Times are changing and it is reflected best in the separation trend in the IT industry. Till the 1990’s most professionals had a linear thinking pattern; acquire a skill (engineering, accountancy etc.) and then choose an organization (typically a PSU) where one could work for a long period of time, if not till retirement. With the opening up of the Indian economy in the mid-90s, came the era of the IT boom which continues to this day, albeit at a much faster pace. With several opportunities rising due to the industries getting more integrated to global markets and economy, job stability is a thing of the past. People have realised that if they do not keep adding value to themselves or the company they work for, they will quickly saturate their careers or even become redundant. Hence nowadays loyalty milestones have shrunk to five years (and its multiples), with several companies even starting to reward and celebrate service anniversaries. Job hopping which was considered a taboo earlier is now seen as a fast way of acquiring talent with the “hot” skills. From the several CVs that I have recently seen, and I do see a lot, the average tenure for people in any organisation is now between 1.5 to 2 years. This trend though more obvious in junior profiles (Millennials) is not limited there, but is now being seen at senior levels as well.
In such times when hiring and separation has almost become a 2 year cycle for many IT companies, it becomes very important to check the reasons why the person quit his/her previous job. By probing into this fact properly, they can get a good insight about the future behavior of the candidate.
From the other side of the table, it becomes very critical for the candidates as well to manage their separation process properly. A wrong separation can impact their career not only in the short term, but also in the long term. Nowadays with background verification of candidates becoming very stringent, chances are likely that any bad separation will be picked up and highlighted impacting the outcome of an offer. Hence the best way to avoid such scenarios is to ensure that your separation is as smooth as possible.
Though separations are never easy, we can minimize the negative effects of a voluntary separation by following a few basic steps.
1) Plan your separation – Act don’t react
It’s not one fine day that you wake up and decide to quit your current job. There are multiple triggers that initiate this thought process – a bad boss, stagnant role, financial issues etc. Whatever the primary reason might be, your separation should be as meticulously planned as the effort you put to crack a new job interview. Why, when, and how you plan to quit should be well articulated and then you need to ensure that you do not deviate much from it. In this planning phase not only should you identify the kind of job/role/work-environment you are aiming for, but also your backup plan if things do not work out the way you anticipate. Nothing should be left to chance and later come as a total surprise to you!
2) Have a good understanding of your separation terms
It is important during the planning phase itself to understand the terms of your employment. What is the stipulated notice period? Do you have the standard notice or any special terms applies to you – people working in critical projects or on onsite customer assignments sometimes have different notice periods, hence it is always good to check. Clauses pertaining to non-solicitation of employees (anti-poaching), non-compete, intellectual property, confidentiality etc. often remain active for a certain period even post your separation.Hence it is good to be aware of these things to avoid any possible legal tangles in the future. Moreover knowing about the separation formalities – like how soon will you get your Full & Final pay-check, PF transfer, Gratuity etc. – will help you plan your finances during the transition period.
3) Follow the correct separation protocol
Tell your immediate boss first and take his/her approval before you break the news to any of your other colleagues. Be clear about the reasons why you have decided to seek opportunities outside the organisation. As much as possible minimize hiding the facts, as people are going to find out the real reason for your seeking a change eventually. However do not lose your cool or focus too much on the negative aspects of your job while sharing your feedback. Instead highlight the things that you liked (pros) and things that you feel should improve (cons), in a constructive and preferably diplomatic manner. The boss should feel that your focus is on improving the role/work-environment and not aimed at a particular person or instance. This is also the best time to negotiate and freeze on the separation terms like your last working day, knowledge transfer (KT) requirements etc.
4) Show equal commitment and focus during your final days at work
People often tend to remember the recent events over the past ones. Hence, needless to say how you conduct yourself during your notice period defines you as a professional. It becomes more important that you are punctual, work on the tasks as per the KT plan and adhere to the mutually agreed timelines. Showing the same amount of enthusiasm at work and keeping cordial relationships with all colleagues helps, as they often become a good work reference and point of assistance for the future that you can easily tap into.
5) Don’t burn your bridges!
Avoid carrying any negativity to your new job. Nowadays, the common trend is to vent out one’s feelings on social media platforms like Facebook, Glassdoor etc. about the ills of your company. However it is best to avoid such open criticism of your company, colleagues or managers, as there is a possibility that your paths might again cross in the future and you might even end up working in the same organisation or even the same team. Another obvious demerit is that you might lose out on a very credible source of professional feedback and work reference. It becomes even more relevant for people who are changing jobs after any significant tenure in their current job (2+ years), as the obvious question would be “if the environment was so bad why did you work there for that long?”
Remember how you present (speak or write about) your past companies (and colleagues) are extremely relevant, as long as they occupy a space in your CV. If you show the company in a negative light, in essence you are showing yourself in the same way as you have been associated with it. Whether one likes it or not, the company’s brand stays with us throughout our professional journey. When the image of a company gets tarnished due to any bad news or publicity, all the stakeholders associated with it (including ex-employees) also become negatively affected either directly or indirectly. Hence nowadays companies/people are not hesitating to sue ex-employees who present facts which are not factual and negatively tarnish their brand/personal image either through libel or slander. Hence if you are happy in your new role, which you normally should be after separating, then focus on the positives as you never know when it is time again to move on!
About Partha Patnaik
Partha has over 20 years of experience and has worked with organizations like Kewill, Four Soft, Fisher Electronics Pvt. Ltd., ATS Services Pvt Ltd & Gampas Plastech Pvt. Ltd. Partha holds a MBA, HR from The University of Queensland.