The finance industry is growing, and the employment outlook for finance and accounting professionals is positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook, by 2022 the demand for financial analysts will grow by 16%; the call for accountants and auditors will rise by 13%; the need for securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents will increase by 11%; and the call for loan officers will increase by 8%. Clearly, there are many opportunities out there for the finance and accounting professional, which means there’s a good chance that a new opportunity could come knocking for you.
If a job change is in your future, you’ll want to make the move as successful as possible. This article will show you how to close one door while opening another with professional poise and without the inherent risk of burning bridges.
DECIDING WHEN TO MOVE ON
The 2014 Kelly Global Workforce Index shows that the majority of finance and accounting talent is looking for new opportunities. An astounding 67% of professionals in this sector plan to look for a new job with a different employer in the upcoming 12 months. Additionally, more than half are confident they will be in high demand in the marketplace, and 73% believe they will be in a good bargaining position to secure a similar or better job.
Yet even in a favorable job market, how do you know it’s really time to move on?
The answer is to make the decision to look for another job rationally. To start, be sure to assess your pain points—those factors that are making you dissatisfied or unhappy in your current job. By evaluating to what extent they affect your job satisfaction and career development, you’ll be in a better position to decide whether you really want to look for another job. (See “Why Your Peers Leave Their Jobs” for a list of 10 common pain points finance and accounting professionals say are reasons to move on from their current jobs.)
Of course, you may have other pain points than your peers have, such as a lack of global opportunities or a corporate culture mismatch. But the important thing is to become aware of what’s driving your desire to leave your current job. Some pain points can be addressed, meaning you might still have a successful career path with your current employer. But in the event they can’t be resolved and it really is time to move on, being aware of the points you aren’t willing to compromise on will help you ensure your next position is a better match and one that furthers your career.
Let’s fast-forward a few weeks. You’ve landed a great job with fantastic career prospects. You’ve signed the contract and agreed on a start date. Now it’s time to resign from your current position.
Here it becomes crucial to close the door softly, not slam it behind you. You want to maintain the relationships you’ve built because every contact in your network, including your current boss and colleagues, might be a lead to a future career opportunity.
In other words, no matter how happy you are about leaving your old job, you must remain professional and keep working hard until the moment you actually leave. Here’s how you can do this:
- Inform your manager of your resignation. Before talking to anybody else about your new job, make an appointment to speak with your manager in person. Announce your resignation and the date it will take effect. It’s standard to give two weeks’ notice unless your contract specifies otherwise. Bear in mind that you don’t have to tell your manager why you’re leaving or who your new employer will be. Often the less information you offer, the better. Remember to thank your manager for the time you’ve worked together, and offer to do anything you can to make the transition of responsibilities as smooth as possible, including training a replacement.
- Follow up with a written letter of resignation. Keep this letter—which you should give to your manager, with a copy to Human Resources—concise and to the point. It doesn’t need to contain much more than your resignation and the termination date of your employment. Don’t mention your reason for leaving or the name of your new employer.
- Tell your colleagues about your resignation. Your colleagues have a right to know you’re leaving, but only after you’ve informed your supervisor. Again, it’s best to keep quiet about the details. You can always follow up after a few weeks in your new job when everything has settled down.
- Be prepared to make a transition plan. Your employer will likely try to find a replacement as soon as possible, so be prepared to work harder than ever. Most likely you’ll be taken up on your offer to train your replacement and introduce him or her to all internal and external stakeholders as well as create a transition schedule to hand off your responsibilities.
- Remain friendly and professional at all times. Avoid becoming upset, angry, or in any way emotional. Instead, remain completely courteous and professional. You never know—you might need a recommendation from somebody on the team in the future, or you could even wind up working with one or more of your colleagues again.
Think of it this way: When shutting the door on your old job, make sure the last impression everyone has of you shows you at your best professionally. Those final impressions can have untold benefits later in your career.
When you tender your resignation, it’s quite possible that your employer will make you a counteroffer with increased pay or a promotion in a bid to get you to stay with the company. However enticing the offer, it’s important to note that the majority of professionals who stay with their original employers after accepting a counteroffer wind up in the job market again within 12 months.
Considering this statistic, it’s clear that accepting a counteroffer is rarely a good idea. First, more often than not, counteroffers are made to avoid the inconvenience and expense of having to search for and train a replacement. It’s much more effective in terms of time and cost for your employer to simply offer you something extra. You should ask yourself, however, that if it’s possible to offer you more compensation or a promotion now, why wasn’t either one offered sooner? At the same time, does this mean you’ll have to wait longer for a subsequent promotion and raise?
Second, if you accept the counteroffer, the fact that you considered leaving the company could mean your loyalty could be called into question. This could have a number of repercussions, ranging from not being included on interesting projects to being passed over for future promotions. In short, it could result in doors being shut and your career trajectory being blocked.
Third, accepting a counteroffer will likely mean you’ll burn your bridges with the company you intended to join as well as any contact or recruiter who helped you secure the position. And even if you aren’t planning to accept the counteroffer, never make the mistake of using it as leverage to obtain a higher salary or better terms from your new employer. In both cases, you’ll likely be perceived as somebody who doesn’t follow through on his or her commitments, reducing your chances of ever again being able to work with these people.
In the event you receive a counteroffer, review your pain points for your current job and see if the counteroffer addresses them. At the same time, consider what attracted you to the new company in the first place. Was it the promise of more interesting work? A better cultural fit? A clearer career path? Remind yourself why this new company was more interesting than your current one until you were made the counteroffer. Then assess both offers on the table for current and future value.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE JOB MARKETOnce you’ve given your employer your resignation, it’s time to withdraw from the job market. Treat these following five points as a checklist to professionally wrap up your job search.
- Inform your personal and professional networks that you’ve found a new job. Touch base with all of your contacts who were helping you in your job search, including your immediate network of friends and family as well as your extended professional network and LinkedIn contacts. Thank everybody for their assistance in your search, and tell them that you’re no longer looking for a new position. As I mentioned earlier, to avoid any future problems with your current employer, it’s advisable to refrain from stating who your new employer will be.
- Tell any recruiters you’ve been working with that you’re withdrawing your candidacy. Thank them for their assistance, and ask them to mark your file as inactive. Always be courteous and leave the door open for future collaboration since you’ll likely enlist their help again when you want to make your next career move.
- Withdraw any outstanding job applications. Review your records, and make a list of all outstanding job applications. Then send each company a brief e-mail stating you’re withdrawing your application.
- Cancel any upcoming job interviews. Again, contact the companies in question to withdraw your application, and thank them for their consideration.
- Remove your résumé from the Internet. Refer to your records to make a list of all the sites where you’ve posted your résumé, including aggregate job sites and your own personal website. Make sure to remove your résumé from each one so your new employer doesn’t see it still out there and interpret it as a lack of commitment to your new position.
MINING THE ORIENTATION PROCESS
Since your first weeks at your new company are crucial to your prospective career with this new employer, it’s essential that you mine this process for all the information and resources you need to do your job well. Remember, the sooner you’re comfortable in your new position, the sooner you’ll be fully productive.
To make the most of the orientation process, keep these useful tips in mind:
- Take responsibility for your own orientation. Though the majority of employers provide a structured orientation process, it might not cover all the things you need to know to perform well in your job. You need to be proactive and ask for information, assistance, and resources when necessary.
- Identify your job responsibilities. As early in the orientation process as possible, sit down with your manager to identify all of your job responsibilities. This creates clarity and reduces the risk that you’ll miss a vital aspect of your duties during this crucial time at your new company.
- Agree to a realistic timeline for outcome deliveries. Once you know exactly what your responsibilities are, put together a realistic schedule for key outcomes. Avoid promising too much too soon; instead, give yourself enough time to learn what you need to know about the company and its processes first.
- Ask for a trainer, mentor, or go-to person. As the new kid on the block, you’ll have plenty of questions that need answering before you can function properly, and having a single go-to person can speed up your learning process and eliminate frustration. Therefore, ask your supervisor to appoint one if he or she hasn’t already.
- Establish strong working relationships with the members of your team. From day one at your new job, make a point of reaching out to your new colleagues. Keep track of who does what, and find out with whom you’ll be working closely. Invite them in on projects, and listen to their feedback in order to establish strong working relationships.
- Get the lay of the land. Of course, you also need to physically be able to find your way around the company. During the first days, make a point of finding out where all the different departments and conference rooms are as well as any other important locations (bathrooms!) you should know about.
- Find out who the stakeholders are. In order to provide effective outcomes, you need to know who the internal and external stakeholders are. Find out which individuals, departments, or partners are invested in your projects, and—if appropriate—make a point of introducing yourself.
- Attend to HR matters. No matter how busy you are, don’t forget to get things like your benefits and 401(k) plan set up. The sooner you do so, the less likely you are to be distracted by them at work.
AVOIDING (OFFICE) CULTURE SHOCK
As mentioned previously, the first months at your new job are also about moving seamlessly into your new company’s culture. Being a part of the group will not only allow you to function better, but it will also help you establish solid relationships and even pave the way for opening more doors in the future.
To integrate into your new company’s culture, be prepared to let go of entrenched habits you may have formed at your previous company. Each organization has its own unique way of doing things, and no matter how attached you are to your old ways, you have to be prepared to learn new ones. Observe, ask questions, and try to use company-specific processes and procedures as frequently as possible. This will put your new colleagues at ease and show them you’re working hard to fit in.
A word of caution: Avoid the mistake of failing to adapt because you think your way is better. More often than not there’s a reason why something is done in a specific way, so make sure you understand the why behind things. According to Forbes.com, experts estimate that 89% of all hiring failures are the result of a poor cultural match. Yet however hard you find it to adapt, if you resist integrating, chances are you’ll find it hard to fit in at another company, too. To keep your career on track, it’s advisable to make a concerted effort to adapt.
Another, equally important aspect of integrating pertains to strengthening your relationships with your coworkers, supervisor, and any other individuals you come into contact with professionally. Build on your professional relationships by taking a genuine interest in people. There’s really no faster way to integrate into the group than becoming friendly with others.
The process of opening one door while closing another sounds simple enough, but when those doors are on your career path, the weight of what’s at stake becomes clear. When you keep these points in mind, you’ll be equipped with a strategy that allows you to exit gracefully from your old job and enter your new company in a professional manner. Then keeping your career trajectory on track just hinges on you doing what you do best: your job. SF
SIDEBAR: Why Your Peers Leave Their JobsThe 2014 Kelly Global Workforce Index captured the main reasons why more than 16,000 finance and accounting professionals around the world would look for another job. The following is a list of the 10 most common reasons, followed by the percentage of respondents who chose it.
- Salary, benefits, and other financial incentives (59%). Finance and accounting professionals often seek to leave their job when they accept more responsibilities but aren’t given a pay raise or some other corresponding compensation.
- Lack of opportunities for growth (43%). Though this can be the result of anything from the size of a company to a temporary lack of in-house opportunities, more than four in 10 respondents cited it as a reason to move on.
- Inadequate work/life balance (36%). It’s becoming increasingly important for finance and accounting professionals to enjoy a better balance between their professional and personal lives, and they’ll look hard for another job to get it.
- Poor staff morale (34%). In an industry still recovering from the recession and adjusting to new regulations, poor staff morale was cited as a powerful motivator to jump ship.
- Problems with management (32%). Whether it’s leadership issues or personal differences, problems with management can cause considerable friction at work—and serve as a good reason to spruce up your résumé.
- Stress (25%). In a high-pressure industry currently experiencing a skills gap, it isn’t surprising that one-quarter of finance and accounting workers said they’d leave their jobs because of too much stress.
- Poor skills and interest fit (20%). Unfortunately, not every position turns out to be the perfect match in terms of skills. This would prompt plenty of financial professionals to look for another job to find a better match for their abilities and interests.
- Poor communication (19%). Poor communication within a team, between departments, and with leadership can affect performance and job satisfaction. Nearly one in five respondents said that poor communication would be a reason to look for employment elsewhere.
- Lack of flexible work arrangements (15%). Flexible work schedules and telecommuting are becoming increasingly important to many workers even though the sensitive nature of the finance industry doesn’t always lend itself to remote work.
- Lack of training and development programs (17%). In the finance industry, change is rapid because of increased automation, changing regulations, and even increased globalization. Workers are aware that they need to keep developing professionally in order to remain relevant and employable, and a job change may be a way to secure that.