I have to admit, I did not know what a non-compete agreement was when I first started working after I graduated from college. I only learned of it because I was asked to sign one. I expect many other new and emerging professionals may find themselves in the same boat. Not only are many people unfamiliar with what these are, but they lack access to an attorney who can translate the information for them.
A non-compete agreement is basically a written document drawn up by an employer for an employee to sign. It’s purpose is to protect the employer. It is meant to prevent an employee from acting as a competitor. A good example would be a personal trainer who could get leads and generate clients while working at a health club, and then starts training them out of their home. It’s not just personal trainers who are asked to sign these. Health and wellness instructors, athletic trainers, and even clinicians may find themselves in a position where an employer asks them to sign an agreement like this.
I recommend getting legal help before signing a non-compete agreement. It may be the best money you have ever spent. I know people who have locked themselves into an agreement which, at the time, seemed like it was the right fit. Or worse yet, signed it without understanding the consequences of the agreement.
If you do consider signing a non-compete agreement, take these things into account:
- Make sure that it has a time limit. You don’t want to be limited professionally for an extended period of time. There are non-compete agreements that have left some professionals to have to leave their career altogether and seek employment in a completely different field.
- Make sure it has reasonable expectations. I have read some that don’t allow an employee to work at a job in their field, within 100 miles (literally), for the two years after leaving an employer.
- Make sure that it does not prevent you from making a living. Everyone needs to be able to work, preferably within their field of education and training.
- Get something back from the employer, if you do decide to sign it. They are asking you for good faith and I think it’s reasonable to ask them of some as well. It should provide you with good pay, a work schedule that works for you, and maybe even a signing bonus for entering into the contract. My favorite thing to ask for is help with continuing education. It gets expensive!
- If, for any reason you are unsure about the terms – don’t sign it. Circumstances change and you need to be able to change with them. If you are locked into something, it can turn out to limit you professionally.