What is a non-compete agreement?
A non-compete agreement, or non-compete clause, is a legal contract that typically prevents you from working for competitors or becoming one yourself.
Changing Jobs with a Non-Compete Agreement in Place
If you are looking for a new job, and you’ve signed a non-compete agreement, you may want to review your agreement before applying for new positions. If you signed a non-compete agreement, you're not alone. An estimated 30 million workers signed non-compete agreements when they started their jobs, which is about 18% of the workforce. Another 37% of workers say they've worked under non-compete agreements at some point in their careers, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
To help, here are four tips to provide a smooth job transition with a non-compete contract in place.
1. Talk with a lawyer
Before you start actively seeking new employment, have an attorney review your non-compete agreement with you.
You may have talked with a lawyer when you first signed the document to ensure you understood it. It's a good idea to review it again. You're looking at the contract from a different position now. You're not looking to work with the employer; you're looking to leave.
A lawyer can explain exactly what you can and can't do under the contract and what the consequences are if you break the rules.
2. Job hunt on your own time
When it comes to job hunting, do it all on your personal devices. An employer can monitor your electronic activity on your company owned devices. If you're Googling job opportunities at competing companies or setting up interviews via email, your employer may be able to use this information as proof that you violated your non-compete agreement.
3. Be honest with prospective employers
If you do land an interview for a new job, it's important to discuss your non-compete agreement with your prospective employer. Keeping it a secret could force the employer to fire you later on to comply with the contract.
The hiring employer can have your non-compete agreement reviewed by its lawyers to see what possible actions can and can't be taken.
4. Leave on good terms
When you're ready to leave your current job, try to do so on good terms. Causing problems could encourage your employer to review the terms of your agreement and look for potential violations.
When you're ready to make the transition, give your notice and leave quietly. Don't call in sick, leave early or air any grievances. Exit as smoothly as possible.
Finding a new job is exciting, but it can be more complicated when a non-compete agreement is in place. Talk with an attorney to make sure you understand the contract before applying for new opportunities. Make smart, informed decisions to keep your transition smooth.
As you're getting ready to make changes, there are some other important things to consider before you change jobs. This extra effort can help you make life choices that benefit you for years to come.