I was recently at a job interview where I was informed that, if hired, I would have to sign a non-compete clause stating effectively that, if I were ever to leave my position at the company, I would be barred from taking up employment in that profession again for two years. To me, this seems extremely perverse. I invested a great deal of time and money and effort into educating myself in building a career in this particular domain, and I do not have the skills to support my family to a similar extent in any other career (the NCC is rather broad, if unambiguous, about which fields I may not enter). Is it ethical for a company to offer to end my unemployment while at the same time effectively threatening me with two years of un- or underemployment should I ever quit or be fired? This seems like an abuse of my vulnerability as a job seeker, at the very least.

I share your view that such a clause is at best very shoddy. Not being a lawyer, I wonder if the clause is even enforceable; you might ask someone who'd know. It might be unconscionable (a term I wish lawyers applied to more things than they do!) and hence unenforceable, or it might be unenforceable because too difficult in practice for a court to enforce (say, by issuing an injunction forbidding you from accepting a new job!). This may be advice of little value to a desperate job-seeker, but I'd steer clear of firms whose offers come burdened by such clauses.