One of the more important things you learn as you move up the career ladder is that it has all kinds of crazy switchbacks putting you back in contact with the people you used to work with. This is particularly true when you stay in the same industry, but it happens for all of us no matter where we move in our job path. Think of all the “old friends” you have on Facebook and you’ll see what I mean. Who knew you’d be in contact again?
Burning Bridges Usually Is A Bad Idea
It’s very tempting to tell an annoying co-worker or aggravating boss exactly what you think of them when you hand in your resignation. After all, you are quitting so you don’t have to live with the consequences, right?
These are the people who give you references, and who will be talking about you in the months ahead. Nowadays that gossip goes online in moments and is there for a potential employer to find. We all have to work on reputation management, when you think about it. So what should you do instead when you have been looking for another job and finally can move out of your old one?
Leave Your Connections Intact
You can’t make everybody like you, but you can be responsible and professional up to the end of the job. Many ask how much notice should be given when leaving a job. The standard two weeks notice is probably the best idea. One young professional had been looking for a new position with her manager’s encouragement since attempts to move up in the company continually fizzled. When offered a position in a new field, she was asked if she could start right away. This is how she told the story:
I knew that my manager would be okay with the idea of me leaving right away, but it would be leaving them in the lurch as they tried to fill my position. I told my new boss that I really thought I should give them at least two weeks notice and asked if he was okay with that. He said that he would get back to me.
When he spoke to me again, he said that the more he thought about it, the more he liked that I respected my previous employer’s need for the full two weeks and that he would hope his employees offer him the same respect. So I start in two weeks.
This young woman has the right idea. Her last two weeks at her old job will be good ones, and she hasn’t burned any bridges if someday she wants to come back.
Today’s reality is that a large part of the population are looking for jobs— not just “a job” but also jobs that have better benefits, jobs that pay more, or jobs that have a chance for advancement. As a recent article pointed out, a lot of job-hunting even happens ON the job! That means that there’s a lot of potential for making some common job search mistakes:
- If you are currently employed, do your job well. You want to keep in mind that your boss and co-workers are the people who will be contacted by potential employers for references, so as much as you can, make those references positive.
- If you are currently employed, don’t waste your employer’s time or resources. You are not being paid to hunt for another job, you are being paid to do your current job! Use your breaks — and your own equipment — to do any job searching. Not only is using your work computer kind of rude, it also is kind of dangerous because your employer owns the history and any files on that machine. (By the way, where is your resume stored? I hope not only on your work computer!) If you need to use the company fax or printer, get permission and don’t abuse the privilege.
- If you are currently employed but hoping to change, be tactfully honest about your goals. The impression you want to give is, “I want to keep up with the trends in my field” not, “this job stinks so I’m bailing.” Keeping your resume updated, continuing pertinent training, and networking maintenance are common sense ways to accomplish this. There are good reasons why you should always be hunting for a new job. But there are equally good reasons that job hunt should be one that doesn’t jeopardize your current position.
Getting married means adjustments in your life. Often, there is a new address; always, there are attitude shifts. A new job has many of the same challenges as a new marriage, and sometimes both appear in your life at the same time! The challenge of training, learning to live or work with new people, and adapting to a new schedule at home and the job can be intimidating. Here are some tips to make it work:
- Give yourself permission to mess up. It’s like someone gave you a beautiful, shiny new trumpet and now you have to learn how to play it. The first few attempts for every trumpet player sound pretty bad! Any trumpet player will tell you that there’s a lot of practice and a lot of mistakes involved with learning to make music. Marriages and new jobs are the same way — nobody does it perfectly the first few times they do it, no matter what ‘it’ is.
- Look at the big picture. Every hour is part of a day, every day is part of a week, every week is part of a year, and every year is part of a life. The bigger your perspective on your marriage or your new job is, the less stress you will feel about smaller parts of it and the easier it will be to see how those smaller parts fit.
- Prioritize. It isn’t possible to have every important thing be the most important thing; there will be times you have to choose. A schedule helps a lot here, so the priority can change if you are at work or at home. Expect to mess up here, too, because it takes a while to figure out what works for your new family or job.
- Don’t take on any new challenges for a while. Now is not the time to learn a new language. You are already learning a new life and/or a new job, so your energy is limited.
- Realize that “this, too, shall pass.” Do you remember how completely intimidating starting at a new school was? How about learning how to drive? You are at the beginning of a steep learning curve, but it will get better every day.
Some of the same characteristics that help you with a new job help you with a new marriage. These “trainability factors” really apply to just about every area of life I can think of. So if you are at the beginning of a kind of scary new phase of life, relax. It will be worth it!
Finding a new job is scary. And deciding to find a new job when you have secured employment is even scarier. If you are currently contemplating changing your current job and finding a new one, here are some assessment questions to see if making this change is the right decision for you.
- Are you making enough money at your current job to support yourself (and your family)? If you struggle every month to pay the most important bills then changing jobs is something you should greatly consider.
- Are you making enough money to live with some luxury? If you live comfortably and even have some basic luxuries then changing jobs may not be important at this time.
- Is the room for advancement in the business you work for? If there is no chance that you will be promoted or get higher pay the longer and more dedicated you work then this job may not be the best place for you and you should change jobs.
- Can you make a career from your current job? If you can have a lifelong career at the place you work then staying there is a good option.
- (This is the most important of all the questions) Are you happy at your workplace? Yes, work is hard and often not fun, but having a job that makes happy and content overall is a much better choice then a job that makes you miserable every single day.
You need to ask these questions to yourself and talk about them with your spouse or significant other. This decision will affect them as well and you need to ensure that they are a part of the decision making. Once you have made the decision to stay in your current job or change jobs be confident in the decision and feel good about the decision you have made. If you feel good about it, then you will never have regrets about it.
Are you daydreaming of pina coladas on a sandy white beach, but know you will never get there? Are you watching your friends take vacation and wonder when you get to? Do you have weeks of vacation days saved up but haven’t taken any? Whether you are a self-proclaimed work-aholic or feel guilty about taking time off, DON’T!
Many employers think the fear of taking a vacation is unfounded. “People need vacations” says Mark Needham of Jones, Jones & Associates, a PR firm in the Midwest. “There are certain people who just won’t take vacations and I tell them they need to for their own sanity. The only time you shouldn’t is the first 100 days of a new job. They are crucial in terms of establishing yourself within the company and getting in sync with your coworkers” he says. “You can’t gain momentum if you are not there”.
The should-I or shouldn’t-I answers lie in your own heart. If you know you consistently pull your weight and handle a great deal of responsibility, then go. “However, if you are in the bottom 20% of performers, you are at risk any time you take a vacation” says Mr. Needham. Still, he says, few people get fired for taking a few days of which they are entitled to by company policy. “If you’re going to get fired, you’re going to get fired, so you might as well take your days off and enjoy yourself“.
Hmmm. OK then, I am booking my flight to sunny paradise right now…