Excerpt from The Discreet Guide for Executive Women
Even though you’ve just started in your new company, let’s spend a couple of minutes thinking about how to leave and how to avoid some potential pitfalls. If you do think about leaving (and what new employee doesn’t during the first year, especially after she’s just gotten her first dose of office politics?), don’t act rashly. You don’t want to make the mistake of leaving for a worse situation. If you did a good job selecting your first company, you’ve invested considerable research and energy in that decision. Don’t walk away from that without a good reason. A decent tenure (two years is ideal) in your first position out of school will look good on your resumé for the rest of your career. Too often, I see young employees’ pride causes them to act self-destructively for the long term by leaving a position too soon.
Nonetheless, if you do begin seriously thinking about leaving, and even tacitly looking for another position, here are some ideas to keep in mind. Don’t tell your current company you’re thinking of leaving. After all, you may change your mind depending on what you find. And your manager can’t do much with that information except watch you and worry, or start moving responsibilities away from you in anticipation of your departure.
Don’t use your potential departure as a threat, as in, “If you don’t give me more money, I’m quitting.” What if your managers don’t give you any more money, but you can’t find a position you like better? Then you just look weak, and you’ve lost whatever negotiating power such a threat offered, if any. If you want more money, ask for more money. If you want a higher-level position, ask for it. If they think you’re worth it, they’ll get you what you want, or show their interest in keeping you in some way. If they don’t, they know what they risk—you don’t have to rub it in.
When you’re in a junior position, don’t leave until you have a new position lined up. It’s a major drawback to be looking for work when you’re unemployed. I understand it’s difficult to stay focused on your current job and keep your job search a secret, but remember, there’s no crime in looking, and you may decide to stay where you are. Sometimes merely looking helps you recognize some benefits to your current position compared with the rest of the marketplace.
Keep this in mind for the future, when you discover one of your employees is looking around a bit. It’s not a crisis, and probably he or she should get a taste of the market from time to time. They might end up staying right where they are, so you shouldn’t take it as a personal affront.
Do talk to all the recruiters who call you. Even if they have a position you wouldn’t take if hell froze over, you may know someone who would be a good candidate, and you want to make a favorable impression in hopes that they’ll put a positive note about you in their database. Relationships with recruiters can be incredibly valuable, not only for finding work, but for giving career advice and explaining hiring trends, salary surveys, the current employment market, and how you fit in. Some recruiters have known me for twenty years and have essentially watched me grow up. Their intelligent observations and objective feedback have helped my career enormously. Plus, they have fabulous networks and often know what’s going on all over town.
If you do leave, do so in as upbeat a way as you can. Emphasize the positive aspects of where you’re going, not the negatives of the company you’re leaving. In particular, don’t badmouth your current company to employees who are staying behind. How’s that supposed to make them feel? Say goodbye and thank you to your managers. Leave your work in order, or if possible, do a good job training your replacement so that he or she doesn’t struggle after you’ve left. You don’t want to burn bridges with the company or your colleagues. The business world is surprisingly small, and your great reputation should trail behind you and precede you when you’re on the move.