Is it okay to accept a new job that I might leave in the near future?
August 13, 2014 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I have been offered a new position at work that has the potential to be a good, but not great, opportunity, but there are multiple other positions that I would like to pursue with outside organizations. Is it acceptable to take the new position knowing that there is a small chance that I would leave shortly after it began if offered a different job?

The details are: I was hired for a two year assignment that is coming to an end shortly. The company has offered to keep me on in a related, but somewhat different role. I have been pursuing other positions for some time now, as the opportunity to stay was not on the table until recently. I like the company I work for, the job, and the pay is decent...however, I loathe the area that I live in. I have been looking for jobs where I would like to live, but there aren't a lot of opportunities in my field, so when talk of keeping me at my current organization began I was enthusiastic about the idea, figuring I could try to find a better town to live in for a year or two and then be in a better position to relocate.

In the past week multiple positions have opened up in my field, at my career level, and in the place I want to live. My gut instinct is that I either need to accept the position with my present employer and not pursue these positions, or I need to decline the offer and focus on finding work where I would like to be. In talking with friends and family, they generally said that I should accept the position where I am AND pursue the other opportunities. Their logic is that I need to go for what is best for me. I feel a sense of loyalty towards my employer and would feel bad leaving them soon after starting a new project, though I recognize that the odds of getting one of these others jobs are low. On the other hand, declining the new position could result in a period of unemployment and/or a less satisfying job. I do have some savings to make ends meet if that were the situation, but obviously the idea of unemployment brings a lot of anxiety with it.

So basically, am I wrong in my initial assessment? Is it okay to take the new role knowing that I am actively pursuing other opportunities? Or do I need to go all in one way or the other? Also, what should I be considering in making these decisions?
posted by kardia to Work & Money (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I feel a sense of loyalty towards my employer and would feel bad leaving them soon after starting a new project,

Unless your employer is very unusual, this loyalty is misplaced. They would not hesitate to lay you off two weeks after giving you the new job if the funding for the position unexpectedly dried up. Take the job and keep looking for better jobs with no guilt.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:22 AM on August 13, 2014 [17 favorites]

Declining the new position with your present employer is equivalent to quitting your job, and it is never acceptable to quit your job without another job offer in hand.

I feel a sense of loyalty towards my employer and would feel bad leaving them soon after starting a new project

Your employer feels no loyalty to you and will lay you off the moment their profit starts to slide.

If your employer can't replace you on the new project, then the employer has no redundancy in their staffing, and is already in trouble. Employees leave all the time for entirely other reasons - for instance, getting sick. It's a necessary part of business to be able to replace employees quickly or else divide work so that one employee leaving does not affect the business.

So basically, am I wrong in my initial assessment?


Is it okay to take the new role knowing that I am actively pursuing other opportunities?


Also, what should I be considering in making these decisions?

Being unemployed for any reason sucks. You don't make any money but you still have all the expenses you'd otherwise have (and if you are in the USA, you will probably not get unemployment benefits if you knew the job was short-term and the employer is offering to employ you). You would also make it harder for yourself to get a new job. Unfortunate as it is, employers have a tendency not to hire unemployed people because they are perceived to be "unclean" for some reason (otherwise, why would they be unemployed?).

There is nothing good that can come from voluntary unemployment.
posted by saeculorum at 7:23 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Good Lord, YES. It is definitely okay to cover your butt and take the sure thing while you keep looking for maybes. The alternative would be to stop working altogether because you might leave the job you were offered - that makes no sense! Your job search might not even pan out, and where would that leave you?

If it makes you feel any better, your employer would drop you in a second if a better situation than having you as an employee came along. You're just returning the sentiment.
posted by Willie0248 at 7:25 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it ok?
Yeah sure.

Not all employers are quite as bad as the first two commenters mention, but in a realistic sense you have finished the job you where hired for and this is a transition phase. it's nice that they want to continue to employe you, that will give you a secure space to pursue something better.

Keep your current employment, try like hell to find something better.
posted by edgeways at 7:27 AM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

In addition to all the "your employer would can you in a second" talk, don't forget that your employer probably wouldn't even let you know they were considering canning you and resist the temptation to give them "fair warning" that you're looking for something else.
posted by Gev at 7:28 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Always take the sure thing over the maybe, especially when trying to project the future. And no, don't tell them a damn thing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:34 AM on August 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm in a similar situation, but a little bit further on. I got laid off from a job about six weeks ago, and quite quickly found and started a new role. However, this job has multiple problems for me - not least that it's 40 miles from home, I hate the commute, and it's costing me more in fuel and travel than I pay in rent. It's not a sustainable situation - I'm spending more than I'm earning. So I'm looking to leave, three weeks in, and actively looking for alternative work closer to home. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

For the first 3-6 months of a job, you're in a probation period. The employer can decide you're not a good fit and get rid of you - they are, in effect, trialling you. That's not a one way thing - you are also trialling them, to see if they're a good fit for you as an employee. You get to see how the office atmosphere is day after day, how things are once the post-offer honeymoon wears off, what your commute's like day-to-day, and so on. And if those things aren't good for you, you can also say "sorry, this didn't work out, thank you for the opportunity" and move on to something that's better.

So you absolutely get to take the not-ideal job so that you can pay the rent, and keep looking for an ideal job. Your life doesn't belong to your employer, they hire you for a certain number of hours a week. They don't get to decide, and you should show them the same amount of loyalty as they'd show you. In my personal situation, the finances of keeping working this job don't work out, so I'm off. If their finances didn't work out for employing me, you can be sure I'd be canned straight away - works both ways!

In short, it's your life, you don't belong to them, and you get to do whatever you feel is right for your own finances and your own career.
posted by winterhill at 7:39 AM on August 13, 2014

I have done this exact thing. I felt amazingly guilty about it at the time--but, in the long term, it was the best choice I could have made.

There are also no long-term hard feelings, in my case. This is a thing that happens and many (perhaps most?) employers will accept it as par for the course.
posted by divka at 7:39 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by PMdixon at 8:03 AM on August 13, 2014

I feel a sense of loyalty towards my employer and would feel bad leaving them soon after starting a new project,

If you didn't start this new project, they'd have to find somebody else to do it, and a new hire wouldn't have the context that you do, about what the company really wants from the project, and who to talk to and how to get it done. (and yes, hypothetically, this "other person" is also someone already in the company, but no matter who shuffles around, there's a new person involved someplace - and besides, sounds like you're first on the list!)
If you did start this project, and then left, the work would already be started, you would've made useful progress, and could leave things in a state to be easily handed off to someone. Think of it from the perspective of the project: if you do a great job for 3 months then leave, the project will be in a better place at Christmastime than if they hire someone ASAP who gets started in October (it takes over a month to hire somebody) and slowly gets up to speed.

It's not like school, with an academic year, and everybody finishes projects in the spring and starts someplace new in the fall. The work continues with a life of its own, and an unknowable schedule, and workers move in and out of the tasks to be done. Unless you're a contract worker hired project-to-project who is willing to spend months of unemployment between every job, you will always be looking for a new employer while still at your current one, and you can't predict your project cycle.
posted by aimedwander at 8:13 AM on August 13, 2014

Especially in this case, where your current employer has no new-hire costs, training, etc. Every employer, no matter how much the company feels like family, no matter how much you like them, no matter what, will lay you off in a heartbeat. They will pay you as little as they can get away with, will scrimp on benefits, etc., and, again, if they feel there's a business need, you will be laid off, they will work hard to keep you from having advance knowledge of it. You should remember that when you feel loyalty or obligation towards your employer. It is not reciprocated.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel a sense of loyalty towards my employer and would feel bad leaving them soon after starting a new project,

That's nice, and in a perfect world there's mutual admiration and courtesy. Maybe you even work at a place with that sort of respect. But it's still a business relationship and they're going to do what's best for the organization.

Some of what's best for the organization is keeping good people who have good attitudes and who have a grasp of the company culture and way of doing things. But sometimes it means restructuring and showing good people the door. Sooner or later that company will be willing to take actions that are good for them and bad for you. You hope they do it in a respectful way that - through severance or services or whatever - makes it a softer landing for you. But they would do it, and they'd do it even if you had made bad personal decisions that left you unable to roll well with the punches.

And so should you. Your organization should manage itself well enough that a single person leaving for another opportunity won't cripple them. Maybe it'll be inconvenience but see above - their convenience is something that it's nice for you to think of but it shouldn't be your first priority. Live your life. Do your job in a way that doesn't maximize their vulnerability when you leave, but you should do that anyway (what if you get hit by a bus?) and they should be pushing you to do that. If they are not being smart that way... well, that's a shame but that's not your fault.

Take the job and do it well till you don't want to do it anymore. Pursuing a life you want is nothing to feel ashamed of.
posted by phearlez at 8:36 AM on August 13, 2014

If this is employment-at-will, either you or your employer can terminate it at any time without being in violation of contract.

That said, accept the position and keep looking for another job in Better City.
posted by tckma at 8:40 AM on August 13, 2014

Accepting a job offer or change in responsibility generally conveys the idea that you're going to be sticking around. Regardless of whether or not the intent to deceive is there, the practical reality is that there is a level of dishonesty in accepting a new position with your current employer while looking for something.

Only you can decide whether or not you agree and whether or not you're comfortable with not being completely honest.

Yes, I know that OP's current employer would lay them off without a moment's notice. I believe that a person's word, express or implied, should be their bond regardless of how other people behave.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:43 AM on August 13, 2014

I don't see how it is dishonest to accept a position and continue to look. Employers and employees are always looking for 'better' (someone to pay less, or company that pays more). That's the most absurd thing I've heard.

OP, please accept this position and keep looking if you decide to. You should feel no guilt and/or that you're being dishonest. There is no promise of employment from anyone these days and accepting a job offer does not imply that you can't look for anywhere else. I have never heard of such a thing. This is just the cost of doing business, for both sides.
posted by driedmango at 9:11 AM on August 13, 2014

Listen to your friends and your family and the majority of responders here. Accept the position now, and continue to look for something better, without hesitation.

You're not irreplaceable. If you quit/moved/got sick/died tomorrow, the company you're at now would not suddenly go out of business without you. They will find someone else in short order. You're not putting them in a terrible position if you leave your job soon. Yes, it would be some discomfort to them, but that's about it. Three, six months later and nobody there will give you a second thought.

That might sound harsh, but really... it's just a company. As nice as it may be, it's not a family or friends. If it feels like the company likes you, that's because the people at the company find you pleasant and easy to work with. The company itself feels nothing for you because it's just a company. It's not alive, and you can't hurt its feelings. The people there will miss you just as long as it takes to find someone else to comfortably settle into your old position so their jobs can go back to normal.

Stop worrying about the feelings of something that doesn't have them, and start thinking about what's best for you. The best thing for you is to have a steady job that will pay your bills and maintain a continual employment record, while you continue to pursue the best job you possibly can.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:26 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dude, take the new job and keep looking. You don't know if you will even get any of the new jobs opening up. You absolutely do not have to risk an employment gap and using your savings out of some very misguided sense of loyalty and honesty toward your company. Come on.

People leave jobs all the time -- it's normal. I had someone quit after two days because he got his dream job offer. It ranked no higher than "mildly amusing." And since you've been at this company a while and they were effectively about to terminate you anyway, I don't even think you'd be risking "burning bridges" or anything like that. They already like you and they surely understand that you've had to look since you were about to be fired. Honestly, it's reasonable and they will not care. Listen to your friends and family.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:46 AM on August 13, 2014

the practical reality is that there is a level of dishonesty in accepting a new position with your current employer while looking for something.

Then I have been dishonest every moment since I accepted my first job 27 years and four months ago because there has never been a second where I was not open to another opportunity. I left jobs during that time and I always did it with courtesy and respect and provided notice. Many of them I extended the offer to be available for questions after the fact and a few took me up on it. It is always possible for people in positions of mutual respect to handle a transition without misery.

There is no dishonesty in accepting an at-will position that everyone knows is at-will. If the employer was concerned about it there are many mechanisms for encouraging people to consider gigs to be longer-term commitments, such as profit sharing and retirement vesting timetables. None of this is a surprise to anyone and if they are filling a position where they cannot stomach that turnover they have options to create more incentive to stay.
posted by phearlez at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2014

As a manager myself I would say, if a manager is worthy of your loyalty they will support a decision to move to a new challenge. And continue to supply references.

No organization can be the perfect fit forever.

Don't tell them (or others) until you know you are leaving as it serves no purpose until there is something they can do about it. You might stay, after all.
posted by chapps at 10:31 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, absolutely it's okay.

In my last career, I did this three (in the same company) while switching career paths. Once, we changed the parameters of my job description and duties to enable me to keep working at the company while I went back to school. I stayed there for two years after that.

Accept the position, and keep looking for work where you want to live. Having to relocate will add entirely new levels of complication to the interview/hiring process. You need a stable job while you pursue it.
posted by RainyJay at 2:54 PM on August 13, 2014

I've got similar sentiments to yours. I'd feel weird about taking a job while I was silently hoping to relocate.

I would still do it, but I'd probably give my company a little warning. "I should mention I already started looking at a couple other opportunities. I don't think anything is very likely, but if I did get an offer I would have to give it due consideration."

You know best how your company is likely to respond to this. Lots of places would shrug and say OK. Some would try to press you and get you to make a hard promise to stay. Don't get bullied into making any promises.

I do think other posters are basically right that you don't actually need to tell your company anything. It is just business. Opportunities don't always arrive at a convenient time for all concerned, you've got to take them as they come. But I understand your uneasy feeling too.

I do think the decision should be between saying something, or saying nothing, but in either case taking the offer and keep looking at relocating. You definitely, definitely do not have to give up one or the other.
posted by mattu at 5:48 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Best, most cost effective way to backup google...   |   Irritability emergency! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.