Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Considerations when Changing Jobs

[This post has been updated as of 2013-03-26]

While this is a little off topic, I think this could be useful for people considering changing job. It started as a list of considerations which I casually discussed with a friend but eventually grew to what is detailed below. I have also updated it with experiences discussed with other people I know. It assumes that you are happy enough in your current sector. First, a bit about me to give my musings context. I'm in my late twenties, and was lucky enough to work for a good independent software vendor straight after college, spending six years there before changing jobs in August 2011 to another company. The items are not in any particular order as the priority will differ depending on one's lifestyle, family, personality, circumstances, etc.

Salary. Generally, if a move is not based on a lifestyle choice and the responsibilities are similar or greater with the new role, it stands to reason that the new employer will pay more. A great place to start estimating salary is on a a jobs / recruitment site.

Experience. This can be more important than salary when looking for a challenge, starting out a career or looking to move sideways in a career. Sometimes, it may become damaging to a career to continue to stay in a company with few challenges and / or where technology is somewhat stagnant or completely bespoken to said company. A new experience also helps to fight the inevitable institutionalism with which can occur after many years. Another big part of this is if the work in the new company appeals more so than the old.

Corporate culture. Which is always hard to judge because at the interview, a glimpse is all that is really gotten of how things work. Knowing somebody already in the company or having a friend or a friend of a friend who works there can help. Failing that there's plenty of information online about the larger companies and how they function. If possible, ask to be shown around the office to get a better feel of how things hang together.

Work ethic. Tied to corporate culture and differs from person to person and place to place. Also, just because the offices are based in one region, doesn't mean it will inherit that localities work ethic. 

Career progress. Possibly part of the reason for wanting to leave a current employer. Sometimes a move upwards in salary is a move upwards in responsibility, sometimes it's just a move sideways. Career progress in a company is something which should be seriously considered before the interview.

Job security. An increasingly important point. Check if the company is public or private and if it Irish owned or is it a subsidiary or similar of some conglomerate. There are pros and cons to each of the above which are beyond the scope of this post.

Socialising. Not to be underestimated. People make a company and great people make companies great. A company which has an active sports and social committee is generally a good sign. Check the average age group of the company compared to the current company - it can be a somewhat daunting starting out in a company where most are ten years or more senior, many have families and are settled.

Number of working hours. This is a niggley one and usually falls somewhere between 37.5 and 40 hours for much of the IT sector. Also note that it's important to find out if it will be expected to work overtime and if so, what the compensations is - money, days in lieu or nothing at all. I've found that the corporate culture and work ethic have quite a role to play in this too. I
t was only after an offer was posed to me but before I accepted that I realised that I would be working an addition 2.5 hours per week. This must be factored into a pay rise - ie: if the hours are greater, then subtract from the rise and vice versa. Again, for those with a family or thinking of starting one, the extra time could make an impact either getting up earlier or working later.

Holiday allowance. The number of days leave per annum, and number of days per years of service. While losing holidays when changing jobs does not equate to a lot of money financially, still equates to time off. Also, it may be possible to buy days or take unpaid leave or that the company give personal days or that days can be worked up in over-time.

Location. Check in detail where the company is based and if it is convenient to get to and socialise from. Also, check for places of interest around the company such as places to eat or gyms etc. if necessary. While many of these are relatively trivial issues, when they start to negatively come together, it can make for some serious consideration.

Healthcare. This is becoming important given the increasing cost of it this year (2012), especially for families and a subsidised or complete company healthcare scheme is certainly valuable.

Pension. Most of us will get old and probably live longer than the current life expectancy - pensions are important! Remember that if a company does not have a pension fund and do not contribute towards private funds, you must factor this into a pay rise. Also, in a company like this, there may be more cost associated with a contribution as it may come out of your net pay rather than gross and so be worth much less.

Family benefits. Family oriented benefits past the legal minimum such as additional days off for dads, an on-site crèche, inclusive healthcare, opportunity to negotiate taking a day off a week for several months while rearing children - these are all very convenient.

Flexi-time. Useful to have, especially with regard to a family oriented lifestyle - picking kids up from school, for example. 

Working from home. This is another benefit that can be very useful to have, especially when there may be a long commute involved, distracting working conditions and other more family oriented reasons.

Hardware. For a person working in the software industry, a fast computer and dual screens are invaluable and should be the de facto. Another point to note is that the computer should be clean - as in re-ghosted or reinstalled from scratch - not somebody's hand-me-down with all sorts of stuff on it. Even a proper ergonomic chair, keyboard and mouse are great, considering the sheer amount of time spent sitting down, typing and clicking

Perks. Which can include Christmas bonus, company performance bonus, personal performance bonus, quota bonus, company car and many others.

Probation. While this might not be normal for all, it certainly applies in the software sector in Ireland and when on probation, the employee won't have their healthcare paid for or benefit from a company pension contribution which should be taken into consideration. This means that for many months, a little pay cut will have to be taken to pay for healthcare and consideration given as to what to do with an existing pension before moving it to the company's pot.

Title. Preservation of existing title may be important to you. You may be a Senior Build and Release Engineer and a company you wish to move to may be just looking for a Build Engineer and while the role may be similar or have greater responsibility and remuneration, the title may not reflect this.

Freedom of expression. having the freedom to express one’s self and opinions is very important, especially given all the mediums which make information so darn accessible these days. Writing code outside of work hours (perhaps contributing to some open source project, designing websites, etc?) and blogging is great fun and very rewarding but what exactly does the contract say about this? What is the company's position on this? Perhaps nothing at all or perhaps it is quite restrictive, making it more difficult to be yourself.

Notice. In IT, giving the company notice of resignation is usually one month in advance of physically leaving. However, depending on the company and the amount of responsibility the role contains, this may be extended. Do not assume that it is one month! Ensure you know what what your notice period is and that it suits you. It may be easier to move to a new company when the notice period of your current company is one month but if it was two months, it might be too big a gap for the prospective employer to wait, especially if you assumed it was one month and only found out it was two upon handing in your notice!

Requirements / comportment regarding Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the plethora of other social networking sites. Does the contract mention these sites, one's conduct, a requirement for an official work account, etc? Company's are becoming ever more vigilant about how they are perceived, especially online and may have rules about what sort of comments their employees can make about them via the above media. They may also encourage / require you to open / maintain an work account with one or more such sites - I'm unsure of the legalese here.

Non-Compete / Anti-Compete / Covenant-Not-To-Complete Clause. This is where an employee agrees not to work in a new but similar role which competes (at least in the employers view) against the their past employer for a specified duration such as 6 months. This is one to look out for, especially when it comes to the ICT sector. Be wary of clauses such as this innocuously appearing in the contract without the prospective employer or recruiter drawing attention to it. 

Pre-booked holidays. Don't forget to mention any holidays which you may have already pre-booked as it would be a nasty surprise to change job, only to find out that that summer holiday which you were looking forward to may no longer be possible. 

The contract. Read it carefully and compare it with your current role and what has been promised in the new role, especially with regard to working hours, notice, social networking comportment, non-compete/anti-compete/covenant-not-to-compete clauses. Ensure a printed and signed copy of the contract is mailed out, ideally before starting in the new company. A physical contract can be very important later on, as for example, if the role is being made redundant and there is a redundancy entitlement - if no signed physical or even virtual contract exists, then it becomes hard to prove one's entitlements. 

Finally...  Just some general advice - be mindful (love that word :) of what items above are discussed during the interview and what are discussed after an offer is made but before the offer is accepted. The former is a position with much less bargaining power than the latter - know what to ask in the interview and what to negotiate after the offer but before accepting. I will add to this post when I think of / discover any additional, useful information and perhaps tighten it up a bit over time.  A wise friend once said that a change is as good as a break - he was right.