Job switching can tax your political skills, not to mention your nerve endings. When you're ready to make the leap from your current position, four strategies can help you bow out gracefully, says Lindsey Cohen, PhD, an assistant psychology professor at Georgia State University who has made two successful academic career moves.
Don't badmouth your current job. The psychology community is small and word travels fast. "You don't want to air your dirty laundry," he says. "There are pros and cons to every job, and some day you may be working with the same people you left behind."
Vent carefully. Talk only with someone you know will keep the information private, Cohen says. "It's stressful to go to meetings and plan for the future when you know you might not be there," he says. "It's good to confide in at least one person for support and as a sounding board." While preparing to leave his first job at a university in Washington state, he aired his thoughts with a colleague who also was planning to move on. "We shared some of the angst of leaving," he says.
Be discreet in your job applications. When Cohen applied to his second job at West Virginia University, he asked a colleague who had left the Washington site a year earlier for a letter of recommendation, telling potential employers that he would obtain letters from current faculty if they showed sufficient interest. When he applied to his present job at Georgia State, he used a similar strategy. He asked his clinical director, a friend, for a letter, asking him to stay quiet until the school expressed strong interest.
Be choosy. Cohen's final suggestion isn't for everyone, but it worked for him: Apply to only one site that you've chosen for well-considered reasons. "It's easier to keep it quiet that way!" he says.
While the strategy is probably more applicable to academe than to practice, it allowed him to perfect each application by crafting it carefully and demonstrating exactly why he'd be a good candidate.