Many times, people are torn between moving on to greener pastures and remaining loyal to their employer or team. For people who have had pleasant working experiences with their job, it’s often hard to think about leaving friends and co-workers behind and there is a sense of disloyalty that runs through their head. For people who have had rotten experiences, they can’t get out fast enough and often don’t think things through; which results in a lot of burned bridges.  In either case, there is an unspoken etiquette to moving on.  Leaving a job takes planning, believe it or not.

Always be looking for your next opportunity. Whether or not you’re happy, you always need to keep a contingency plan in the back of your mind.  As proven this year by the investment banking implosion, you never know when your time is up.  Even if you were heavily recruited like a first round draft pick, you still need to be cautious.  Keep up with the industry and what’s going on in other businesses you may wish to work with at some point of your career. This intel will come in handy when you decide (or it’s decided for you) that it’s time to go.

Always re-evaluate your worth. Each year, you need to step back and evaluate whether your total compensation is on par with industry standards for your particular role in your geographical area. Sites like and can give you an idea of salary ranges. Also factor in your performance factor. If you are under performing you cannot realistically expect to get a raise.  Compensation is a huge component of changing jobs.  Make sure your reviews bring earned raises and bonuses for your performance.  When you’re seeking your next opportunity, think in terms of base salary because not all companies have the same bonus structures.  That’s something you can discuss when you get into the interview process.  Be realistic and negotiable, but don’t sell yourself short.

Create a plan. Like I mentioned, you can’t just leave.  That’s asking for disaster and it doesn’t look very favorable for you when employers see you are willing to just leave.  If you’ve hung in there as long as you could, and still can’t take it any more or seek more in your career, start with a plan.  Write down your thoughts and desires for your new career or position. Research on the internet and through reading (magazines, journals, newspapers) to get an idea of what appeals to you and what companies you’d like to work with.  Create a time line for when you wish to make your move.  Schedule time for vacation or personal days off, if possible, so you can freely begin to interview and not infringe on your employer’s time.  Create a list of key people you need to connect with or be introduced to that may be able to help you with your strategy.

Get out there and start your ground strategy. Start scheduling some face time (or at least phone time) with some of your network contacts and new acquaintances and have informational sessions.  These should not be full fledged interviews, rather, a chance to get to know their company and industry.  Attend networking events that are inline with your professional goal.  Get to know the key players and start building relationships with them.  After initial meetings, go back home and research them and open a line of communication with them.  Find commonalities and use those as a foundation for building a relationship. The more prepared you are, the better your search should go.

Don’t wait until you’re leaving to tap your network. This is an act I despise most.  It really irks me when people don’t contact me for months, years, decades and then all of a sudden because they need something, they decide to chit chat.  Don’t do that.  It’s rude and selfish.  You’ve heard me say countless times that your network needs to be cultivated and that means building relationships. While I’m not suggesting you email them every week, get into the habit of regular contact.  This could be quarterly, semi-annually or annually.  People like to help or do business with people they know.  And this is especially true when you’re looking for a job.  Don’t take the risk of appearing rude or selfish.  And as always, make sure you give something back in return.

Translate your skills and experience into new areas. Now, as a recruiter, it is my job to find matches based on what the hiring manager needs.  Sometimes these managers are inflexible and have specific requirements of their applicants.  Some times I can talk them into relaxing their requirements and look at comparable skills, but most times I can’t.  That is true for most recruiters.  So it’s up to you to really sell yourself.  Way before you start job hunting, examine your skills and accomplishments.  Read the different postings on various job boards to get an idea of what people are looking for.  Talk to people in different companies and industries who would be considered your counterparts and ask about typical routines and expected accomplishments. Journal your findings and thoughts on your own skills.  Run through scenarios where your skills could translate.  Once you have this down, when you begin interviewing, you can show your true value to potential employers.  Bridge your talents to the job and find the connection.

What will you look back on and be proud of in your career? Keep track of all of your “hits” and document them. Reference them in your resume, but don’t go into deep detail.  Word it in a way that makes the reader interested in learning more. Then in your interview, you can give them full details. Substantiate you hits with written references from supervisors, team mates and/or clients.

Set up a resume for success. Highlight accomplishments and awards. If you write for or own websites or blogs, list them.  Social media is becoming hugely acceptable by recruiters these days.  They want to get a look into your thought process.  Don’t write your resume as a chronological listing of job descriptions.  Anyone can lift verbiage from job ads or descriptions.  Nobody cares about the generic description of what your supposed to do in a job.  They care about what you actually accomplished and how good you were at your job. If you’ve jumped around quite a bit, as in the case of contractors, prepare a functional resume.  Always try to keep your resume at two pages. Anything beyond that is clutter.  As a rule of thumb, go back ten years in detail, and condense the rest.  Always focus on key accomplishments and significant contributions.

Assemble your cheering section and get it in writing. Now is the time to get the people who support and encourage you best to speak on your behalf.  Ask for letters of reference and ask them to honestly give their assessment of you professionally. Do not confuse this with Linked In recommendations.  Those are good if people go to your profile and read them.  But you should have a career portfolio, and part of that portfolio is a section with written recommendations and acknowledgments.  While you’re asking for references, make sure the people you ask are open to you listing them as references.  Be courteous and let them know each time you use them as a reference so they’ll be prepared for phone calls or email.

Sometimes it takes a lot to decide to leave a job.  The bottom line is you have to remain loyal to yourself and make the decisions that are best for your professional success.  There’s a right and a wrong way to do it.  Make sure you always do it the right way.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham