller open-line ones. By the way – at the top of your letter you said, “better company,” let me be clear, there is no such thing. All companies are good companies, and have their unique pros and cons. My answer to your question in short is that no smart manufacturer cares about the name of your previous employer; they only care about your professional reputation and experience.

As far as the “friend” you’re describing and their having a hard time making a transition from an open line to a major manufacturer – chances are it’s just them. Maybe they’re unaware of their own professional reputation, or they don’t have great existing relationships… or they’re just a terrible candidate with a big ego. They wouldn’t be the first.

Today I see many mid-priced-brand salespeople from #OFS to AIS and beyond being scooped up by all the major manufacturers. It’s a compliment to how these brands have hired and trained their salespeople. So, to be frank I’m just not sure where your friend is coming from. Typecasting and stereotyping is not a thing today, all that matters to employers is “Can you get the job done?”

Bottom line is, if you’re a good candidate and have great existing relationships that you can bring to your new employer, anybody and everybody is going to want you. It is my opinion that when it comes to hiring in the interior products industry there is no “typecasting” or snobbery in regard to previous employment and what brand you used to work for, anymore. Your friend may need a reality check on their own reputation. As for the rest of you, you should learn from this week’s column that getting your next best job is up to you! Not your current employer. Good luck!