By Chris Bongard
5th June 2014

To read an updated version of this article please click here

The 3 month notice period is an increasingly common mandate, especially at a senior level position or for workers with highly in-demand skills. However, because of the extended timeframe, it can be tricky to negotiate how and when to leave your current position as you embark on a new job search.

If you’ve decided to look for a new job, you may have a lot of questions: Will your 3 month notice requirement be off-putting for prospective employers?  Will they be prepared to wait for you? And if you are offered a position that is perfect for you, is it possible to leave your current job any sooner than 3 months?

You may be relieved to leave a situation that you’ve not been happy in, and eager to embark on a new chapter. But it’s important you handle your notice period professionally to ensure a smooth transition for both your current and new employer, as well as to protect your professional integrity.

Be honest with prospective employers

When you are interviewing, it may be tempting to fudge the truth about how soon you could be available to work. But you’re better served by being honest about the terms of your notice and not promising you can get out of it if you don’t know that for sure. Employers would much rather know a realistic timeframe than to have you say you can start soon – and then not be able to live up to that promise.

A good guideline to follow: if you have signed a contract of employment you are duty bound to honour the 3 months’ notice – unless you can come to another agreement. If you don’t have a signed contract, then you should seek legal advice about your specific circumstances but it’s probable that you are still liable to work your 3 months’ notice period. For more information visit the ACAS website.

Align your goals with those of your current employer

Whether they’re expecting your resignation or are taken by surprise, your employer faces a less than ideal situation when you announce your departure. They have to recruit, hire and train a replacement, or perhaps even restructure your team to ensure workflow and productivity continue unimpeded. Moreover, they won’t want an uncommitted employee hanging around too long, potentially upsetting the rest of your team. The more cooperative you are, and the more help you can give to address any difficulties in the transition process, the more likely it is you’ll be able to negotiate leaving sooner.

Steps for negotiating an early exit

When the time finally comes to make your case for leaving sooner, adhere to these guidelines:

  • Do it in writing and include your intended departure date.
  • Outline (again, in writing) how to handle the handover process such that it allows you to leave sooner. Be specific – include details of any work and projects you will be handing over, and to whom, and provide timelines and expected completion date for the transition.
  • Add up the number of holidays you’ve got left and use them to reduce your notice period.
  • It’s crucial not to badmouth your boss or the company, whether to your coworkers or on social media. Be professional and gracious – it will serve the immediate purpose of helping you leave earlier, and in the longer run, reflect well on you in your career.

For more on the topic of making a gracious exit, read our recent blog post here.

One thing to note: if you are leaving to work for a competitor, your employer may decide to put you on garden leave – essentially letting you walk away whilst remaining in your contract. If this is offered to you, you are still legally bound to your employer and can’t start another job until your garden leave and notice period is complete. Use this time as an opportunity to prepare for your new job, perhaps by upgrading your skills and training. (Check your contract for clauses relating to leaving for a competitor firm.)

So they said no – now what?

If you’ve asked to leave earlier, and they’ve said no – don’t give up hope! It might be still be possible if the handover is completed or your replacement is hired more quickly than expected. Keep your manager posted of your progress and if you are on track to complete the work early, you can always put in another request for an early release.

Be aware that some employers will use this time to try and convince you to stay, for example with a promotion or more money. However, we don’t usually encourage accepting a counter offer. Here’s why.

If you do have to see out the 3 month notice period, don’t be too discouraged. Resist the temptation to slack off, skip meetings or take sick days. Complete the handover to the best of your ability and prepare yourself mentally for all that goes with starting a new job. Use your exit interview as the chance to offer constructive feedback about why you’re leaving.

3 month notice period

Have you ever successfully left a job before your 3 month notice period was up? What was your approach and why do you think it worked? We’d love to hear your insight.

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