In most cases, deciding that you want to change jobs is the easiest part of the departure process. Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in just this past September alone, some 3.5 million people voluntarily left their companies. But how many of those people are properly prepared for their exit? How many of those people got sued by their former company? How many were almost immediately let go by their new company because of their wrongful pre-departure behavior? How many ended up not succeeding at the new company because of the turmoil caused by the transition? How many should not have left? It certainly wasn’t all 3.5 million, but it was enough to keep this writer and several other lawyers occupied full time.
Here is the best piece of “legal” advice you will ever get if you are someone thinking about leaving his or her job to work at a direct competitor: Stop. Don’t leave. (Yet.)
You’re probably feeling like I’m not being very helpful, right? Sorry, but the very first thing you need to do once you decide to possibly go work for a competing company is rethink that decision! What did you do to test your choice? Did you speak to a co-worker about it? Don’t. How about running it up the flagpole with your supervisor, who was the maid of honor in your wedding? Don’t. Maybe you spoke to a client or two, or a subordinate, to see what they thought? Ready? Don’t.
Properly testing the ability to leave your job and join a competing company, unfortunately, is a very “internal” or private exercise. In almost every state, and in almost every instance, involving others in the job transitioning process is at best disfavored and oftentimes outright illegal.
Break down wanting to go into a number of discreet exercises or analyses.
1. Why are you leaving?
Is it because you were overlooked for a bonus or a new position? Okay, those things actually happened, but did they occur for good reasons? Is the place you are going to much more entrepreneurial? Really? Do you actually know, generally, what that means, let alone as regards a company in which you’ve never worked? At the outset of the decision making effort, please don’t lie to yourself. If you failed to hit your targets, or the person who got the promotion instead of you deserved it, then tell yourself so. Assume Next Company’s culture is going to be pretty much like what goes on in your current spot. Thinking in such ways doesn’t mean that you’ll not ultimately quit; however, it’s impossible to accurately measure whether you should leave if all the rest of the analysis rests on a faulty foundation.
2. What are you looking for instead?
Be honest about what you’re looking for both as regards what you’ll leave behind and what you think will exist in Next Company. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard things like, “I’m leaving because I need a new challenge,” or “I just need a change of scenery,” or “The company I’m talking to just seems so much more progressive.” In the words of Colonel Potter from the iconic TV series “Mash,” “Horse Hockey!” At least 90 percent-plus of the people I’ve represented are leaving for money. If you fall in that category, own it! Wanting to be better compensated is a perfectly acceptable reason for changing jobs. That being said, in my experience, if that is the only reason for switching, the move is not typically successful. The point, again, is to be honest about all the things that are leading you to look elsewhere for work.
3. What are your plans for success?
At least for now, why do you think you’ll succeed at Next Company? If you’re a salesperson who relies on customer generated revenue, what makes you think that you can replicate your success at Next Company? (And I know you’re successful because, otherwise, Next Company wouldn’t want you!) If you’re a manager or an executive, how may of your subordinates will follow you to Next Company? Perhaps better put, how many need to follow you in order for you to do well in your next (possible) job? Importantly, just like the other parts of the analysis, it’s only you that can work through such questions. In pretty much every state in which I’ve handled recruiting matters, it’s absolutely illegal to ask clients or subordinates about whether they’d consider joining you in the new company.
Here’s a test I tell people to use: when you move, how many folks will follow just because they know where you are? How many of your clients or direct reports will need a bit of a nudge to make that choice? How many will you have to actually pitch in order to get them to switch? If you honestly believe that you need a lot of people from question two, or anyone from question three, then, in most instances, it’s not the right time for you to make the move.
As I told you, the best advice I can give you now that the decision to move is made: Stop!
**Originally published at CareerBright