3 Job Exit Strategies to Turn Ex-employer(s) Into Your Best References

Choosing to quit your job and joining the competition can be a risk, but one made easier if you join a competitor in an industry where you already have knowledge, connections and credibility. In that sense, the company you’re leaving can become a key asset and even your best references in your new career – if you exit properly – or an obstacle to your success if you burn bridges.

Successful Job Exit Strategies


#1 Show exit loyalty  

Do what you can to enter and exit on a high note. In professional terms, this means not talking to clients, suppliers, and co-workers (other than your key managers) about your new career move until you have officially left, or at least until after you’ve given notice. If key managers learn about your exit plans from an existing customer, then there is a high chance that you have burned a valuable bridge and the relationship will end on negative terms. Before you leave, you should limit your activities for the new job to researching and strategizing on your own time and in your own place. Keep your excitement for the new role in check and ensure to stay clear from the temptation of speaking to potential clients before you leave. Finish strong.


#2 Share your plans before you leave

When your current employer hears that you are leaving to start with a competitor in the same industry, they may be rightfully worried that you plan to steal their customers or provide an identical service.

While there may be some overlap, your current employer will likely have a different value proposition or customer focus. Explaining your plans to your boss and as many senior executives or owners who have time to hear you out will help them to understand your motivation for the new career decision. Doing this will also give you an opportunity to make them feel less threatened by your new career move.

They still may feel that you are doing something that threatens them, but your communication will demonstrate a high degree of maturity and integrity. If they have a strong objection to your career move and believe that they have the legal right to prevent your new position, it gives you an opportunity to work out a friendly compromise.

I had to change jobs a few times in my career and always ended up working for the competition. But, I always ensured to have a proper conversation with my boss to explain my reason and my plans for the new career move and I always pledged to conduct myself professionally and stay clear of clients and contacts. With this reassurance, all my bosses were supportive of my career moves and never threatened legal action. I suggest that you do the same.


#3 Help and prepare a professional transition

No matter what your position is, you are playing an important role for your existing employer and your departure will very likely leave a hole that will take time and money to fill. I strongly suggest that you offer to complete certain tasks or handle additional responsibilities for a period of time before you exit, and the most tangible way to demonstrate that you are genuine about it, is by having a documented 3 or 4 step exit transition plan. While your employer might not choose to take you up on the offer, it sends the professional and genuine message that you care about the firm and want to continue to have a good relationship going forward. I always made my last months the best months of my employment with any of the companies I worked for and always stayed in touch for insight and help with fellow co-workers if they needed assistance.

The main benefit of leaving on good terms is that you leave the same way you came into the company and you can still access your former employer as a valuable resource. Your former employer may even be in a position to provide you, in your new position, with references, refer you clients, or provide you with favourable vendor terms if you connect back to do business with them.  Also, keep in mind that it’s a small world out there and chances are, you’ll cross paths again.

Enter and exit on a high note to secure yourself a good reference and, when you are out on new adventures, remember to hunt wisely!