Answering the Call to Transfer

Job hunting while still employed

I received an email from a reader recently. She wanted to know if it was okay to look for another job while still employed. She wanted to transfer to a company in the same industry that offers a higher pay. Compounding her problem is that she is currently in a dispute with her employer.
This is a common scenario in the corporate world. Anyone in the same situation would probably feel aggrieved, but it’s best not to let your emotions rule your decision. Many people planning to look for another employer share the same problem. Many of them have done it well and are now enjoying a better job. However, there are those that made the wrong moves and are presently in a worse position than before.
The situation must be carefully studied before deciding on a course of action, since a wrong move may do enormous damage to your career. There are many aspects to consider; among these are the legal, ethical and practical consequences.
Think first of your legal standing. The first thing that you must do is to review all the employment related papers you have signed with your company. There might be a non-compete clause in your employment contract. This forbids you from seeking employment from a company in the same type of business.
If there is a non-compete clause, you should consult a lawyer with extensive experience in labor cases if you are still determined to transfer to a company in the same industry. I suggest you try to work out something mutually acceptable. If you want to be tough, you may be able to win your case in court but that will entail much time and money if the company does decide to give you trouble. Besides, there is always the possibility that you may lose your case.
Another potential legal impediment is if it states in your contract that you are required to be employed a minimum number of years by the company; this is usually the case if you were given special training. This was an issue some time ago when several pilots resigned to work for another airline. Their previous employer sued them because they have not yet completed the required number of years as compensation for their training.
Study all the practical implications of your resignation. What are the benefits that will be foregone? There may be some loans that will be immediately deductible from your separation pay. Check the terms of your Pag-ibig and SSS loans, if you have outstanding balances that may automatically be due in full. You may be counting on your separation pay to tide you over while unemployed, without knowing that it may be significantly reduced.
Take note that no matter what your personal opinion is of your present company, now is not the time to burn your bridges. It is virtually certain that interviewers will check on your current employer and if you are not in good terms with them they are unlikely to give a good recommendation. In fact, just around a year ago, I was interviewing an applicant who was out of work for two years. She is highly talented, and she did not know that the probable reason why no one was hiring was because one of her references gave her a terrible feedback.
Although you are likely to be interviewed by a fellow employee, do not assume that he/she will be sympathetic to your cause. Never bad mouth your previous employer. Since there is an abundance of applicants to choose from, it will most likely eliminate you from consideration if there is the slightest possibility that you are a troublemaker.
Regarding the ethical aspects, I do not see any problem applying before filing your resignation — unless you are using company time and resources in your job search. As long as there is no malice in any of your acts, like intentionally filing your resignation at a time when it will cause the most inconvenience, then the thirty days’ notice should be sufficient for both legal and ethical considerations.
The main problem with looking for work before filing your resignation is that prospective employers cannot call on your current employer to check on your performance. Hopefully your credentials will outweigh this disadvantage.
Finally, be extra nice on your last days in your company. Instead of slacking off, exert more effort and try to make the transition for your successor as easy possible. Just as the first impression has a long impact, so are your last actions long remembered; so try to leave on a high note. A cordial exit may reap future benefits later in your career.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.