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I plan on leaving my current position in the next year or so. I really enjoy my work, but I'm not challenged much any more, so it's time to move on.

When I leave, I'd, ideally, like to help find and train my replacement. This process could take anywhere between one and three months depending on the quality of the candidates.

This seems like an awfully long time to ask for between receiving a job offer and actually starting. Is it too long to ask for? Is it appropriate for me to even request this? Is there any danger that my new employer can rescind their offer to me in that time?


Edit: everyone seems to be focusing on the three month figure, which is probably an extreme case. More likely it will be 1 - 2 months. It seems like asking for one month is at the high end of acceptable and anything more is not.

  • 6
    more than a month is rough - remember your new employer needs you too - that's why they're hiring. I've never asked for more than 30 days myself (and my new employers were always happy to grant it). Could you possibly help out as contractor rather than a full-time employee, so you could start with the new company and help train your replacement on weekends/evenings? – voretaq7 Apr 13 '12 at 4:30
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    Good suggestion about contracting back. This is probably what's going to happen thanks to all of the feedback. – Hi pals Apr 13 '12 at 10:23
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    Contracting back ON A PAID BASIS is a win-win for everyone. Just be sure your new employer knows about the deal and that weekday working-hours access to you is beyond the scope of the agreement. – Scott C Wilson Apr 14 '12 at 14:31
  • This is country-specific. In the UK, 3 months contractual notice for key individuals is commonplace. – Bill Michell Oct 15 '15 at 15:06
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    @BillMichell, yes but then your replacement also has to give similar notice, so you still don't overlap. – HLGEM Oct 20 '15 at 19:35
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From a manager's point of view (the manager you're departing from), it's hard to find good replacements, and you always wish you could keep your best people longer, but so long as I have appropriate notice, then the team around you should be able to prepare to take up the slack. Sure, it's going to take weeks, maybe months to train a replacement, but that's not your concern.

I'm sure it would be appreciated by your previous employer if you stayed longer (if they like you, I'm sure they'd prefer you actually didn't leave at all), but so long as you're professional, courteous, and give sufficient notice (I think up to four weeks is generous, unless your a high-level execute, in which case longer departures might be more normal), your previous company should be fine with it. Changes in employees are a normal part of the process. I'm not saying that everyone is infinitely replaceable, but no company can survive if it's not able to change its staff.

If you really want to help them, you can possibly offer to make yourself available via email (outside your new employer's business hours, of course), but that's really going over and above, and not at all usual or customary. Not only that, it's actually just kind of weird, and I would recommend against it.

Whatever happens, figure out an official start date for the new place, and stick to it. If circumstances at your previous employer change at the last minute, and they really want you to stay an extra couple of weeks, well, that's really the previous employer's issue, I'm afraid. You've made a commitment to the new place, and you absolutely need to keep it. It's important.

Finally, to put it one last way, you're leaving one relationship, and going on to another. Clean, courteous breaks tend to be the best. You wouldn't make yourself available for an unknown amount of time to a previous boyfriend/girlfriend, would you? If the person you were leaving wanted you to "stay available" (my words) for a few weeks afterward, wouldn't you think that wasn't exactly healthy, and that they should deal with the reality at hand, instead of trying to hold on to you?

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  • Certainly fair points. I suppose I feel a little indebted to where I am now because of the opportunities that I was given. Perhaps more than I should. – Hi pals Apr 12 '12 at 23:49
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    Loyalty is a great thing, and that's awesome. That's also a sign that your old job was a good fit for you. I think all we (NickC and myself) are saying, is that you need to value the loyalty of the new place you're going to just as much. Besides, you're really be "indebted" to the people you're leaving behind, not the place. Keep those contacts, and make them part of your professional network. You'll be surprised how willing those people will be to keep contact with you, and you never know when it will pay off for you, or for them. – jefflunt Apr 12 '12 at 23:54
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It's going to be situational. I would discuss it with the new company up front — before you receive a job offer. Some companies will be fine with it, some will need you to start sooner.

They might, however, wonder why. If you are choosing to leave, why do you need to do this? Why would you prioritize your old company over the new one? That might give them pause.

Lastly, here is some advice that is purely my opinion: it might benefit you to be more decisive in your moves. If you think it's time to move on, do it now. If you find a place to move on to, don't hesitate. You can begin to prepare documentation for training as a courtesy to your current employer, but you're not really under an obligation to do so.

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  • There are factors at work keeping me here for the time being. Mainly finishing a degree that is free since I'm employed at a university. It's not a matter of indecision, rather it's one of economics. You do make a good point, though. – Hi pals Apr 12 '12 at 23:44
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    If the opportunity is worth moving on for, you'll find a way to pay for the degree. Don't short change a great opportunity because of a relatively short-term obligation (school is only a few years long, and you'll finish soon enough). I really think @NickC's advice about being more decisive is uber important. – jefflunt Apr 12 '12 at 23:45
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    The opposite is also true re: prioritizing your old company - I'd find it comforting that you're the kind of person who develops corporate loyalty and looks out for the company. If and when you move on from my employ hopefully you'll show the same kind of loyalty! – voretaq7 Apr 13 '12 at 4:33
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In over 30 years in the work force, I have seen people give 2 weeks notice, 4 weeks notice and 0 weeks notice (a poor practice in general). I have never seen the replacement hired and onboard before the person left. Even when they are going to hire from within the organization. What you should focus on is not leaving a mess for your replacement. Make sure that everything is organized and put together for the new person to find. Two weeks is plenty of time to turn your tasks over to someone else (usually someone doing the job temporarily until the replacement is hired) if you are organized.

The one place where I would want to give more than two weeks notice is if I had a major project go live the week after that time period or the projected last couple of days. No employer worth going to work for would want you to bail out on your old employer two days before the go live of a major project.

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    +1 Astute observation, I have never seen the replacement hired for me before I left either. – maple_shaft Apr 13 '12 at 16:02
  • Good point - The only times I've known who my replacement was and had the opportunity to train them one-on-one have been when an internal person was being moved up to fill my position. – voretaq7 Apr 13 '12 at 18:11
  • @HLGEM, 2 weeks notification before leaving.... is that actually enough for the next party to take over? – Pacerier Jul 2 '15 at 1:05
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    @Pacerier, of course it is. Any longer is just delaying the inevitable. If you got hit with a bus, the next person would have to take over with no overrlap. Ifyour work isn;t set up so someone can take over with no notice, you are doing it wrong. – HLGEM Jul 2 '15 at 13:37
  • @HLGEM, Smaller start-ups don't have the resources to justify doing that. – Pacerier Jul 4 '15 at 12:11
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In the United States you can leave whenever you want, however it is considered customary and polite for a normal worker to give 2-4 weeks notice before leaving. For executives or top level management the acceptable notice is 4-8 weeks.

Typically if I hate the job and the people working there with a passion then I usually give 2 weeks. I give 4 weeks notice if I am involved in some critical tasks or projects or if I really care for the people I am leaving behind.

Giving more than 4 weeks as a non-executive I feel starts to be rude to the new employer even if they tell you they are okay with it. As somebody who hires though I would be willing to wait 4 weeks for good talent because it tells me they care enough about leaving their house in order before leaving and that is usually a very good sign.

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If that's what's needed by your old job to get your replacement up to speed it's absolutely alright, provided you discuss it with your new employer first and it won't sink your chance of landing the new job.

For me it's a matter of professionalism: Up until my last day with my old employer I am still working for them. It's my obligation to consider the best interests of that company, and if that means asking for a delayed start date at my new job (and doing so is acceptable to my new employer, to whom I now owe similar loyalty) then that's what I'll do.

Of course this can be tempered by company loyalty: If your current job is treating you poorly and you don't value the references/long-term relationship with the company 2 weeks (or whatever the standard is where you are) is all they get and they can sort it out themselves :-)

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I don't think it's inappropriate to ask, and I doubt any employer would rescind an offer just because you inquired about the possibility - however, it's entirely possible that they can't wait 3 months and will rescind the offer due to that if you insist on delaying your start date instead of just asking if it would be acceptable. So you need to decide in advance whether your new job or finishing things up at the old job is more important to you.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that your new employer will be willing to negotiate and will applaud you for wanting to leave your previous employer in as good a situation as possible (that was my experience when I did something similar).

Another possibility, if you have a really good relationship with your current employer, would be to mention that you're planning on leaving before you get any offers, so that they can find and start training your replacement while you're still looking for other jobs. Of course, you'd have to figure out what to do if it turns out you still haven't moved on four months later - this strategy would probably only work in an environment flexible enough that keeping both you and your "replacement" on for a while wouldn't be an issue.

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To me, this shows responsibility - but you need to cap it at (say) 4 weeks or so, instead of a normal two week notice. If some guy told me he needed three months to train his replacement, I would just laugh. Trust me - you're more replaceable than you think.

(As an aside, I once had to delay a start date by six weeks because of a planned trip to Israel (from North America). You would not believe the ribbing I got for the rest of my time at the new company. Every time we interviewed someone, people would remark, "Well, unless he's going to Israel, he should be able to start in two weeks.")

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  • I wasn't implying that it would take three months to train a replacement. I was saying that it may take that long to find and train one. It's not uncommon for it to take 4-6 weeks just to hire someone where I work. Though, in a case like my leaving, the process would likely be expedited. Point taken, though. – Hi pals Apr 14 '12 at 14:24
  • That means you won't be able to train them in person; you'll need to write some documentation. You can't seriously expect your new employer to wait on the vagaries of your current employer's hiring practices. If they can do without you for three months, they can do without you. – Scott C Wilson Apr 14 '12 at 14:29
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Is there no succession plan in place at your current employer? Do you not have anybody working with you who knows at least some of what you know and who could, in an emergency, fill in somewhat competently? That's who you should be training to take over for you when you leave, even if it's not a formal training process. This is something your managers should be concerned about - if your position is important enough that you couldn't leave without causing a major disruption, then they're opening themselves up to a fairly large risk.

As for your direct question, I can't imagine asking for more than 4 weeks notice. You need to use those 4 weeks to document everything your replacement will need to know when they come in, to have as smooth a transition as possible.

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