If I was going to leave a job within three months of accepting it, I needed a damn good reason.
What I had was a better offer from another employer.
But was that enough to break my commitment and upset my new company?
Why you might consider leaving a job quickly
Between 10 and 25 percent of employees leave their jobs within the first six months, according to a 2017 survey performed by Korn Ferry.
Everyone has their reasons.
You might have accepted the first offer because it seemed better on the surface, or because you desperately needed income to cover something like student loan payments. Now you might be trying to leave because of one or more of these facts:
- The job or the company wasn’t what you were promised during the interview process.
- The job requires significant training, and the company isn’t equipped to provide it.
- The company’s workplace culture makes you miserable.
- The company can’t possibly match a surprise offer from another employer.
My situation was more nuanced. The better offer on the table wasn’t better because of the salary. I was actually considering a steep pay-cut.
No, the offer was preferable, in part, because it offered something my current employer couldn’t: the ability to work remotely.
The timing of an unpopular move
Most of the dozen human resource managers, career coaches, and recruiters I interviewed over email for this story weren’t on my side. They said my situation was avoidable, that by jumping from a job so quickly I risked burning bridges and tarnishing reputations.
After all, leaving put my employer in a bad spot. They had already sent rejection letters to other candidates, invested time in onboarding me, and even paid me while I was away for a two-week vacation.
My timing was awful.
To lessen the collateral damage, I would have been better off leaving within one month, said career consultant Tiffani Murray.
“At 60 days or 90 days, this is definitely a different story, and leaving on the closer side of 90 to 180 days might leave you with a poor reputation,” Murray said. “They may feel you continued to look [for jobs] after you accepted the role.”
How to make a graceful exit
There are plenty of ways to quit a job on friendly terms.
In my case, there was some explaining to do. I spent hours preparing what I’d say to my manager. Delivering the message in person was a must.
During a scheduled check-in, I didn’t just walk my manager through the decision. I gave her a (true) story to share with other managers and executives who would be disappointed by my departure.
“Be brutally honest, yet polite, about why the other offer is more attractive to you,” Murray said or her advice for others in a similar situation. “Let them know if it is the title, role, scope of responsibility, decrease or increase in travel, salary, incentives, commute, or a combination of benefits and other decision points.”
Also, be prepared for your company to try to keep you. When I told mine, for example, that I valued working from home for family reasons, my manager’s manager pulled me aside. You can work from anywhere you want, he said. Not liking the idea of being the one remote employee at a large company with a physical office, I didn’t budge.
Of course, I also expressed my regret for the timing and my gratitude for the opportunity. Instead of giving the traditional two week’s notice, I yielded the power to pick my last day. It was the absolute least I could do.
3 ways to avoid leaving a new job for a better offer
Having long stints on your resume is a nice plus. It shows your level of commitment.
But staying in one place for years isn’t an option for everyone. In fact, 25 percent of millennials surveyed by Deloitte in 2016 said they expected to move to a new job within 12 months.
Leaving as quickly as I did, however, could be avoided. You don’t want to create the impression that you’re not a committed person, and you don’t want to leave wreckage in your wake.
1. Sync up your job interviews and be transparent about them
When looking for employment, applying and interviewing for multiple jobs simultaneously is ideal. This puts you in a better position to make informed comparisons between offers.
Be prepared for some companies’ hiring processes to move slower. That’s partly why I ended up in the position I did.
Also, your interviewers might ask if you’re applying for other jobs. They’re trying to read your urgency. Saying yes (if that’s the case) tells them that they might need to act faster to bring you on board.
2. Alert your first-choice company before accepting a job elsewhere
You’ll want to avoid the perception that you’re leveraging one offer for another, but try to remain open and honest during the process.
Nancy Noto, former director of people at Mic, said that if your preferred company is slower to make an offer, tell them about the less desirable offer you have on the table.
“Typically if the company is serious about the candidate, they will speed up their internal processes,” she said.
If they don’t, you’ll have your answer about where you’re truly wanted.
3. Thoroughly vet a company before accepting
Treat your next series of job interviews as if you’re the interviewer. Ace the hiring manager’s questions, sure, but carve out as much time as possible to ask your own. Learn about the company’s workplace dynamic, people, and internal struggles.
The last two times I received job offers, for example, I leveraged those offers into more time to research the companies. I requested to speak with a current employee over the phone and looked up employee reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed. You might also consider spending a day shadowing colleagues in the office to get a better sense of how you’d fit.
When leaving a job quickly is unavoidable
If your situation is unavoidable, you can do as I did and cut the cord on a new job, risking the fallout. But you might also consider a less damaging workaround.
“Ask your future employer to give you some more time,” said Peter Yang, co-founder of ResumeGo. “Tell them about your situation and that you’d like to stay with your current company for a couple [of] extra months to avoid any negative feelings or backlash.”
It’s not a perfect solution, but let’s face it: There’s no perfect solution for this predicament. Being transparent with your current and prospective companies can stop you from blindsiding them. Just make sure you protect your interests in the process and end up at the job that’s best for your situation.
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