Q. I have wanted to leave my job for over a year, but with the market being so unstable I decided not to take any risks. It hasn’t really stabilized as much I would have liked, but I am ready to move on. I have had a few calls from search firms, and wondered if they can help me negotiate the severance I would get if I was laid off at my current employer, from my new employer if I get laid off in a short period of time. Is it possible to change jobs and minimize my risks?
A. Data indicates that you are not alone in your hesitation to change jobs. Changing jobs in a good economy has risks, and in this unpredictable marketplace, people who are currently employed are concerned about the risks involved leaving a somewhat secure role, and taking a new job. No one wants to receive a sign on bonus that reads “LIFO – last in first out”.
There are things you can do to minimize your risks at a new employer, and many of these take place during the research, interview and negotiation phases of a job search, in addition to your first 90 days on the job.
Researching any organization you are interviewing with needs to be completed with two approaches. The first approach to your research is as a candidate for the job. Your focus is on what you bring to the role, the skills you have, and how you can have the most positive impact on the organization as a whole. How does your background make you the most attractive candidate for this job?
Simultaneous research is approached as a major investor. Perform your due diligence on the company’s financials, organizational strategy, recent and potential M&A activity, etc. In addition, utilize all of the informal methods available as well. If you are working with a search firm, their knowledge will prove invaluable. There are many industry or company specific blogs which provide accurate (and inaccurate) information which is worth further research. Read carefully recognizing that contributors may have a full range of motivations.
Equipped with terrific information about the company, the interview stage takes on a dual process as well. Your goal is to get the offer, and your research should have provided significant data to address the needs of the company, the role, the manager. You will also be knowledgeable enough to inquire on any area which caused you concern. Are they an acquisition target? Do the financials foreshadow any need for significant cost cutting?
Use the interview opportunity to find out more about what the situation is, and the future outlook for the organization. You can’t eliminate all your risks, and your ability to negotiate typically will vary according to your level within an organization. Being more senior offers you a broader array of options. If you are concerned about a potential merger, you might discuss a change of control agreement which offers you severance. Asking about how the organization handles reductions and the practices related to severance and career transition support are considered reasonable questions, but most people would prefer to use the informal networks for that data.
The ideal happens when you do get the offer, and the research all looks positive. Your chances of success accepting this offer and taking this new job is increased because of the due diligence conducted to make an informed decision about the organization you are joining.