By Rex Huppke
Is two weeks notice still a necessary courtesy when leaving a job?
A reader in Milwaukee recently asked about this, noting that many companies have hiring processes that last far longer than two weeks, so it's not like they'll find a replacement in that time. And some want to hire people who can start immediately, making it hard for a candidate to give a soon-to-be-former employer any notice at all.
Two weeks notice is a long-standing workplace rule, a benchmark that theoretically allows you to leave a company on good terms. But like many tried-and-true rules, it's worth re-examining, particularly in an age when millennials are dramatically altering the way many workplaces function.
"There are so many textbook rules out there and people tend to get kind of scared of going against them," said Jenny Foss, a job search strategist and founder of the career blog JobJenny.com. "I think that many people get so tied up to the exact rule on how I have to do that or manage that or approach that, it can feel very constricting."
She said there are a slew of variables involved in leaving a job. If you work with access to proprietary information, your employer might boot you the minute you say you're quitting. If you hate your current job and an offer comes along that requires you to jump fast, why hold back just to be courteous? And if you're in the middle of a big project, you might want to give more than two weeks notice so you don't leave your boss, or your co-workers, in the lurch.
"I really believe one should use their best instincts in terms of determining what's appropriate given the variables at hand," Foss said. "You don't need to live or die by the two weeks, but just use your best judgment and gracefully use a strategy that gets you where you need to be."
Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, pointed out that a worker might start at one company, move on to a few others and then wind up back where he or she started. So a departure should always lay the groundwork for a possible return.
If you get a new job, Schawbel suggests giving your boss as much notice as possible, and even offering to help find a replacement. You can suggest candidates who you know personally or though networks like LinkedIn.
"You're leaving, but you're already making it easier for your manager to transition, which looks really good," he said. "It's a good way of building goodwill because eventually you might be back in that company again."
Lindsey Pollak, an expert on millennials in the workplace and author of Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders, said she believes the open and honest approach Schawbel is advocating fits well with the way younger workers approach their careers.
"I think it's the convergence of three millennial trends, one of which is transparency," she said. "I want to be honest with you because I want you to be honest with me. And they also want authenticity. When you ask me where I'm going to be in five years, I don't want to tell you that I want to be here when I know I'll want to be somewhere else. The third trend is flexibility. Millennials don't want rules like that. If I want to give you a year's notice, that should be fine. If I want to give you a month's notice, that should be fine."
Pollak said many workers today "seem to be questioning and rethinking all the traditional rules - that you give two weeks notice, that you should never leave a job until after a year. I think they're rethinking everything."
So we're in a state of flux, and it will likely take some time for all this new thinking - which will become more prevalent as the millennials move into leadership positions - to sort itself out.
"There has to be something between two weeks notice and anything you want," Pollak said. "And I don't think we've found that middle ground yet."
For now, giving at least two weeks notice remains a good idea. But keep in mind that it's an arbitrary time frame, one that can be stretched in whichever direction seems appropriate to your situation.