When is It Time to Jump Ship and How Do You Do It?

It’s only human nature to sometimes want to quit your job. You are having a bad day. Your boss is a jerk. Your colleagues are idiots. Your clients are fools. Then you go home, have a shower, a good meal, watch some television, read a book, play with the kids, get a good night’s sleep and, in the morning, the boss appears to be no longer such a jerk, your colleagues are no longer such idiots, and your clients are not all that foolish (except for that one…there’s always one!). There may even be a few people at work that you actually like and respect.

But there are times, we have all had them, when we realize that enough, really is, enough, and it is time for a change. As I have written previously, change is the only constant in the universe. Most people are afraid of change. “Better the devil you know…”​ as the saying goes.

When it comes to employment the adage is, “It is easier to find a job when you have a job.”​ If you don’t like that one, there’s another, “Don’t quit your job until you have a new one.”​ Both say the same thing; both are correct.

So what are the rules for looking for a new job?

First, I have what is called the “Sleep Rule.”​ When I make a difficult decision, if I sleep well that evening, I know it was the right decision for me. So if you can literally “sleep on it,”​ go for it. By the same token, if you are so upset about work that you can’t sleep, it is definitely time for a change. If your job is making you sick, there’s nothing to discuss.

Second, you may not want a new job. If you like your boss, colleagues and clients, perhaps you are just bored. I have had a number of clients with whom I have worked on convincing their bosses to give them new/additional responsibilities. In the end, everyone was happy.

Third, if you really do want a new job/employer, be aware that the more public your job search the less confidentiality you will have. If the boss finds out, they will start looking for your replacement. That is why preparation is so important. You have to have a network of professionals whom you can trust to advocate on your behalf. Most jobs are not advertised so you will only hear about them from private sources. (And, for the record, those jobs are the best jobs!) So it is important to build your network now so you will have it when you need it.

Fourth, if you do not just want to change jobs but professions, make certain you have all the qualifications for a new profession and be prepared to start at the bottom. If you have been in marketing for ten years, and now want to work in cybersecurity, that’s great. But you have to go to school, learn the trade and get the certifications. And then, professionally, all you will have to show that is relevant to your new profession is ten years of customer service experience. You will be competing against persons with actual relevant experience so it is important, when you choose the school (it can be an unaccredited trade school) that you choose based on their record of finding employment for their graduates. A degree in Computer Science from Harvard may be impressive but, if all you have on graduating is a piece of paper, debt and an appointment to apply for Unemployment, maybe a degree from a school on the second floor of a shopping mall, where they can actually get their graduates employment, with little to no debt, is a better option.

In any case, to know what you need for your new profession, just look at job postings. Focus on the qualification. While, usually, all that is important is to have the “required”​ qualifications, since you are starting from scratch, so to speak, you should also pay attention to the “preferred”​ qualifications as well. And, here’s the hard part, keep in mind that the job descriptions of today may not be the job descriptions of tomorrow!

Fifth, regardless of whether it’s a new job or a new profession, do not be emotional. You must be rational. Prepare for the worse case scenario: Your boss finds out and replaces you. So you must have a minimum savings of at least six months to make sure you can pay your bills.

Sixth, when you resign, be nice about it. Not that it really matters what an employer/supervisor puts in your personnel file, but you want to make certain that your letter of resignation leaves the right impression. Thank your employer/supervisor for their support and mention some of the accomplishments you had. Make certain to include in the letter your contact information and a statement that they can reach out to you if they need any help. You should also write, and reference in the letter, a report on any outstanding projects, what needs to be done and how best to do it. That way, the record will be balanced.

Seventh, when you resign, if your employer makes a counteroffer, reject it. Your colleagues will be jealous that you quit and then got a raise/promotion/whatever and they, despite their loyalty, received nothing. You will not be the favorite person in the Lunch Room. The boss won’t trust you and you can forget about any promotions. Nothing good comes from accepting a counteroffer.

So be confident in your decision. Discuss it with people you respect. And, as I said, sleep on it. Your subconscious will tell you what to do!


The 21st Century Job Search

New cover shot for articles

People seem to believe that entering a new century means that there is a new way to do just about everything, or at least there should be. That’s silly. At least as regards conducting an effective job search, the only thing different in this, the second decade of the twenty-first century, from previous centuries, is technology – you can literally find networking events at the push of a button, and apply for hundreds of jobs a week, if you already have a computer and Internet access, virtually for free!

There are two other differences, but I am afraid you will have to read my new book, The 21st Century Job Search, to find out what they are!

I have never been afraid of controversy, nor am I hesitant to admit when I am wrong. Accordingly, in the book I revisit my previous comments on such things as wearing large engagement rings to job interviews, my short-lived position as a career coach at a New York university, and coping with discrimination, topics which raised some eyebrows when I originally wrote about them on LinkedIn.

In the book you will learn:

  • How to prepare for an effective job search;
  • How to research prospective employers;
  • How to handle your Internet presence;
  • How to utilize LinkedIn to build your brand and attract employers;
  • How to effectively network – especially if you are shy;
  • How to prepare for surprises;
  • How to correctly read job descriptions to avoid frustration;
  • What really happens to, and how to write, effective cover letters;
  • What really happens to, and how to write, effective resumes;
  • How to properly prepare for phone, video and in-person interviews;
  • What questions to ask, and how to answers questions you will be asked, in interviews;
  • How to follow-up after an interview;
  • About legal and illegal discrimination; and
  • About negotiating, offer letters, and resigning.

I also tackle the “tough” questions of dealing with a “resume gap,” raising health issues, having been fired, and how to turn having been a stay-at-home parent or caregiver into an attraction for employers.

But I do not simply tell you what to do, when possible, I show you. There is a script, especially for those of you who are shy, for effective networking and follow up. Additionally, you will find sample letters for networking, expressing interest in a company, applying for jobs, thanking interviewers and, my personal favorite, the rejection letter.

While in the book I give particular advice to veterans, college students, “older” candidates, the long-term unemployed, stay-at-home parents, and caregivers about how to effectively cope with the different stages of a job search, the book is for any job seeker regardless of their circumstances.

The official launch date for the book is March 1. You may pre-order the book and receive significant savings through February 28. The paperback edition will only cost you $9.95 (a $10 savings), and the Kindle edition will only be $2.99 (a $6.96 savings; FREE for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.) To make your purchase, click on the links or the book cover.

Why You Should Never Offer or Accept a Counter Proposal

Joe went looking for a job.  He got it.  He comes to your office and resigns.  You beg him to stay.  He accepts.  You made a mistake.  Why?

What are you going to say when an employee comes to you and asks for a raise and, when you turn him down he says, “I’ve been loyal.  Joe quit and you gave him a raise.  What’s different?  Doesn’t loyalty count?”

Award loyalty.  Don’t cause ill-will.  Keep morale high.

The boss begs you to stay.  You accept.  You made a mistake.  Why?

First, your reputation with the new employer is now in the toilet.  She thinks you were playing games.  She’s angry.  She told people, some of whom probably know you, that you were joining her company.  Now what is she going to tell them about you?

Second, forget about a raise or promotion.  Whatever you were paid to stay is all you are going to get.

Third, if layoffs are necessary, you will be the first out the door.

Fourth, your colleagues will resent you.

Fifth, you will be seen by everyone as disloyal.

There is no good reason to offer or accept a counter offer.  Any short-term gain will be eliminated by long-term loss.  Don’t do it!


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  Visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

Who owns your LinkedIn and Outlook contact lists?

I just read an article on Forbes that has gotten me thinking.  Basically, the article reports that a UK court ruled that a company owns the LinkedIn contacts of a former employee who used the contacts to steal clients from the company.   If you read the article, you’ll see that the facts of the case are unclear.   The article discusses the principle, not the facts.  Let’s paint some pictures:

Scenario Number One:

Joe is hired for Business Development at ABC Company.  They tell him to open a LinkedIn account, start networking, find customers.  He does so.  Using the computer the company provided him with, he gets his friends to join his LinkedIn network, as well as vendors, colleagues, and potential customers.  Anyone he meets, talks to or knows is invited to join his network.

Joe quits.  He did not sign a non-compete.  From home he accesses the LinkedIn account and starts marketing to his LinkedIn network, including going after ABC customers.  ABC sues.

Here’s the issue:  Any work you do on a company computer is the company’s property.  In this case, they paid Joe to create his LinkedIn network.  So I can see them saying that it is there property.  Problem is, there was no non-compete.  So the entire issue is meaningless.  OK, so Joe doesn’t send a message through LinkedIn to ABC’s customers.  He sends an e-mail because he would sync his Outlook folder to his cell and has all their contact information literally at his fingertips.  True, the Outlook program belonged to ABC, but the e-mail addresses and, for that matter, phone numbers, are all in the public domain.  So what’s the issue?  How can there be “ownership” of something that is available to everyone?

Scenario Number Two:

Same as above, only there is a non-compete.  Again, ownership over LinkedIn or Outlook contacts is irrelevant.  Joe can’t contact ABC’s customers until the non-compete is no longer in effect.  It doesn’t matter who owns the lists.  If he contacts them, he’s violated the contract and should be sued.  End of story.

Recently, I taught a class on LinkedIn as part of a course I give on Professional Development at a local New York school.  I told my students three things:

First, the best way to find a job is through networking and the best networking tool is LinkedIn.

Second, the beauty of LinkedIn is that you are technically posting a “profile,” not a “resume.”  Your purpose is to build your network, not to get a job.  So, unlike positing a resume on-line on a site like Monster or Hot Jobs, if your boss finds it he or she will not assume you are looking for a new job.  Of course, if you note under your name on LinkedIn that you are “Seeking opportunities in …” that’s a different matter.  But if it’s just your profile, it’s just your profile.

And third, the network you build on LinkedIn is yours.  It’s not like your office Outlook folder which belongs to the company.  That you should not take with you when you leave.  It resides on the company’s computer or server.  LinkedIn resides on the Internet.  The company does not own the Internet.  You control the LinkedIn account.  You have the password.  You created the account.  You agreed to the Terms of Service.  Technically, you “signed” a contract with LinkedIn.  You took all the legal steps.  The company did nothing.  It belongs to you.  It is not a company account.  They did not create it and give you access to it.  You created it and allowed them to benefit from it.

So my conclusion is, LinkedIn is your; Outlook is theirs!  And don’t violate a non-compete…

How to Quit

If you are three and no doubt imitating what you see at home, you might get away with it.  But you’re not three and the way that you quit will be how you will be remembered.  So as much as you would like to act like a three year old, you can’t.

First, you must keep your job search confidential otherwise your employer will start looking for your replacement and if the employer finds the replacement before you secure a new job, you will be unemployed.  Granted, there are rare occasions when an employee can confide in an employer, but they are very rare.

Once you have secured the new job, it all comes down to leaving without burning bridges:

The most asked question concerns how much notice to give.  Acceptable notice is the number of days equal to your annual vacation.  All new employers realize that new employees have to give notice.  They have no problem with that.  No one wants to hire someone who would leave with only a day or two notice.

Write a positive letter of resignation to your immediate supervisor.  Thank her for all she has done for you.  Recollect any successes.  Everything needs to be positive.  Make certain to emphasize that you will be available by phone to provide any assistance and state what you final day will be.

The importance of the letter of resignation is that it will go in your personnel file.  No matter what anyone ever writes about you, the letter will constitute your side of the story, so to speak.  If someone wants to attack you in your absence, your letter will provide the balance.  Basically, let them know what they are losing!

In all likelihood there will be an exit interview.  In an exit interview the key is to be professional and not to criticize.  The HR interviewer is going to be taking notes that the soon-to-be former employee will never see.  Even the slightest criticism can be magnified and taken out of context.  The interviewee is under no obligation to help his or her soon-to-be former employer improve policies and procedures.  Focus on the positive.  Smile.  Be humorous.  Say nothing negative.  Be complimentary and appreciative.  Keep to the high road.  Reminisce about the good times.

That is the best way not to burn bridges on the spot.  However, once you leave, you can (within reason) say whatever you want.  What you do not want to do is to bad-mouth a former employer around the new/present employer because he or she will know you will do it to them.  So, if you must, vent to friends and relatives not to colleagues and associates.  And make certain that your friends and relatives will not repeat what you said.  So, in the end, it may be better to say nothing to anyone.  It comes down to this:  It’s over.  Move on!

Then there is the issue of work finished and yet to be finished.  Work areas must be clean and well-organized.  Most importantly, files have to be filed logically.  Someone has to know where everything is.  Leave a phone number with colleagues (they won’t see the letter of resignation) so that if any problem arises, if there are any questions (and there will be), they can contact you.  You never want to be accused of sabotage.  Explain in detail to whomever is chosen to finish on-going or uncompleted projects what you have done and what needs to be done.  Leave a written report explaining everything.  It makes life easy for those following you, shows you are a team player, and makes it very difficult for the old employer to bad-mouth you – since you will have a copy of the report and the (old) boss will know it!  Burning bridges is a two-way street; the employer can burn them with the employee as well!  Don’t give him, or her, ammunition.

The worst example I can give of someone leaving a job was a past associate who left his desk in a shambles.  He took files with him.  We could not find anything and he rarely returned our calls – and never during regular office hours.   Another individual left, seemingly, the right way.  He offered to finish a project.  The boss agreed and granted him remote access to our computer system.  One afternoon, despite the fact that he had to have known that we were all in the office, he logged on to the system and went into files not related to his work.  He destroyed his reputation in a few mouse clicks.   Learn from their mistakes!

When to Quit

Whenever I receive a resume the first thing I look at is tenure.  How long did the candidate stay at each of his or her jobs?  Jumpers, persons who leave after a relatively short period, are usually rejected.  I say “usually” because sometimes in the cover letter or on the resume itself the candidate explains constant departures.

It’s funny.  Some people think “I was recruited out” is a good thing.  It isn’t.  It means you don’t want to keep a job and will leave anytime you get a better offer.  “My spouse relocated” is a much better explanation – but only if you can honestly say that your spouse is contractually obligated to keep  his or her present job for an extended period.

We all make mistakes.  Most people who have worked for an extended period have a few short term employments on their resumes.  I have two.  But I also have a few six year stays.

Based on experience I will predict that anyone who has had one employer for 20 years or more will not last a year with his or her next employer.  They only know how to do things one way and the change is difficult.  They will, however, do quite well with employer number three!

If you have been at a job for an extended period, at least three years, there is nothing wrong with considering a move.  But what happens if you accept a new job and then realize, after a few weeks, that you have made a mistake?

My advice is to seek employment elsewhere.  I do not believe that it will be held against you if you say on an interview, “This was a mistake.  I learned from it.  Even though I did my homework, I just could not have anticipated the culture.  I’m more ‘old-school.’  I know this will not work out for me and I don’t believe in dragging things out.  It’s not fair to the employer, it’s not fair to my family, it’s not fair to me.”

If it happens once, that’s my advice.  If it happens twice, especially one after the other, then you will have a serious problem and it might be better to grin and bear it.