Gettin’ a Better Gig


Say you’re out of work…say you’ve been out of work for a while, & you’re starting to feel panicky. Say you get an offer, but it’s a step or two down from your former level. Say your sense of panic prompts you to accept it- but a month later, you hear from another employer with a better job. What should you do?

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Profile Photo Ebony Scurry, PHR, GCDF-I

When employers find a better deal through contractors or through laying off people for the sake of their own profits and sustainability, they go forward with the better deal. If you’re in the same boat, you should do it too. For yourself, your family, and your self-esteem.

There’s no shame in putting yourself first, but once you’re in the situation it can be difficult and uncomfortable. Few people want to start and then stop something, especially when the stop-gap job was a blessing at the right time. We’re often greatful for that stop gap job and the people who hired us and allowed us to stay afloat. But again, always go forward with the better deal. Be sure it is better though- salary isn’t everything. Consider compensation, benefits, professional development, proximity to your home and more.

Give at least two weeks and be sure to let those who you are leaving know how much you appreciate them and that your resignation has nothing to do with them or the agency. I’ve seen many federal workers leave for a better deal, only to return after a few months. Don’t burn your bridges, especially in the federal government.

Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

I think the sooner you jump the better – if you’re unhappy with the “stop gap” job, you’ll be likely looking again soon…but not until the company / organization has made a significant investment in on-boarding and training you only to have you leap – lost time for you and them.

Profile Photo Carol Davison

Even if it’s a lie, tell your supervisor something like “Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Training Officer. This position has prepared me to accept a position as Training Director at the Department of Energy. I would like to begin two weeks from today on August .., 2011” and present it in writing; and see what they do. My former boss tried to keep me but didn’t have the money.

Profile Photo Chris Poirier

..life is short..

Doesn’t that answer seem to come a lot? It’s also what you make of it, so doing what is best for your career and your sanity can help you a lot in the long run. It just comes down to how you handle your exit, etc.

Profile Photo Peter Sperry

I’ve been in that situation a couple of times and made both choices. I have never regreted keeping my word and staying with an employer for the minimum time promised when I signed on. I have always eneded up regreting the occasions when I broke my word by moving on. Long after the greener grass has faded, you and your previous employer will both remember you gave your word and then broke it. Trust me, it is not a good feeling.

Profile Photo Chris Poirier

@Peter – Heh, I guess I gave a very Gen Y answer..but let me clarify: every effort to display the values and position that @carol mentioned is equally important.

Dropping napalm on a bridge on your way out just to be happy is never a good idea in the long run. Most people will understand if you can demonstrate why the new situation is advancing your goals. Just jumping to the “greener side” while lighting the fence you just hopped on fire is never a good idea… 😉

Susan Thomas

A course of action depends on the situation. It’s very important to keep one’s word. Job hopping can make a person appear unstable and unreliable. It’s certainly reasonable that we all wish to better ourselves and some opportunities must be taken when they appear. How one leaves a job is key and it should always be on a high note.

Profile Photo Peter Sperry

Look at this from the point of view of the employer. Most of them really do not like the hiring process, particularly in the federal government. Having just completed a long, often frustrating, process; they made you an offer which you accepted. Now they have to start all over again. The other candidates are likely no longer available. If the other candidates are available, they may be reluctant to sign on with an employer who has already passed them over once. So the employer has to start the hiring process all over again. They need to explain to their boss why the position is vacant so quickly (not likely to be a fun conversation). They have to get clearence to fill the position, they need to advertise, select, interview etc.

Now 3-5 years later you need a security clearence. So you must list that “temp” job (it will show up on your tax returns) and the investigators will interview that employer. How do you think that conversation will go?

I’ve never had the clearence problem but mostly I just did not feel good about myself the one time I walked away from a commitment. And while I actually still have a cordial relationship with that employer, I doubt he would hire me again.

You may not think you are burning bridges if you leave with a codrdial explanation but your employer will remember and word gets around.

Profile Photo Chris Poirier

From a clearance perspective that conversation will go just fine, anything less than that may result in a truly ugly law suit for that employer…the security background investigation is for your suitability as a steward of information and truthworthiness, nothing more. (the questions do not leave a lot of room for an employer to voice how upset they were you took a “better job”..so pending that you did something illegal or so over the top on your way out, it would be incredibly risky for an individual and/or employer to use that process as a place to vent.)

Bottom line still remains to not “burn any bridges”, but this is a bit misleading…

Susan Thomas

@Peter, You have said it for all of us who hire in the government and care about the quality of personnel. I don’t want to pontificate, but bridge burning has serious consequences. It’s especially true, as you pointed out, when there is a security review and the previous employer is interviewed. There are also instances where employees (federal) lack the professionalism to tell the supervisor they have accepted another position. The supervisor is unaware until HR calls about a release date. I have personally experienced this and was far from happy about it. I am up front with people and expect the same in return. On the other hand, I am glad to be rid of any employee who tries to game me.

Profile Photo Mark Hammer

Employers understand that there are some jobs, or levels in that job, that are going to undergo regular turnover. They don’t like having to refill those positions, but begrudgingly accept it. I think they accept that, just as employers can make mistakes in whom they hire, applicants can also make mistakes in what jobs they accept. Nobody’s perfect.

What they DON’T like is investing heavily in development of new staff, only to have the employee jump ship after providing all that training and becoming more marketable. If it’s early enough in the game, and they haven’t invested heavily in you, then it’s simply an acceptable and not-unrecoverable loss.

Besides, if the position was not exactly optimal for you, but the experience not at all unpleasant, you become a recruiting officer for them, right? Win-win.

Just don’t make a habit of it.

Profile Photo Patricia Paul

Look carefully at both jobs and really determine if the newer offer is a better offer. Once you have been out of a job for a while, when you start working again, your appreciation level for working goes through the roof–especially if you hit the panic mode.

What makes the other job a better job? Does it use your skills more? Does it pay more? Is it a closer communte? How about the people–do you know how you will fit in there? Does the newer opportunity just seem better because it’s new?

If, for yourself, you can answer that the newer opp is going to be totally better, then I do think that you should honestly speak with you current supervisor in a timely manner and move on. You need to make sure that you are happy where you work because we do spend so much of our lives doing just that.