When to Let Your Network Know About Your Career Change

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(U.S. Army/Sgt. Christina M. Dion)

Leaving the military for a civilian career is typically a public event in your life and that of your family. Rarely do I hear of veterans keeping this a secret. For most soon-to-be prior military, the public job search starts soon after turning in your separation papers.

In the civilian sector, however, changing jobs comes with tricky nuances and questions, including:

  • If I announce my intention to change jobs, will my current employer terminate my employment or pull back my responsibilities, fearing I'm not focused on my work?
  • If I don't let people know that I'm in the job market, they may not consider me when they hear of a great opportunity.
  • How can I job hunt in the same industry, in my same community, without appearing disloyal to my current employer?
  • What if I start a job search but decide to stay where I am? Will I jeopardize my longevity in my current job?

You'd be right to be concerned about the timing of announcing your intention to move from your current position, under your current employer. Companies consider it an investment to hire and grow their employees, and look for people who are loyal, focused and committed to doing their work to their best capacity in return. If you indicated you're thinking of quitting, it's possible -- maybe even likely -- that your employer would begin to make other plans to fill your job and could escort you out early.

But at the same time, if you fail to let your network know you have other intentions, you could miss out on a great opportunity that crosses their desk. So how does the timing really work?

In deciding when to let your network know about a career or job change, consider:

  1. Why are you leaving? If you'll be leaving your job because you aren't happy or fulfilled, be sure you're clear on what it will take in the next position to give you gratification. You could end up repeating the same mistake if you don't choose wisely. Then, as you inform your network of your plans, be clear about what you're looking for so they can help you. Similarly, if you're leaving because you want an increase in pay and compensation, consider whether your current employer can meet your needs and expectations and if that's a good option for you. You might be inclined to stay where you are but believe they won't increase your pay or give you additional responsibilities. In this case, discuss with your employer before letting your network know, to avoid seeming conflicted. If you're leaving because your life has changed (for example, your family is moving to another city) then that may truly necessitate a job change. If your plans to move are set, for instance, and your current employer isn't offering the option to work virtually, then begin marketing in your new community as early as possible.

    In this case, alerting your employer early might be prudent, as they will recognize the necessity of your move and not take it personally (that you're not happy with them).  

  2. What is your timing? Are you fed up and ready to move tomorrow? Are you thinking you'd like a new job by Christmas? Your timing may dictate when and how you announce your intentions to your employer and network (online and in person). Remember, once you make it known that you are interested in a new position, you open up the possibility that your employer will hasten your departure.

    Some employers will escort you out the same day you give notice, returning your personal effects later, because of a fear you'll take valuable company information with you or will alert clients who might become uncomfortable.  

  3. Are you ready for your next role? Will you need additional training or certification before you can assume your next role? Does it make sense to attend night school to get the training or will you quit, attend school and then resume working? If you'll be taking a financial pay cut to advance in a new industry, will you need time to adjust your family budget and spending? Sync your announcement with your personal, professional, financial and family needs and goals to ensure you have time to prepare and launch a job search.

Empower your network to help you find the next position by timing your announcement correctly. If you announce too late, you risk missing opportunities. Announce too early, and you could exhaust your network as you repeatedly contact them for support, leads and coaching.

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