Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Should I stay or should I go? 11: thinking through careers per se and understanding where we are now and where we would go from there 4

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on March 7, 2016

This is my eleventh installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-10.)

I stated in Part 10 that I would address separation agreements as part of this series’ overall discussion, and turn to that set of issues here by repeating a due diligence bullet point that I noted in that installment:

• Have you signed a non-compete or other agreement, and particularly with your most recent employer that is still in effect? Do you face any contractually agreed to restrictions from your work past that would limit or channel where you can look and what you could do, and at least for some specified period of time, as next step employment?

And I pick up on this with a working example that I draw from personal experience. You work at a business where you are responsible for managing a range of technical skills-based functional work flow requirements. And as part of this, you have signed non-disclosure agreements regarding that business’ confidential and proprietary information that you might learn in the course of working there, which would not hinder you in any way if you were to move on to another employer as this would not limit your ability to work there or your ability to market your professional capabilities in a job search. A new prospective hire would in fact probably see it as a positive that you have a track record of not sharing such information inappropriately. But you have also signed a non-compete agreement that would limit your ability to use your more basic skills as an employee of another competing business. And this is a problem for you when, as in the scenario of Part 9 you are downsized by this business.

• Does the agreement that you signed address the possibility that you might leave employment there through no fault of your own but without the option to stay?
• If you are being downsized because this employer has decided to outsource the type of work that you have been doing, and your using those skills at a competitor would no longer have damaging impact on them, is this covered in the non-compete agreement that you signed? (Know what you would sign and if this involves restrictive agreements that would affect future employability at least consider having an attorney review them before you sign. And negotiate terms, and at the very least to address contingencies like this. But for purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that a non-compete agreement that you have signed with an employer who you are leaving employment with, would limit your opportunity to continue to use your current skills and experience, as written.)
• Can you negotiate for this now-former employer agreeing to wave their non-compete agreement with you, as part of their separation agreement with you so you can continue working in your field without let or hindrance?

Now let’s consider the separation agreement as a whole:

• Know what you are being asked/told to sign before you sign it, and from your reading it yourself and if necessary from your having an attorney review it.
• Do not simply agree to this and sign it on the base of an unofficial and non-binding summary interpretation of this agreement as offered verbally by whoever is giving you your exit interview.

You still might find yourself leaving the building that day and before noon with your personal possessions in a cardboard box. But you do in essentially all cases have a right to take the time to know what you sign before you take that legally binding step. And you do have the right to raise questions and to offer change alternatives where you see problems in what has been offered to you. You do have the right to negotiate – and if your employer is eager to get this over with and get you off of their books as a current employer, this gives you leverage for attaining terms of separation from them that are both amicable and more favorable to you, than you might face at the start of this process.

• Know what the separation agreement that you are initially handed covers and what it does not address that you would want to see covered in it.
• Know what your timeframe is for reviewing and signing this, and by law and in most countries you do have some number of days for this.
• Think through and know what you want and with what priorities – what you would ask for and really want and what you might ask for as negotiating points that you could back off on and particularly if that means getting concessions where they would be more important to you.
• And to repeat a detail first noted here in this series in Part 9, negotiate as needed to secure a best possible severance package for your maintaining your financial balance and as much as possible and for as long as possible as you look and as you get established in a next job. And to repeat a point here from above, negotiate terms of severance with your now former employer that will give you the greatest flexibility and opportunity moving forward into a next job too. This might mean salary continuation or keeping you formally on the books longer to increase the length of your health insurance coverage or related benefits. This might mean you getting better outplacement service coverage or other job search benefits. What can you get that would offer you what benefits? What of this would be more important and valuable to you as you move forward? Think through this range of issues and negotiate accordingly.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will start considering some special case job and career transitions. I will start that with a discussion of founding a startup, and I add of going in early to help build one. And then after that I will discuss retirement as a stay or go scenario, where this increasingly means tapering off employment and making career changes rather than simply moving from being fully employed to no longer working. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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