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I work at a small software shop. I've learned a lot here, but there's plenty of things that I don't like in the way things are done, and I haven't had much success in my attemps to drive a change, so for that and other reasons I think that it's in my best interests to look for a better place to work.

I know two weeks notice is standard in many jobs, but given my current workload, the specificity of my knowledge, and the company's lack of concern for documentation, I feel it would be best to give about three months. I don't want to burn any bridges here.

On the other hand, I would like to have an offer before resigning from my current position, at least to make sure that there actually is a better place to work (and that I'm not being a victim of the "greener grass" illusion).

If I start contacting potential employers now, do I have any chance of getting an offer, even though I will not be available until three months from now at the earliest? If I can't take an offer from an employer because it would require me to start working sooner, will that hurt my future prospects with that employer?

Edit: while this question is similar to Should I give a bigger notice period than what is required of me? I believe it's not a duplicate. I'm not originally asking about the appropriateness of giving a long notice period (although I greatly appreciate the feedback in that aspect as well) but rather about how to manage the difficulties in looking for a new job when one's intent is to give a long notice period.

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    What does your contract say about a notice period? You are taking on a lot of risk if you plan on assuming your employer will honor your 3 month period. – enderland Aug 10 '16 at 2:14
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    Your employer wouldn't give a second thought to dismissing you immediately. Keep that in mind when your walked out the door the minute you say your leaving (happens often). Be sure you have a job before you tell your employer your leaving, there is an old saying, "it's easier to get a job when you have a job". – Donald Aug 10 '16 at 3:02
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    If your workload requires about 3 month notice to hand off, it was on your employer to negotiate that when hiring you. Why did they not do that? Because no one would agree to that without wanting the same notice period for getting fired in return. – kat0r Aug 10 '16 at 13:08
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    Give two weeks notice. If they truly need your help beyond that, offer consulting services at a part-time rate. That rate should be, at least, your current salary plus 50% as they will not have overhead costs associated with your consulting. – Pete B. Aug 10 '16 at 14:41
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Rather than give three months notice, you're far better off starting to document your systems and work now so that you don't need three months notice. That way if a job does come up, you have already put much of the handover in place and you only have to deal with current tasks and can reduce the time needed back down to a few weeks.

Besides, if not already in place, it's good practice to ensure everything is documented and more readily picked up by a new person to avoid the whole "what happens if I get hit by a bus?" problem. Right now I would say that if there is a three month knowledge transfer from you then there is a huge risk to your employer's business. If it were my business, I would want that resolved as fast as possible.

10

A three month notice period is unrealistic in an environment where two weeks is the norm.

This won't be workable for you, as it will severely handicap your job search. Of course it will hurt your "future prospects" with a company if you can't accept a job offer for this reason.

You should not "burn bridges" by leaving with shorter notice.

As long as you act professionally and give a standard amount of notice, your departure shouldn't result in any hard feelings with your former employer. Of course, it's always possible that a vindictive or petty boss will act otherwise, but if you have such a boss, giving a longer notice period places you in a very bad position, so it should certainly be avoided.

Giving longer notice can be fine in some circumstances. See these previous questions. But you shouldn't do it at a cost to your career, and only do it when you are confident that you have a good relationship with your employer and they will take it well.

It is the company's responsibility to deal with the reality of employee turnover.

Your concern for your work being successful is admirable. Certainly you should try to make the handover as smooth as possible. But from your question, it sounds like you are taking a bit too much responsibility on yourself.

Employee departures are a normal part of business. They always cause some disruption. This is something the company needs to expect and manage appropriately. If they haven't done the right things to ensure that work can be picked up by others, it is going to cost them. You shouldn't see this as your fault.

6

My wife gave additional notice when leaving her first job out of university. I think she gave 4 weeks instead of 2 required with the thought it would help with planning as tje company was going into its very busy season. She was shown the door before the end of the day.

Moral of the story is look after yourself because the companies wont. Give thw notice required by your contract.

  • Very true. My general rule, provided one doesn't have explicit fiduciary duties (or implicit ones, if you're a key player in a startup or an exec making the big bucks), is to provide no more notice than required or that you would receive as severance. – Cloud Aug 11 '16 at 18:36
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I worked for 11 years as a recruiter/headhunter, so I've worked with plenty of people in your situation. Here's a few things for you to bear in mind.

1. You will probably rule yourself out of contention for a lot of positions.

Most employers will be somewhat reasonable about notice period for a new hire. So if the norm is two weeks and you need to give four, no big deal. Extend that to three months, though, and you'll probably rule yourself out of contention for a lot of positions at the early stages of screening etc. (unless you are being considered for a very senior position or something extraordinarily unusual). Any recruiter (internal or external) that screens you will ask about your notice period. If your answer is "contractually it's two weeks, but really I need to give about three months" they will likely assume you aren't really serious about leaving your job, or that you are likely to accept a counter-offer from your current company. So you are likely to get interviews with far fewer companies than your CV merits, and even if you do get to interview the hiring manager is likely to be put off by your notice period.

2. Your current company might not want you to stay.

You think that they need you for three months: let's assume that's true. But often companies prefer to have people leave quickly once they resign, to avoid drawing out the process. They don't want you chatting to colleagues in the break room about why you wanted to leave, or telling them about the great payrise/benefits you got by moving. This happens a lot. Your current company might prefer to struggle through the technical challenges of you leaving after just two weeks' notice in order to preserve morale and office harmony.

As to your final question:

If I can't take an offer from an employer because it would require me to start working sooner, will that hurt my future prospects with that employer?

As long as you're honest with them about your notice period from the start, no. However I would expect that you'll miss out on an awful lot of opportunities (as above). If you aren't honest about it, and you end up dropping the three months' notice thing on them after getting an offer, they'll probably be furious.

  • @JoeStrazzere Agreed. A lot of high tech companies often just pay out the last X weeks on the spot, cut a cheque, and politely ask you to pack up and leave the front door within 30 minutes. No poisoning the well or creating a toxic environment if the employee is bitter, no opportunities to scrape code repos or client lists, poaching talented employees or encouraging them to find greener pastures elsewhere, etc. – Cloud Aug 11 '16 at 18:33
  • @DevNull if they wanted to do those things they could do them before giving their notice. – stannius Aug 11 '16 at 20:59
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    @stannius Agreed. I'm just noting that if the employee is in a foul mood and is staying on for such a period of time, there's more opportunity for that unless they planned to be malicious in advance. – Cloud Aug 11 '16 at 21:16
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    @DevNull Agree with you both, but would add also that it doesn't even need to be malicious: just a bit of casual chit-chat about your colleague's new job, all perfectly innocent, might get you wondering about new opportunities. – hamedbh Aug 12 '16 at 5:04
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    @hamedbh Agreed. I tried to convey that point. Not sure how well I accomplished that. – Cloud Aug 12 '16 at 15:40
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Would three months even be enough for it to really matter? It sounds like there really isn't anyone else there currently that is working on the same things you are, hence you feeling you'd need lots of time to transition things to someone else, so I assume there isn't an immediate replacement for you which means finding someone new. The realities of that process mean it could easily take three months before the person even starts.

A week or two to collect resumes. Another week or two to schedule interviews. Another week to discuss the candidates and make an offer. Time for them to formally accept the offer. Then they have to give notice. Time for background checks etc. Etc, Etc, Etc. Anyone of those steps can stretch out quite a bit. Multiple rounds of interviews. Don't like any of your initial candidates so you have to start over.

As others have said you'd probably be severely handicapping yourself in your job hunt looking for 3 months before you started your new position and you may end up escorted out the door the same day you give your current company 3 months notice.

  • To add to this, most companies will not hire a new person until the old one leaves because they don't have the budget to pay two salaries for one position. And frankly, 99% of all jobs can be transitioned to someone who is already in the company within two weeks. Once transitioning becomes your entire job, it is amazing how much you can do in two weeks. – HLGEM Aug 11 '16 at 16:53
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I have been in your situation several times in the past. I wanted or needed to move on, but I didn't want to let down or disappoint my former employers, so I ended up working for both for a time.

The first time this happened, the agreement was between my old and new employers. I was sub-contracted back to my old company for a short period of time to assist with the hand over, and to perform some end of line work.

In this case my new company was very happy that I had effectively brought a paying contract with me (and could thus start bringing in money immediately), and the old company was happy that they didn't have the expense of training up someone for a dead end project. Personally though, it wasn't ideal. I got to move on, but while the new company made plenty of money, I didn't see a penny of it.

Since then, I have always ensured that my employment contracts have no provisions which prevent me from dong freelance work. This means that I can arrange my own private contracts to help support former employers in my own time. I've done this several times, and though it can be stressful and cause long work hours, it doesn't last for long and at least it can be quite financially rewarding.

So, I would recommend that you,

  • Find yourself a new job, without worrying about the future of your current job.
  • If your new employer has no restrictions on freelance work, or you can negotiate such terms, woo hoo, accept the job, give your two weeks notice and start contract negotiations with your old firm.
  • If you can't negotiate freelance working, ask your potential new employers how they would feel about the potential to sub-contract you back to your old company for a short time.

The nice thing about doing this is that it actually demonstrates your loyalty to a potential employer. If you were prepared to do this for your old employers, they can be more confident that you won't leave them in the lurch either.

Plus, the idea of a new hire being immediately productive (supporting the bottom line) is actually quite appealing when normally you expect new hires to have a significant period of being a net drain on productivity.

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You look after your own interests. You can be absolutely sure that the company will look after its own interests and won't give a damn if you are hurt as a result.

You don't mention it, but "two weeks notice" kind of indicates that you are in the USA. As soon as you give notice, the company can fire you on the spot. Many companies will do that. So your misguided effort to help the company will quite possibly result in you being without a job and without pay for three months.

It's customary in the USA to give two weeks notice. Keep with the custom. No good will come from it for you if you don't. Getting fired doesn't even necessarily mean any evil or stupid action of the company - say the boss planned to reduce the headcount in your department by one. You or one of your colleagues were going to be laid off next week. Since you handed in your notice, that makes the choice that much easier for your boss.

Given "the company's lack of concern for documentation", well, that's their problem, isn't it? It's always possible that someone who came to work today won't come tomorrow or ever again. If that is causing them problem, that's something that's straight your bosses fault and he or she has only got themselves to blame.

If you are in the USA, applying for a job and not being available for three months will reduce your chances. Two weeks notice is customary. So any company in the USA will fully expect that you start exactly two weeks after you sign the contract. (Sign contract, give 14 days notice, work two weeks at the old company, start with the new one).

Someone claimed "Your employer doesn't care about you so you need to do X" is bad advice because it isn't generally true. It's true often enough. It's not advice, it is an assumption. The advice is: Act according to that assumption. You will be better off. And as I said, even if your employer cares for the employees, you giving three months notice may save someone else's job at your expense.

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    "You can be absolutely sure that the company will look after its own interests and won't give a damn if you are hurt as a result." I see this sort of sentiment a lot on Workplace. The problem is, it's not universally true. Some employers and bosses do care about their employees. Of course warnings about the reality of business and the potential of being treated poorly are in order. But "your employer doesn't care about you so you need to do X" is not good universal advice. – user45590 Aug 10 '16 at 8:43

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