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Quit your IT job

Q. You know it’s time to leave your job, but you also know that your search for a new opportunity may take some time. What’s the best way to proceed while still in your current job?

A. Prepare for your next move long before it becomes urgent. Constantly manage your professional growth by keeping up with your network, both at your company and in the industries that interest you, said Belinda Plutz, founder of Career Mentors Inc., a career development firm in New York. That way, when you start looking for a job, you won’t look as if you suddenly ramped up the networking.

This is even true in the virtual world. "Creating a presence on social networking sites like LinkedIn shouldn’t necessarily give people the idea you are looking for a search since you should be doing that all the time," Ms. Plutz said.

By and large, if you are properly managing your career - regularly meeting with professional contacts, attending industry gatherings and being active on social networking sites - your job search should be "invisible to those around you," she said.

Q. Might co-workers be able to guess that you are looking for another job anyway?

A. Even people with an active presence on social networking sites may tip off that they are looking - for example, if they suddenly add multiple recommendations (similar to references) on LinkedIn.

You may also invite suspicion if you start dressing better than usual. Ms. Plutz says you should dress well consistently so that you don’t announce by your clothing that you are going out for an interview.

Q. If you’re close to your boss, should you consider revealing your search?

A. In general, don’t share news of your departure until you make a decision. This is an unwritten rule of working. Most bosses accept this reality and will not change their opinion of you because of it.

As much as you get along with a boss, it is not a peer-to-peer relationship. In the end, you and your boss might have competing interests.

Still, there are instances when disclosing your intentions can work, said Ben Dattner, a consultant and adjunct professor of organizational behavior at New York University, especially "if you have a really honest and open relationship with your boss."

"The potential downside is that you’re becoming vulnerable and taking a risk," he said. "The upside is that your boss won’t be surprised. Keep in mind that your boss might start to recruit for your replacement and that may make you vulnerable and uncomfortable."

Q. Once you’ve decided to accept a job offer, what is the best way to deliver the news to your current employer?

A. It’s all about how you frame it, and the message should be about what is drawing you to something new, not about what may be wrong with your current job.

Mr. Dattner said: "It’s often best to say, ‘I’m great, you’re great, we’re just not great together,’ rather than launching into a tirade on the position’s shortcomings. Say something like, ‘This is a mature organization and I want to be at a start-up,’ or ‘My work here is all domestic and I’d like to get international experience.’"

When Jimmie Paschall left the Marriott organization after working in various branches of the company for 17 years, she said she made sure to emphasize what the new position was offering her rather than anything that was lacking in the position she was leaving.

"I had the opportunity to run the human resources department of a start-up company, to build something from the ground up, and a chance to learn a new sector," she said.

After eight years, two positions and the birth of a child, Ms. Paschall returned to Marriott’s headquarters in Washington in a new role as global diversity officer. Ms. Paschall said the way she conveyed her reasons for leaving, the gratitude she expressed to people about the role they played in her success, and the way she stayed in touch with Marriott contacts all contributed to her returning to the company.

Q. What if you want your employer to make you a counteroffer or otherwise try to keep you?

A. If you are ready to walk out the door, it is usually a good idea to keep walking, Ms. Plutz said.

"In the past 20 years," she said, "I have known very few people who used a job offer to leverage a counteroffer and were still at that job a year later." Usually there is a loyalty issue, she said: "The better way to get more money, if that is what you are seeking, is to have the conversation about your accomplishments and why you deserve what you’re asking for. Even better is to leave the job, get more experience and return in a new role."

A company faces a "moment of truth," Mr. Dattner said, when it has to decide if it is worth the cost of replacing you in order to match your salary demands.

"It usually costs about an entire year’s salary to replace a person," he said. "So if you are being underpaid by 20 percent, it can be worth five years of your salary to keep you."

Excerpt from NY Times, August 30, 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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