Career Center Blog

September 13, 2011

Quitting the job you just started for a better one


A Seattle area reader I'll call "Mark" recently wrote me about a sticky employment situation he found himself in:

"I have been doing consistent contract work with one employer for several years. I just signed the paperwork for a new contract position I'm about to start with that same company. Two days later, I received a call from an esteemed company regarding a full-time position with benefits. I have an interview scheduled later this month, a couple weeks before I'm scheduled to start my contract job. I feel like I should tell the company I am interviewing with that I have an upcoming contract job, but I don't want to jeopardize being considered for the full-time job. If they ask me during my interview how soon I could start, I was thinking that I could bring up my contract at that point. Any advice?"

With the national poverty rate at an all-time high, Mark's problem is a fortunate one to have. My recommendation is to not tell the company you're interviewing with that you're about to start a contract position. Nor should you tell the people at your contract gig that you're interviewing for your dream job at another company. You may not get the full-time job, or you may go through the interview process and decide you don't want it, so no need to come clean just yet.

Yes, it's a fib by omission, but you probably won't win any points with the hiring manager by telling him or her you're about to start a temporary position and are looking to trade up. If asked how soon you can start, just offer a realistic date and leave it at that. If you're offered the permanent position after you've already begun your contract job, say you'll need the standard two weeks to wrap up your current position. If you haven't started your contract job yet, simply say that you'll need a week or two (or however long is appropriate) to wrap up some loose ends on interim projects you've been doing (which implies you were doing some freelance or consulting work).

As for your contract employer, while it will be disappointing for them if you quit during your first month or before you even start, those are the breaks for companies that only offer temporary, part-time work. Sometimes a permanent position with better benefits comes along and valued temps choose to jump ship.

Mark is doubly blessed in this situation because he's been contracting with the same employer for several years, which means they must appreciate and respect him and his work. So chances are his colleagues will be happy for him and fairly understanding of him quitting at the start of his contract, despite the inconvenience looking for his replacement will present.

How about you? Have you ever left a brand-new position for a better one? How did you handle it? How did the employer you left behind react?

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide." E-mail Michelle at

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To move from contract to full time is a predictable move. The contract employer may be disappointed, but as long as it is handled professionally, there should be no problem. Meanwhile, Mark appears to have a good working relationship with the contract employer. He probably should approach them to see he they can turn him into full timer if that is what he wanted. There is no guarantee that the full time position will work out, and stick with the "known" is worth considering.

As someone who's done quite a bit of contract work (and worked with many other contractors) I feel that Mark is completely justified in leaving his contract position at ANY point, provided that he gives 2 week notice. Companies use contractors because they don't want to commit to employees and they want to be able to add or subtract them with no regard for their long-term situations. That cuts both ways though -- contract employees should feel free to use the transitory nature of the work to their benefit as well.

To me, the contract/FT situation here colors the whole question -- it would be in more of a grey area if Mark had just started as an FTE at a company and wanted to move on right away...

Two perspectives:

Knowledge workers have no guarantee of employment day-to-day. Therefore the market reigns supreme - go for the best offer, never stop looking.

Management takes a different view - if they go through the effort to hire you and it falls through, you'll never have a second chance with that manager.

Management tends to be relentlessly stupid in this regard - hence the truthiness of Dilbert cartoons.


I am considering doing something like this in the very near future? Imagine me seeing this tonight too? I guess it's an OKAY to GO thing if it will benefit your finanaces in the longrun that's what you have to do. It's not usually something I would even consider, but with the way things in the job market have been anythings possible.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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