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Career Coach: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

The Career Coach talks about how and why to shop for your next job gracefully without antagonizing your current employer.


Youre no longer in love with your current job and suddenly you hear about an irresistible opportunity. Making a change is a big step, whether its a job switch or a new company. Consider how your decisions may affect your employer, as well as yourself. Heres how to handle a career move so you dont jostle your current employer or future one.

Moving Out With a Solid Offer of Employment: Initiating the Breakup

If you are on a project that will end soon, stay and finish before starting a new job:

Confirm the delivery date of your current project with your current employer and inform your new employer that you need to delay your start date until the completion of your current project. The new company will appreciate your professionalism and loyalty. No one wants to employ someone who would abandon a project before its completion.

If you are on staff or your projects completion is months away:

You build the best reputation by sticking to your commitments and completing a project so consider carefully before accepting a new job. If the new company wants you now, its likely that they will also want you in the future when your project is complete.

If conditions make it impossible to continue your current job, and the projects completion is months away, its time to give your employer two weeks notice and a parting gift a list of capable people, including phone numbers and email addresses, who you recommend as your replacements. One name on that list may be an assistant or co-worker youve been training to take over your job.

If the new company insists that you start sooner, you may be able to freelance for them while you wrap up your current project.

If your employer feels that your contribution to the project is finished and that you can leave before the delivery date, arrange to get a copy of the work you did on the project so you can add it to your portfolio.

Your employer may make you an offer to stay. If you decide to stay with your current employer, ask for their offer in writing and inform the new company that you have decided to decline their offer as soon as possible.

Moving Out Without a Place to Go, Moving on Without Resentment

You feel its time for a change, but you dont have the time or energy to job hunt while employed.

Realize that employers tend to favor employees that are employed. Just as in dating, you seem more attractive if you are seen with someone else. If you start a job search while employed, make a plan and schedule time each week to carry it out. But dont use the companys stationery, email, phone or postage meter, and dont job-hunt on company time.

Before you decide to quit your job, determine if there are employment possibilities for someone with your skills and background. The animation and visual effects industry hiring needs fluctuate and some times are better than others to find work. Timing is everything.

Check the industry climate to gauge if there are job opportunities. Do this by checking industry Websites like and asking friends in other companies.

Wait until you have sufficient savings before leaving your current job. How much?

For every $10,000 in salary, it takes a month to find a replacement job. So if you are making $80,000, it could take at least eight months to find a suitable new job. This means that before you quit your job, you should have at least eight months of savings to cover your expenses.

Figure out your monthly expenses, rent or mortgage, food, transportation, medical insurance, etc. This is your budget of fixed expenses, the amount you must make per month to meet your basic living expenses. Everyone should have six months of savings, in case of layoffs.

When you leave your job, do not squander your money or your time on frivolities. Remember it takes not only time, but money, to find a new job, the costs of travel to interviews, postage, demo reel duplication, etc., can add up.

Finding a new position is a full-time job so spend your time wisely, investigating the companies you want to work with, making appointments to meet with people you know in the industry and perfecting your marketing materials. Ask for feedback on your résumé and reel from friends who are employed at companies where you want to work.

Sometimes leaving may not be your idea. If your project ends, or your employer decides you have completed your contributions, and you find yourself out of a job, dont take it personally. Maintain your professionalism and realize that you may find work with your current employer again, so maintain a good relationship with them.

When you break up with your employer, whether its your choice or theirs, keep communication open and maintain a professional and positive attitude. If you initiate the breakup, share contacts with them, providing them with a list of candidates who can replace you. If you give them plenty of notice and treat them well, you may get more work from them in the future.

How you treat your former employers will affect all your future ones. Build and maintain solid relationships with your exes. Even if your former place of employment was a sweatshop, dont speak ill of them. The animation and visual effects industry world is small and interconnected with many bridges, so dont burn any! You may be crossing them again.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a career coach, recruiter and hiring strategist. She is recruiting lighters, texture artists, animators, modelers and compositors for a retro sci-fi effects heavy feature film.