It winds up for almost everyone that you’ll have more than one job in your career. This is especially true in software development. For myself, I changed jobs nearly every single year! The shortest time I was at a company was five months, and the longest was two years. When you realize it’s time for you to go, what should you do?
A lot of developers struggle with this question. We are taught from a very early age that we need to have a stable job and that company loyalty is a virtue, so thoughts about leaving a job seem to go against that belief and create conflict.
Those beliefs, in my opinion, are the wrong beliefs to have.
When we work for a company, it is a business transaction. Certainly, there can be a lot more than that, but at its core, that is all it is. So when the terms of the deal are no longer fair or equitable, you negotiate and leave.
Some reasons you might start thinking about a new job that I run into a lot are:
What I can’t do is give some clever way to know it’s time to leave, but what I can say is that once the thought creeps into your head, it tends to grow.
I think it is useful to come up with a list of absolutes for you. This list, should these ever wind up violated, result in you leaving immediately. One of mine is when I have nightmares about a job, I quit.
The first thing that happens is that you’ll need to balance searching for a job while you’re currently employed. Unless the circumstances are dire, don’t quit until you have a signed offer. The job search is too volatile to assume that things will work out conveniently for you.
Next, update your resume. Though if you’ve read my articles before, you’ll know I advocate for updating it continuously. Either way, check up on it.
Then, start reaching out to your networks and searching for a job in earnest.
Whatever you do, though, don’t tell anyone you’re looking.
If you let it slip that you’re looking for a job, your current job will have to start treating you as though you’re going to quit. This is all very awkward to go through, as many individual people will swear they want to help you and take care of you and see that you wind up where you’re most fulfilled, but their duties in their job will oftentimes conflict with that.
For example, upon believing someone is leaving, many managers will begin to treat that person as a risk. So that person will be kept off of any critical work and asked to bring their current work to a close. This transition can continue until the person is completely idle.
If this didn’t seem challenging enough, now you’ll be scheduling interviews during your workday. Know your policy regarding taking Paid-Time-Off for a few hours in a day.
Many companies don’t worry about a few hours here or there but know what the rules are. As you schedule your interviews, simply tell people you have an appointment. In general, you don’t ever need to disclose what you do on your personal time to your employer, so you can say that even when you aren’t interviewing.
If you want to keep things as discrete as possible, don’t change your outfit until right before your interview. Co-workers can spot someone in an interview outfit from a mile away.
While you interview, no matter how optimistic you are about the progress you’re making, wait until you have a signed offer.
Until an offer is signed, everything can fall apart. So please wait for it.
Only then do you inform your current employer and give notice.
If you work in an “At-Will” state, you aren’t required to give notice, but it is polite to do so. It helps you maintain a good relationship and provide a transition period for everyone.
Most of the time, you’ll schedule a meeting with your manager, inform them that you’re leaving, and then you’ll provide a written email or document saying the same thing. You don’t need to write a novel, you’re just providing a record that you will leave the company on a specific date.
You can keep it as simple as:
“I’m writing to inform you that my last day will be X.”
You can, of course, add more, but you don’t need your guilt or sense of awkwardness to take over. I typically put a line like, “I hope, should the opportunity arise, that we can work together again in the future.”
As you work through your notice period, expect curiosity about your new job. Since you have a signed offer and you’ve provided notice, feel free to talk about it.
You might find other co-workers are interested in a similar position.
Be extremely careful with how you handle this. Many companies have you sign non-solicitation and poaching clauses when you join them, so if you encourage them to come with you, that can get you in trouble.
As for transitioning your work, you will find that most places are always unprepared for the first days and last days. If you want to take care of your co-workers, begin to pair with them consistently so more than one person can pick up from where you are. Tell your manager about this so they can sleep better knowing you’re transitioning your responsibilities.
Ask your manager about turning in equipment, badges, and so-on. Ensure your address is updated with HR, so your last paycheck and tax information go to the correct place.
You might have a series of exit interviews where people ask you about what they could do differently. I don’t like to burn bridges, so I don’t use these interviews to yell at them about all the terrible things they do. I do inform them of areas I think warrant improvement and offer suggestions.
With all of that, you’re ready to leave your job and move on to the next. Despite how common it is, it can be a little intimidating each time, but staying in a job you regret isn’t worth it.
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