Should I Stay or Should I Go.....

An interesting article in last week's Business Week talks about the pitfalls of getting "laid off" once too often. The gist of the article (which I agree with) is that if you seem to go from one failing company to the next, people are going to start questioning your judgment.

However I am not entirely in agreement with this passage:

"What's your defense in this blame-the-victim environment? For starters, when companies in your industry start eliminating staff, don't make a habit of sticking around to turn out the lights. Better than laying out your litany of layoffs while you're interviewing for a new job is being able to say: 'The company was ultimately sold to a competitor, but by then I was at XYZ, Inc.' It's infinitely superior, from a recruiter's point of view, to have bolted to avoid being downsized, rather than to have stuck around to be let go.

But wait -- what about your package? Won't you miss out on a generous deal if you jump too soon? Yes, but that's the point. You're a serious player, right? You aren't supposed to make a career of collecting severance. There are dragons to slay in the non-downsized world. A string of last-man-on-deck stories paints a picture of you as a passive victim, rather than as someone who reacts quickly and decisively in the face of challenges. "

I knew a CEO of a large company who once told me that if you want to make a lot of money in your career make sure you always hold out for a package. In fact I know several executives who when the writing was on the wall stuck around until the company offered them a lucrative buyout.

It used to be that companies could get away with gently nudging people out the door and not having to pay severance because people felt that if they found a job before getting laid off that it would look better. And at the time they were right.

Now however everyone has learned that you have a right to a severance package and unless you were out and out fired for some very straightforward reason you will get it. In fact in many cases you shouldn't even take the first severance offer but consult a labour lawyer to see if it is fair. Often people get bigger severances by going back and asking for more.

As a recruiter I don't have a problem with this. I don't know other recruiters who do either. We don't expect people to leave two weeks before a big bonus payout so why should we expect them to leave when they are sitting on a 10-20k severance?

Take the package - don't be stupid.

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