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The Importance of Not Burning Bridges When Changing Jobs, with Joel Parker

Presented by EQ Bank

Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.

If you’ve ever left a job on bad terms, you may have experienced the fallout that can come with burning bridges during a career change. If you’re careful, however, the relationship doesn’t have to end on a sour note.

Joel Parker is a personal finance blogger and founder of the Financial Freedom Community, where he guides people on their financial freedom journey. Joel started his business after being laid off from his 9-5 job, and he says that much of the credit was due to his willingness to maintain a strong relationship with his former employer.

Joe takes us through his story, explaining the steps he took to ensure he didn’t burn any bridges with his previous employer. We also discuss some creative ways to maintain professional connections, including using social media channels such as LinkedIn as a networking tool.

Joel’s business success wasn’t just the result of effective networking. Both he and his wife made sure that they were financially prepared before making the leap to self employment. According to Joel, if you’re thinking of starting a business, you should set aside at least 3-6 months of required expenses in an emergency fund. You should also make sure that the business you’re starting is something you can scale.

Can you imagine a no-fee savings account that pays you 2.00%, along with free transactions, no minimum balance requirement, and fast, cheap, and fully transparent international money transfers? Well, the dream is real, through our sponsor, EQ Bank. Their EQ Bank Savings Plus Account will give you all of that and more. For more information, visit EQ Bank today.

Episode Summary

  • Always avoid burning bridges when you change jobs
  • The importance of building an income foundation before leaving your 9-5
  • Is your business scalable?
  • LinkedIn can be a valuable way to stay connected
  • You never know when a colleague will become your manager
  • Think first before poaching employees
Read transcript

If you have ever left a job on bad terms, you may have experienced the fallout that can come with burning bridges during a career change. However, if you are careful the relationship doesn’t always have to end on a sour note. Joel Parker is a blogger and founder of the Financial Freedom Community, where he guides people on their financial freedom journey. Joel started his own business after being laid off from his nine to five job. And he says that much of the credit was due to his willingness to maintain a strong relationship with his former employer.

Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Can you imagine a no-fee savings account that pays you two percent along with free transactions, no minimum balance requirement and fast, cheap and fully transparent international money transfers? Well, the dream is real through a sponsor, EQ Bank. An EQ Bank Savings Plus Account will give you all that and more. For more information, visit maplemoney.com/eqbank, today. Now, let’s chat with Joel…

Tom: Hi, Joel, welcome to the Maple Money Show.

Joel: Hi, Tom. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Tom: Speaking to you before the podcast, one thing I know about you that seems interesting is that everybody kind of says don’t burn your bridges when you leave a job. But you’ve actually seen that mean something. It’s more than just being polite. You’ve actually benefited from this. Can we start at the beginning? What did that original job look like?

Joel: I was working just a regular nine to five job. I’m going to avoid names, so we’ll just call them Company A. It was kind of looking like they’re going to be moving across the country. My wife and I had just recently landed some roots in Florida and were not in a position to pick up and move. At that point, when those rumors were fluttering, I decided to start looking for another job. And through a recruiter I was able to land a great job at Company B. When I was leaving Company A, I wanted to make sure that I left on good terms and maintained relationships not just with the owner but the employees too. So, I stayed in contact with the owner and other employees there. Even after I was at Company B working full time, I was maintaining this relationship. After they did end up moving across the country, the owner reached out to me and said, “Hey, we haven’t filled your position out here. Are you able to do a couple hours of work?” And at that point it was just a couple of hours and was no big deal, so I said, sure. It was extra money in my pocket. Before long it kind of snowballed to where he just kept sending me more and more work. It was this relationship we had built up from me working there and staying in contact. The next thing I knew, I was making about a $1,000 a month doing this almost as a side hustle. It wasn’t quite enough to replace my full income, but it was money to throw at our student loan debt and help us on our financial freedom journey. I was working nine to five, Monday through Friday at Company B and then doing a side hustle for Company A. Fast forward a couple years of doing this, my boss at Company B pulled me aside and said, “I was a web developer and this software isn’t going very well so we don’t need your position anymore. You’re laid off.” At that time, I was definitely making more money and suddenly 70 percent of our household income was gone in just a moment. I remember driving home from work that last day thinking, “Oh my God, what’s next?” I was driving an hour to and from work at that point, so it was a long ride home. But I remember it vividly. Thankfully, I had my emergency fund and this relationship with Company A. When I got home my wife and I talked. She said, “Nine to five has never really been for you anyway. Why don’t you just go out on your own?” But $12,000 a year isn’t even poverty level or minimum wage in America, so I knew I needed to somehow get more clients. I went to Facebook and started looking through this modern-day rolodex to see who I could reach out to. There was a former college classmate of mine I reached out to that I had also kept in contact with. At this point it had been probably five, six, seven years since college. Then I reached out to one of the employees from Company A that had moved on and they had some work for me. It was through building these contacts, relationships and maintaining good communication with them that I was able to get my first three clients which was enough to live off. Fast forward to today and the business is now flourishing. I make more than I ever have in a nine to five and have more freedom than ever. Last year I took 3 months of vacation. You could never do that in a nine to five job. And essentially, it was all because of maintaining these great relationships.

Tom: To be able to start freelancing, you must have that solid base first. You already had those hours with Company A which gave you a better ability to reach out to these other companies instead of starting from zero. You already got to dip your toe in a little bit and try that out.

Joel: Yeah. So many people make the mistake when they’re starting a company. They just kind of quit their day job and go out there. It’s incredibly stressful. And there is that “back up against the wall” thought where you’re either going to sink or swim. But it’s better to have that foundation where you can get recommendations. All of those three clients have now—I ‘ve never done any marketing for my web development business. And it’s all because of those three clients.

Tom: I’m equally a big fan of not telling people to just jump in and make the leap because these side hustles can be started slowly. My blog started that way. It really started out as a hobby, but it became something. But ultimately, that was still the same thing. It was a very, very slow build—over a decade now. I’ve used this example before; if you want to drive for Uber, you don’t have to go from quitting your job to working 50 hours with Uber. You just do a few in the evening to see how it feels. Then you can see if it’s something you can kind of do the magical scaling of where you turn it into something real.

Joel: And that’s the thing, too, is you want to make sure that it can scale. I’ve done eBay with retail arbitrage where you buy something on clearance and sell it for a premium. I was doing that, hustling at it. But you think, “How do I scale this? I have to sell 150 items a day to scale this to a livable wage.” So you have to wonder if you can do that on your own or if you’ll have to hire employees. So yeah, is it scalable? Is it something that you can turn into a full-time gig? And is it something that you want to build? Maybe you don’t enjoy web development or graphic design so there is nothing better than dipping your toe in the water to find out if it’s something that you’re going to enjoy.

Tom: Yeah, the eBay example is perfect because you tried it out. It technically was profitable. But when you look at what the next stage is, it doesn’t really sound like there is one there, I assume?

Joel: Yeah, it was not for me.

Tom: You also mentioned reaching out to people on Facebook. One of the obvious networks is LinkedIn. Throughout my corporate career, I’ve seen so many people leave. They’ve been laid off, quit, fired, whatever the case was. If you work at a big corporation and you have everybody on LinkedIn, even if you’re not actively keeping in touch with them, you can see them spider out all these different companies. And it doesn’t take long before it feels like you an employee at almost every company. Keeping a good rolodex with LinkedIn seems like a great choice, too. Obviously, you’re better off if you’re truly having real, personal relationships. But just being aware of what they’re up to can help out a lot.

Joel: I don’t think it takes a whole lot to even build a personal relationship. On LinkedIn, many people aren’t looking to have that full-on dialog that maybe you would have on Facebook or text message. A lot of it is just having a genuine interest in someone. People say, how do you network? It really should be something natural. I’ve heard people say you should send an article to someone once a month. Well, maybe they don’t want to hear from you once a month. Maybe they don’t want that article. But when you’re prompted to like something or wish someone a happy birthday—Even on LinkedIn I get so many happy birthday greetings. Of when someone gets a promotion, congratulate them. When they get a new job, congratulate them. Many social media platforms already prompt you to it. If you just have a genuine interest in other people… Remember I mentioned that college classmate? That was someone where we just liked each other’s Facebook posts and maybe we’d shoot out a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. That’s an American holiday I guess, though, right?

Tom: We have Thanksgiving but it’s just at a different time of year.

Joel: Oh, alright. But, even just a Happy New Year’s text to people in your phone. Holiday and social media prompt you to have these interactions. Even if it’s a work colleague, just reach out to them. I’ll even network for people. I find this beneficial. I have people that maybe moved to the same city; one from maybe a job and one is an old college classmate. I’ll connect them on Facebook and say, “Hey, I have no idea if have any interest in meeting each other but you’re both in the same city, so why not introduce yourself?” It’s just having a genuine interest in people. You don’t have to overreach. In many cases, don’t want to overreach because you’ll almost come of needy and insincere. But, if you provide value to people—when you post on Facebook and say, “I need business,” or “My family’s in trouble and I was just laid off, can you help me out,” people will come to your rescue.

Tom: Speaking of LinkedIn again, I were to go look for a job and I’ve got a nice LinkedIn network, the first thing I would do is look to see if someone works there because that’s an easy in. Another thing I do is similar, connecting people for no definite reason. When I’m traveling, I will often invite people I know who are in the same city to go for dinner. And that has turned into things. I’ve literally seen two people who just met each other start talking, “You should come on my podcast because I’m in the blogging and podcasting world…” You see connections form. It can be as simple as just inviting three or four people out for dinner when you happen to be in their town.

Joel: I love that idea. I think it’s great.

Tom: Let’s take it back to when you were leaving the first company. How did you actively make sure you weren’t burning these bridges? What did you do beyond just general politeness? How did you make sure you kept this amicable at the time?

Joel: When a company is moving, it’s easy to be upset about it. But I really wanted to leave on good terms. I guess it’s one of my values, just not having people upset at me—not having that bad blood. Company B asked if I could start right away and I said no because it’s critical that I give two weeks’ notice. That’s typical. I was going in to work every day during those two weeks and working my butt off. I remember I stayed late on my very last day because I was putting together a transition binder almost for the next person (that ultimately would never come). I was still wanting to give it my all. I think it’s important to just, again, give it your all until the end of a relationship, whether that be a friendship or a work relationship. Again, with the business owner, it was very important to stay in touch after they made the move. I’d ask how they were doing, how was Texas (which is where they moved to). Just show some genuine interest.

Tom: I like the part where you mentioned the binder you were creating. I think that’s one of the biggest things; the whole point of this common two-week notice is that you are doing something helpful for that transition. You are documenting your work and maybe training the next person. I know it wasn’t like that in your case, but it often is. It’s not just give up and stop showing up on time. That is a transition period.

Joel: That’s it. And I’ve heard stories where people will take the last week and do vacation time. Someone at my wife’s work did a maternity leave. They got a very lengthy maternity leave. I think they took five months off and then when they came back, gave their two-week notice. Then they proceeded to call in sick many of those two-week days. The truth of it is they’ll never work at that institution again. That’s a terrible way. You won’t get recommendations from your boss. Employees frown upon that thinking you left them hanging. It’s not something I’d recommend if you want to be able to maintain and build relationships.

Tom: Yeah, I’ve seen it all over my time in a corporate job. I’ve seen everything. And yeah, people can change. They can go from outwardly loving their job (whether they got laid off or quit) to just adding a bit of bitterness to the whole thing. I think just having some positivity is helpful. You don’t want to make people feel abandoned. Maybe everybody in that department is unhappy with their current manager so a little positivity goes a long way. And too, sometimes your immediate coworkers are often somewhat friends. You might go out for drinks and you might continue to do that into the future.

Joel: Yeah, sometimes you just have to swallow your pride. A lot of people have a negative situation at work or a negative environment. But if you go on social media and bash them, that doesn’t do you any good. It doesn’t do them any good. All it does is risk harming you. Even when I was laid off from Company B, it was a shock. It was out of the blue. It was completely unexpected. And like I said, I mean, we lost 70 percent of our household income in that moment. I could have emailed them and said, “Who do you think you are? I’m the best in the business,” and that type of thing. Instead, the next day I wrote all the directors and email telling them how I loved working there and how it stinks that I wasn’t going to able to interact with them anymore, but how it was probably for the best too. I told them there would be opportunities for both me and them in the future and said if there’s anything you need, please let me know. I saw someone the other day bashing an entire department because they just didn’t like working there. Again, that just doesn’t do you any good. It’s not like it’s going to change. If it’s a bad manager or whatever, the company has to see it for themselves. You posting it on your Facebook doesn’t do any good.

Tom: And at that point if you’re leaving be happy that you’re leaving. You made a decision. If you decided to quit, you hope you’re going somewhere better so you don’t need to make everyone else feel worse on the way. And you mentioned this idea of sending out emails or letters. At the very least, on you last day, walk around and say goodbye to people. Say thanks. Leave with that good final impression because know you never know. In your case, you ended up still working on the side of the same company. But like I said, sometimes these people just end up at other companies. They might even end up at the same company that you just went to. This happens a lot, especially in smaller cities. That manager or coworker you’re trying to escape from (if that’s the case) could end up at the same company you’re going to. It can kind of come around to you and in various ways.

Joel: That actually even goes for watching what you say and having a positive attitude even when you are with the company and you don’t have any intent on leaving because you never know when one of your coworkers is going to end up being your boss or the hiring manager at another company. Nothing like walking through the door and them knowing that all you did was bash your previous supervisor behind their backs. Maybe you never took the proper protocols. What are they going to be saying behind your back? It just creates bad blood.

Tom: I have to admit, I’ve done that. Me and one other coworker would always come down on this guy who was a manager in another department. We’d say, “We need this report. Where is it? Why is it late?” He was the manager of another department, so we felt we had this buffer. But he became the director of our department. All of a sudden, we were working for the guy. In the end, he ended up being a great guy once you got to know him more. There was this separation since it was two different departments, but it definitely does come around. I can say that from experience.

Joel: Absolutely. Especially in small and midsize companies. The Walt Disney Company recently just moved a whole bunch of managers around, so you never know when a previous confidant (or supervisor) is going to be your new supervisor, for better or worse.

Tom: In corporations those shuffles happened quite frequently. It’s often a case where it’s not that someone needs to be let go, you just find they’re better suited in different spots, so they do that little shuffle between two or three people. Another thing that I wanted to bring up to about after the fact is, if you don’t want to burn those bridges, don’t approach employees or clients depending on the type of business you’re in. Employees can be a bit of a questionable one though, because who are you serving? If you do help an employee out, you are going to build a better connection there. But you’re also going to burn one somewhere else. Maybe it’s not 100 percent—bringing other employees over so you’ve got to weigh that out. For someone you’re going to make things better means you’re going to make something worse for someone else. It’s a tough situation but it’s something to think about.

Joel: Absolutely. Every action has a reaction and it can either be positive or negative. But thinking through it to its full extent and saying, “Maybe this is the best thing for me and the best thing for them, or maybe it’s not.”

Tom: Another thing that you brought up early on which is not so much on topic is you were also helped out a lot by having an emergency fund. How big of an emergency fund did you have—just for people who are in this mindset of wondering how much they need if they happen to get laid off from their job.

Joel: I’m a firm believer of three to six months of required expenses. A lot of people give a dollar amount specifically. But everyone is different and required expenses are expenses that you can absolutely not live without. Those are things to take into account. If you get laid off, then you probably don’t need to take public transit or drive your car so maybe that’s not a required expense. We had a 6-month required expense emergency fund at the time. It was essentially a 6-month runway combined with Company A’s side hustle money. Actually, we never needed to touch our emergency fund in all of that. It was Company A combined with these other contacts I reached out to that was able to fill our gap.

Tom: So, you were able to hit the ground running. But, obviously, it is helpful.

Joel: On that same note, I can tell you this; without the emergency fund, I never would have done it. I never would have taken the leap to start my own company. Even though we didn’t need to touch it, it was the safety net. You wouldn’t jump across to skyscrapers without that safety net. I never would have taken the leap. I would have just gone and found another nine to five job. And who knows where I’d be today if it weren’t for that emergency fund and Company A’s side hustle money. It just never would have worked.

Tom: Yeah, that makes sense. You don’t have the confidence if you’re already at the point where you’re literally going to be living paycheck-to-paycheck—a paycheck that doesn’t even exist yet.

Joel: And the other thing too, I don’t know how it is in all the provinces of Canada but where we were and at the time in Florida, unemployment was capped at $275 a week, which is very minimal. There was just no way that we could have survived on unemployment alone. We needed the emergency fund to really have that safety net.

Tom: That sounds great. Is there anything else about this idea of not burning your bridges and leaving the door open that we didn’t cover?

Joel: I think it’s a matter of always looking for the next step because you never know where something is going to lead. I’ve had so many people reach out to me asking, “Would you be interested in this?” Even if I were really busy, I’d still say yes because you never know where it’s going to take you. I always encourage people who love their job or may be in one of their dream jobs already, to look for other jobs because you never know where a path is going to take you. Steve Jobs said, “The only way to know if things worked out is to look back and hope that the dots connected.” You never know when a friend, a former colleague or a former company is going to reach out to you with an opportunity. You never know so it pays to take hold of an opportunity.

Tom: That’s great. Can you let people know where they can find you online?

Joel: Yeah, absolutely. Check out financialfreedomcommunity.com. There’s a podcast, a blog. And we’re just launching our Financial Freedom Community Facebook group where you can get tips and tricks and support there. So, check out the podcast and blog. You can access it financialfreedomcommunity.com.

Tom: Great. Thanks for being on the show.

Joel: Thank you so much, Tom.

Thanks, Joel, for showing us the importance of building strong relationships in your field of business. It’s a great reminder to anyone who’s contemplating self-employment or career change in general. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/104. Are you new to the Maple Money Show? If so, I want to thank you for listening. In case you were not aware, you can watch the videos from any of our top episodes over on our YouTube channel. If you’re interested, head over to maplemoney.com/youtube and hit the subscribe button. I look forward to seeing you back here next week when we have Cody Berman join us to discuss frugality in your 20’s leading to success in the future.

Without the emergency fund, I never would have done it. I never would have taken the leap to start my own company...I would have just gone to find another 9-5 job and who knows where I’d be today if it weren’t for that emergency fund. - Joel ParkerClick to Tweet

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