Afterhours consulting for former employer?
March 1, 2012 1:05 PM   Subscribe

I just put in my 2 weeks notice to my current employer. I am their IT department. Should I offer after-hours consulting? What would that really even entail?

For the last 4 years or so I've been basically the IT guy for my company. That means all the backoffice processing, reporting, monitoring, etc have been coded by me. I've also handled most sysadmin duties. After a recent company-wide paycut due to decreased customers/cashflow, I started looking around, and got an offer that's a bit higher than my current salary, and cuts my commute from over an hour to approximately 15 minutes. My boss actually pushed the owners to restore my salary ahead of everybody else, but I just can't take the volatility, and the shorter commute is too attractive.

I do like the people here, for the most part, and I would hate to leave them in a lurch. I like to think that my code is pretty well documented and I'm going to spend most of the next 2 weeks documenting processes and overall architecture, but an entire system like we have is pretty overwhelming. So I was thinking about offering to help out some during after-hours while they transition to somebody new. Some extra spending money is definitely a motivating factor too.

Is that a good idea? How would that even work exactly? Has anybody else done something like this?

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total)
I wouldn't offer to consult for them. Just make a clean break and move on. They'll survive without you.

From what you describe, the commute is a pain, as well as the working environment. Just move on.
posted by dfriedman at 1:07 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you do, make your hourly rate painfully high, like top-of-the-scale high for your field. That way they can reach out if they absolutely have to, but will think twice about doing so. And that way if they do hire you you can feel like it's worth your while.

I also would not answer calls from them during your new working hours, and don't do anything for free. Otherwise, they may call you every two hours for "just some little thing."

Congrats on the new job, shorter commutes are so worth it.
posted by maxwelton at 1:12 PM on March 1, 2012 [22 favorites]

Being in the industry myself, 2 weeks notice is very short for a high-level IT person. I personally wouldn't give less than a month, longer if possible. You ideally should have at least a week with your replacement to ease the transition. That's the best thing you can do for the company you're leaving.

If it's already done, then do your two weeks and move on. Personally I would entertain a consulting position if they offered, but I wouldn't be the one to initiate.
posted by Capa at 1:14 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if you were to consult for them, you need to make sure everything is spelled out in writing ahead of time and the relationship is kept very strict and professional. I've been in small shops and I know how comfortable and homey it gets after a few years, but the relationship needs to be much different as a consultant. A lot can go wrong in that scenario.
posted by Capa at 1:19 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with Capa. Usually, there are a few weeks to get a replacement and then two weeks of you basically bringing that person up to speed if there isn't anyone you're leaving behind that is your peer that could so.

You also really don't owe the company anything and should start your new job as soon as possible if it's beneficial to you and you won't be burning any bridges.

If you want to be helpful, offer to give a 30 day notice instead of a two week. In my experience, the consulting thing will just be a headache for both sides.
posted by zephyr_words at 1:23 PM on March 1, 2012

Having done this, just make yourself available for mission-critical things (really, really critical things) like "what's the password to that thing that was in the closet that nobody knew was in the closet that runs the whole business?"

Otherwise, just carry on with your new job. They'll get by.
posted by odinsdream at 1:26 PM on March 1, 2012

I'm also in the industry, and 2 weeks has been pretty standard in my experience. And it's in fact been rare that anyone has ever done a handoff to me when I've gone into a new role. The latest role I had to end up breaking into the IT department's laptop on the first day as the previous IT guy forgot to write his password down and was on a plane to visit his ailing father. It sounds like he's a high level person in that org, but the org is small. As long as there's documentation the next person will do fine.

When I've left other places I have sometimes been asked to do after hours consulting and I always agreed. What I've found in practice is they hardly ever actually take you up on it and if they do, a lot of times it's just an hour or two here and there so I wouldn't expect this to be any sort of windfall. They're going to focus on getting their new guy/gal up and going instead and relying on you as a crutch is an impediment to that.
posted by barc0001 at 1:28 PM on March 1, 2012

On the other hand it sounds like with 2 weeks notice, they may not have a replacement on board when you depart. I would work out your hourly rate at the new joint based on a 40 hour work week, double it, and offer it in terms of "If you guys need emergency help until you're up and running with a new IT person, I can do that from home after hours for $XX per hour." Whether they contact you for everything, for emergencies, or for nothing, this has the advantage of you leaving that job on the best possible terms.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:43 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also in the industry, and while more than 2 weeks isn't a bad thing, I wouldn't consider it essential, particularly when they've cut your salary. What did they think would happen?
posted by inigo2 at 1:59 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seems like the prevailing sentiment here is to cut ties and move on. I'm going to offer a different take on it, for a few reasons:

1. From what you said, it sounds like you are leaving on good terms. It is just that you have a more attractive job opportunity. That happens every day, and nobody can fault you for pursuing the new opportunity. Therefore, there's nothing to be gained by cutting ties. On your way out, just say something like, "Just so you know, I'm available after hours as a contractor. If anything comes up that you need my help with, feel free to call me." Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But making the offer lets them know that a) you are available if they need you, and b) that you don't hate their guts. Both of these things will make them happy.

2. Pretty much no matter what, they are probably going to call you to ask you about something that they can't figure out any way. You are the answer guy, after all. They might think it is just a simple, quick little favor they are asking of their old pal, but you will perceive it differently, and you will be annoyed. By setting it up in advance that you are available for hire, you cut this sort of nonsense off before it starts.

3. These people are your colleagues. In the future, most of them, if not all of them will end up working for other companies. As time goes on, your best professional opportunities will come from people you have worked with before and had a good relationship with. Don't be a douche for no reason.

As for the notion of charging them a punitively high hourly rate -- I don't see the point here. Set a fair hourly rate for your time, and charge them for your time. There's no reason to play games. These people have not wronged you. You have no reason to seek revenge. Their business hit a rough patch - a situation that is hardly unique these days. They did what they could to keep people employed, and you should appreciate them for the effort and wish them well. There's no reason not to continue to maintain a good relationship. And there's really no upside at all to being a jerk just for the sake of being a jerk.
posted by spilon at 2:04 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've done this for two previous employers. In both cases, I was leaving on good terms with my boss and explained that I'd be more than willing to help out during the transition period after hours and over the weekends, up to 20 hours per week.

I did charge above my normal salary, in both cases, due to the extra taxes I need to pay as a 1099 consultant, but never anything punitive ($75/hr.) I never charged for simple answers to quick questions, but always charged for anything more substantive.
posted by Jacob G at 2:17 PM on March 1, 2012

I've been you in the past, and I've also been your boss. Here is the thing: if you take on a contracting relationship with your company you haven't actually left yet, you've just changed the basis for your employment with them. And there is still plenty of opportunity there for the relationship to go sour if they are competing for your time with your new employer. You may think you are doing them a favor, but if they are paying dollars for your time, they won't see it that way. What happens if both your old employer and new employer want to patch servers on Tuesday nights?

If your goal here is more about leaving on good terms and not leaving them in the lurch, then you should actually leave and recognize that you will probably get some follow up "just one quick question..." calls. If your goal here is to add some consulting dollars to your income, then you'll want to make sure you understand how your new employer views moonlighting (some companies have no moonlighting clauses in their employment contracts) and also understand if there are potential conflicts on employment hours (like if you have to wear a pager sometimes for your new employer).
posted by kovacs at 2:30 PM on March 1, 2012

It's a thoughtful consideration, but it's important to remember that your employment was "at-will" and that you don't owe the company anything. By all means part on good terms, but don't feel obliged to look out for them after you go.

That being said, maxwelton's suggestions are spot-on if you do decide to pursue this. I did freelance for a company after leaving once. I quoted them an hourly rate that came out to much more than I had been making as an employee. It was not an unreasonable rate for someone with my experience and skill set; the purpose was not to gouge them, but to make sure they understood that my time was valuable so that they would think about using it carefully.

I was also very clear up front that I was only available for X hours per week, nights and weekends only; you want your attention to be 100% on your new employer when you're on their clock, nor do you want to burn yourself pulling late nights/killing weekends on the freelance stuff. It worked out pretty well, and that relationship only lasted for a month or so after I left.
posted by usonian at 2:39 PM on March 1, 2012

More or less Nthing - I'd offer a rate at least 2X your effective hourly rate when you were an employee, and make it clear that you're only available after-hours (and define what that means to YOU). Under the circs, I'd also put a sunset on it "I realize you may need some interim help; for the next 90 days I'll help your new guy at $X."

I've got little sympathy for employers who cut pay, unless they also give their employees fabulous shares of the profit when times are good.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:54 PM on March 1, 2012

Before you get yourself into any sort of contracting arrangement with your old employer, make sure it doesn't conflict with your contract with your new employer.

(If your new employer has half a clue, moonlighting such as what you're considering will be prohibited.)
posted by ook at 4:08 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

(That's for paid consulting of course. Stuff like answering "hey what was the password on that box" you should be available for just out of plain human decency.)
posted by ook at 4:11 PM on March 1, 2012

Stuff like answering "hey what was the password on that box" you should be available for just out of plain human decency

That depends a bit on whether you're being replaced. An issue like this should be easily dealt with by someone coming into your job. Obviously give them the access they need, but they shouldn't need to pay a consultant to do things like reset passwords.
posted by manyon at 3:24 AM on March 2, 2012

2 weeks is a professional standard. If that's not enough time to transition your duties to someone else, feel free to offer them after hours consulting at the prevailing market rate.

And only do that out of economic and professional self interest......don't do it out of some weird guilt like you owe them something. Believe me, if the roles were reversed and they were canning you, you likely won't be treated so well.
posted by PsuDab93 at 7:30 AM on March 2, 2012

Offering consulting, provided that it doesn't conflict with policies and commitments with your next employer, is a win-win. I've done it as a departing employee and I've done it as a manager for other employees who have left. Unless there is a clear reason not to do it (and you give no indication as such) then this seems like a good professional courtesy.
posted by dgran at 8:45 AM on March 2, 2012

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