I have almost 9 months left in my contract and I have an interview with another company next week.

I am considering terminating the contract earlier if the company gives me an offer, however I am not sure what sort of repercussions this would have on my career.

What are the repercussions on my career of quitting a contract job before it expires?

  • What are the conditions in the contract if you terminate early? – JB King Jan 29 '13 at 16:06
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    Hi user7487, I've edited the question to be on-topic for The Workplace, as @Chad is right that the question you had wasn't really on-topic or answerable by the community here. I've voted to reopen your question, however it still needs 4 more community votes to get reopened. If I've changed your question too much, feel free to edit it further :) – Rachel Jan 29 '13 at 17:30
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    Take it to The Workplace Meta please – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 29 '13 at 18:00

There are two primary consequences of breaking a contract early:

The first is that it can paint you as untrustworthy. The purpose of a contract is to define what services will be provided and what payment there will be for those services. For example, if you go to the bookstore to pick up a brand new book by your favorite author, the store might have sold all its copies. You'd likely come back to the store in the future. If, however, you reserve a copy of the book beforehand (a less formal "contract"), and they do not hold a copy for you, how likely are you to reserve (or even buy) another book there? Would you tell your friends about the problem?

The second issue depends on your contract. A lot of (most) contracts have a clause covering failure to meet the contracted terms. Breaking a contract (or not meeting the terms dictated) can result in forfeiture of payment for services, payment of a fine, or other penalties (this absolutely depends 100% on the contract). Additionally, there may be laws in your city/country regarding this; this will depend on where you are. It is also important to note that depending on the laws where you are, certain parts of the contract may be unenforceable. Again, this completely depends on what the contract says and what the laws are in your city/state/country.

It is generally not advisable to break a contract. Read your contact to be sure of what the immediate consequences will be, and consider whether the risk of a reputation hit is worth abandoning your client for a different opportunity.

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    You should mention that the second issue is highly localized. For example, in the provice of Ontario in Canada the labour laws are such that writing contracts with binding terms of employment is almost useless. People still do, but enforcing these provisions in court is very hard and generally not worthwhile. – MrFox Jan 29 '13 at 18:40
  • How would you suggest I word what I've said to make that clearer? – yoozer8 Jan 29 '13 at 18:42
  • @suslik And whether labour laws would even apply to the contract itself would be another matter altogether; many contractors deal with clients corp-to-corp and not as an individual/employee. – Chris W. Rea Jan 29 '13 at 19:41
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    @Jim I would just preface what you said with the disclamiar that it may not apply depending on where you live. I know that in my locale we had an incorporated contractor leave early and go to our competitor. Our manager talked to a lawyer about it, and the conclusion was that the contract was insufficient ammunition to actually do anything. It turns out that a lot of contracts contradict employment laws and thereby become invalid. I'm not sure how pervasive this is in other countries/provinces/states. – MrFox Jan 29 '13 at 20:59
  • some good points. It is a contract (legal) issue, but suslik also makes a good point. Often employment contracts willfully ignore employment laws. For instance, in a previous state I worked in, in our industry it was common to sign non-compete clauses. However, they were deemed unenforceable by state law. – DA. Jan 30 '13 at 13:59

If I've learned anything about employer/employee relations over the last 2 decades or so, it's that employers expect employees to be completely loyal to them, never even think about looking elsewhere let alone actually accept an offer from another company, yet they themselves can and will terminate you at the slightest whim or just because it's convenient and you're fully expected to accept that without question and hold no negative feelings towards that company.

Apart from that, there's far too little information (as others have mentioned) to say anything about possible legal consequences. You'd need to study the actual contract to know about those (most will have a few paragraphs devoted to what steps need to be taken to terminate the contract, what the restrictions are regarding new jobs (many/most contracts may for example bar you from taking up employment with customers or suppliers of the company you're under contract with, or even working for competitors).

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  • first paragraph is very well written – gnat Jan 30 '13 at 13:32

A "contract job" can imply a variety of commitments. For example - the answer can be different depending on whether you've personally signed a contract or you're simply working in a temporary capacity through an agency.

In the former case, you actually have a contract. The contract creates a legal obligation to provide services. Penalties for breaking the contract may be statutory or in the terms of the contract. If this is the case, unless there's a lot of money at the new gig, you're pretty much stuck.

If you're simply a temp, all you have to worry about is burning a few bridges. You probably won't be able to get more work through the agency or with the client in the future. Depending on how long you were on the job, leaving it off your resume might be a good idea.

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    Hi! I see this is one of your first posts! Welcome! I updated your answer a little - it's a great answer, and I love that you considered two cases here, but it's pretty much impossible to ask questions in this format. Instead, I changed your first paragraph to cover the fact that what you're really doing is giving 1 answer with two potential cases. – bethlakshmi Jan 29 '13 at 22:43

Assuming that by "contract" you mean that you are being paid hourly to work on a project, the impact on your career for leaving this position and taking another more preferable position will be somewhere between almost none and none at all. It may prevent you from being rehired by your current employer, but that's about it.

Think about what your resume will show: that you worked on this project for a while, then worked on another one. That's all your next prospective employer will know. If they check references, they won't expect one from every job you ever had. They will be happy to speak to a couple of references you provide.

If you get a better offer, then to at least one employer, it didn't matter how long you stayed in your current position. It will matter even less to the next prospective employer. If someone is prepared to extend an offer, and sees that you stayed at some position very briefly, they will likely assume that the previous employer was bad. They will have interviewed you, and liked you, while they may know nothing about that employer.

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    Why is that? We have a back it up policy here and this may answer the question but it does not explain why. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 29 '13 at 20:44

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