Look before you leap?

There are some questions I get asked all the time. Do I deserve a pay rise?
Why aren’t I the CFO of Sky by now? How does someone as young and handsome as
you run the CFO Practice of the number one search firm in the UK? Am I better
off looking for a job while still in work, or when I’m out of it?

This last question is tricky. In many ways, the answer is that you are better
off looking for a job while not working. Firstly – there is the loyalty issue.
Many of you feel uncomfortable looking actively for a role while still working
for the company you are with currently. There is always a fair amount of
subterfuge needed – fictitious dentist trips and so forth. It often seems much
more honest, and easy, to tell people you are looking for a job, leave and then
look for a new role without the need to lie.

It also means the company you work for can set about finding your replacement
in a calm and collected fashion, rather than a frantic one as they realise that
your notice period runs out two weeks before the interims are due for release –
always a moment when you want to have a camera handy! And, in the case of
voluntary redundancy, you get to walk away with a cheque, which always feels
like a sensible choice.

However, there are substantial downsides to this. Firstly, when you are
working it really doesn’t matter how long it takes you to find a role. If you
are going to just a couple of interviews a month, or a quarter, you won’t panic
because you have a job. If you are spending the time between interviews sitting
at home, or doing the painting you have put off for two years, the time between
interviews will feel like an age and you will get more frustrated.

Secondly – when you are not working, your powers of negotiation are severely
reduced. Only yesterday we were discussing a potential offer with a client. We
were explaining why the candidate would need to be paid more than their most
recent salary. But hold on, said the client, they are not working currently. So
the current salary is in fact £0. In that light, what we are offering doesn’t
seem so bad, does it?

Assuming I am mercenary on your behalf and am only looking out for what is
best for you, I’d say looking for a job while still in a job is likely to lead
to a better result.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Berndtson

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