Giving Notice

8 July 2019

You have a new job and must give notice.  Now what? 

You have received a job offer.  Congratulations!  

Now the hard part:  letting your current employer know that you will be leaving.  This can be a daunting experience if you are not prepared and can create a degree of anxiety and perhaps even cause you to take the wrong step if you let yourself be swayed by your current employer’s sudden enthusiasm for and interest in you and your career.

There are a few things to keep in mind.

1.     Focus on the new opportunity rather than past experiences.  There are probably several reasons that you decided to leave your current job:  lack of meaningful career progression; demands on your time that have become overwhelming (to see our most recent blog on this subject, click here); few foreseeable avenues for promotion; or compensation that does not measure up to that of your contemporaries.  Whatever the reason(s), the time has come to leave the past behind and to focus on building a brighter future for yourself.  This may seem obvious, but we know people who still grumble about something that happened to them at a previous employer twenty years ago!  There comes a time to let things go and, for them, that time has long since passed.  Do not let this happen to you.  It is easy to dwell on past events, but that does you no good in the long run.  Let past frustrations become a brick in the wall of your overall life experience; use previous disappointments to increase your determination to move forward.  Never stop reflecting constructively so that you can learn, grow and move on.

2.    Keep the experience positive.  You may hate your current job and would likely never have a positive thing to say about your colleagues and experience there, but we advise you to keep all such opinions to yourself.  Sharing negative comments with others will most assuredly return to haunt you.  As tempting as it may be to fantasize about telling everyone on your way out the door exactly what you think of them, you would be better served by remaining silent.  When the time comes to announce that you are leaving, keep things as positive as you possibly can.  You want to avoid saying anything bad about anyone, but you certainly need not paint an artificially rosy picture of your time there.  You might start the discussion by noting that you have learned a lot and are grateful for the learning experience, but that the time has come to move on.  Avoid getting into ad hominem criticisms.  By no means should you ever burn your bridges because, quite frankly, you never know what tomorrow may bring.  In a small market like Brussels, it behooves you to stay on the best possible terms with everyone, especially with your soon-to-be former employer and those who remain behind there.

3.    Do not allow yourself to second-guess your decision to leave.  It is a fact that having associates leave is seldom convenient for law firms; it is costly to replace you in terms of time, money and inconvenience.  You may be in the middle of a big project, for example, and the firm does not want the bother and distraction of getting a new associate “up to speed”.  The firm may do whatever is necessary to keep you on board (e.g., “We have big plans for you!”, dangling the promise of a great promotion).  But make no mistake:  even if you do stay, you now have a “target” on your back.  You will likely be seen as untrustworthy, disloyal and, in essence and when the time is right for the firm, expendable; you may see your career progression slow to a crawl or, worse, you may be the first to be let go at some future point – when it is convenient for the firm.

4.    Do not be dissuaded by offers to change the terms of your employment.  Another ploy sometimes used is to match the compensation on offer.  Do not fall for it!  If your “market value” is X (as determined by, for example, the new offer), but you have been receiving two-thirds of that amount, your current employer has either not appreciated your worth or has been taking unfair advantage of you.  As a practical matter, ask yourself why it took giving notice for the firm suddenly to recognize your worth?  Do not permit your current employer to negotiate your future.  Always keep in mind that the firm will think in terms of its own best interests, so by all means do not lose sight of your own best interests!

5.    Do not fall into the trap of your own anxieties.  Receiving an offer for a new job can be very affirming; however, it is also very easy to be overcome by a sense of anxiety once the adrenaline subsides.  You may wonder how long it will take you to become familiar with the new structure and dynamics, or whether you might be seen by other associates as a threat to their advancement, or what happens if you have landed in a situation remarkably similar to what you are leaving.  Be assured that questioning a move is normal.  Changing jobs requires a bit of courage, lucidity and motivation.  You are the one most familiar with your professional situation, so do not let anxiety or doubts get in your way.

If you feel it necessary, take a few days to think things through, but always keep in mind that there was something about your current situation that made you consider applying for this new one in the first place.

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