How Not to Refer to Your Past Employer | 120 Seconds to Better Leadership

Filming today from Chicago, I’m helping a new freshly minted VP assimilate into her new role. And so far, her instincts are really good which is great to see. One of the things we were chatting about today is the importance of not associating with your past employer too much. So, she was a consultant at McKinsey and so one of the things we were talking about was being careful not to come into a new organization and say, “Well when I was at McKinsey we…” fill in the blank. There’s a couple of reasons for this.

Don’t Make Yourself an Outsider

 One, if you keep referring to yourself as a ‘we’ with your former employer you’re going to seem like an outsider a lot longer than if you start using the term ‘we’ to describe you and your new peers. You’ll gain that social acceptance much more quickly.

Be Careful About Insulting Your Current Employer

And also, almost never happens that people say, “Well when I was at McKinsey we…,” and then said something that they did that maybe wasn’t as good as their current employer. It’s usually we did it this way and that was better. That’s almost always how people use that expression so, “When we were at McKinsey we had much more streamlined processes than you have here.” 

It’s almost always used as an insult. It probably doesn’t feel like you’re being insulting but that’s how people take it, and it really drives people nuts.

Avoid that phrase. You can certainly refer to your past career. You definitely want people to know what you’ve done, but don’t use that expression doing it.