Thursday, May 22, 2008

When You Jump Ship and Realize You Can't Swim

Have you ever accepted a job and then realized you made a huge mistake? Many people have been in that position, but how about this one: You accept the job and before you even begin, you decide you've made a mistake and want your old job back. Ever had that happen?

For example, just a few days after University of Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan accepted a job with the Orlando Magic as its basketball coach, he changed his mind.

Statements issued said that even though he had signed a five-year multi-million dollar deal with the pro team, Donovan was conflicted. He said, simply, that he was happy where he was and wanted to stay. After some legal shuffling, his wish was granted and he was allowed to stay in his university coaching job, as long as he didn’t try and coach in the NBA for five years.

While most of us will never be under consideration to coach a pro basketball team or be offered that kind of money, we can probably identify with having second thoughts about a new job.

That kind of "buyer's regret” can be a real problem, because lots of people are going to be very unhappy with you backing out of what is considered a done deal, whether you're making millions or $25,000 a year.

The key: Realizing that once you've made a mistake, you've got to be honest -- and you've got to be quick about it.

You cannot waffle for weeks about your decision. In Donovan's case, he made the decision after only a few days. What he proved is that the new employer must be told immediately, but it must be done in such a way that they are able to feel that you acted with integrity and with respect for them.

Some other key considerations:
* Once you tell the employer you're having second thoughts, it's over. Not only have you cost them money already (headhunter fees, employment ads, recruiting time, etc.), but they have to begin the recruitment process all over again. Or, if they decide to move to the No. 2 person, then that job candidate knows he or she wasn't the first choice -- not a great way for an employer to make someone feel welcome and valued.
* Your old company may not want you back. While you still have the same skills and abilities you had when you walked out the door, they may see it as a sign of disloyalty and say "forget it" or some variation of "@#$ you!"
* Other employers may avoid you. If the new employer had you sign a contract with a non-compete clause, that would mean that other companies will shy away from you because they don't want to risk a lawsuit. You may also run the risk of your professional reputation being sullied because of your actions -- all the more reason to act quickly and honestly.

In this tough job economy, would it be career suicide to walk away from a job offer that you've already accepted?


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