You're worthy of getting a break between contractsJul 23, 2023
What do you do when you're asked to start a new job/contract/project/transformation really quickly and you want a break? How do you negotiate more time before starting, without losing out on the role or contract completely? It all depends on your confidence: building your self esteem and self worth that you deserve it, and using effective communication to set those boundaries. It doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist and you don’t have to feel guilty. Let’s discuss!
Why this happens
9 out of 10 times, you’ll be asked to start as soon as possible. Why? Because in most roles and especially hiring Change Managers for project work, they hire late in the peace and don’t account for recruiting procedures. The sooner you start the better so you can get a handover from the person leaving or simply get cracking on work that is probably already overdue. They will usually ask you "What's your notice period?" in the interview, and for permanent roles it’s usually 4-12 weeks and for project contracts it’s usually about two weeks. So to the new company, 2 weeks seems like a lifetime where you’re not yet working for them but to you, you’re still working in your current role. Even at two weeks, they’ll try to screw you down to as little time as possible and sometimes ask sneakily if you can break your notice period. Always serve out your notice period of your current role (your professional reputation is important to maintain) but beyond that - how quickly you start is really up to you…
Standing up for yourself and your wellbeing
You deserve to rest, recharge and recuperate - even as a contractor. You’re usually getting paid more to compensate for leave entitlements. So if you need a break, it's up to you to own that you need a break. The project will be like, "Oh, we need somebody straight away. It's urgent. We're already behind." Then you'll get into the project and realise you have plenty of time!
I've done two-week notice periods before, and done the whole spectrum of breaks between contracts: a few months, a weekend, and the shortest was where I left a job on a Thursday and started the new gig on the Friday. I do NOT recommend that! You need time to debrief and unwind from the previous role, especially because projects are so busy. We talk about wellbeing a lot on my Leading Successful Change coaching calls and I’ll often say that projects are so busy that if you don't take leave during the project, you wait until the project finishes and then the next job or the next project is starting straight away, so you never get that downtime you deserve! It is up to you to own that for yourself, because recruiters and hiring managers will bang on about how urgent a role is.
Even if you can just negotiate a few days, that's better than not having any days because you'll get in there and 9 times out of 10 you will actually have some time up your sleeve, and it wasn't as urgent as they said, you aren’t launching in two weeks and if they are, they usually shouldn’t be and your job might be to show them that there’s no way the solution will actually be ready to launch in this short time regardless of how quickly you can get the people ready (been there, done that!).
Setting a new standard
And when you set and own this boundary of taking a break, you’re helping all contractors and new hires out there by helping to teach organisations that they should actually hire Change Managers earlier and not leave it to the last minute or the last month before go live to hire Change. If we keep jumping in and almost "rewarding" that poor planning and that behaviour, then they'll never learn. If you're the right candidate for the role, and you ask for 1-2 weeks, you usually won’t lose the offer. 3 months - maybe, but 1-2 weeks and they love you, you’ll probably be a shoe in so ask the question.
I actually don’t have this problem of going straight from contract to contract anymore because I now own my own time completely and choose my clients, choose my schedule, and choose my rates as an independent Change Consultant. I work super flexibly and take off 1-2 days and afternoons a week, as well as a couple of months a year for overseas trips and summer breaks respectively, as well as a few other holidays and long weekends throughout the year.
If you’d like to learn how to start or grow your own independent Change Management consultancy, join my two-day in-person Instant Change Consultant Retreat in Sydney in October 2023. I'll be sharing my expert secrets and shortcuts to setting yourself up for success with clarity and confidence as an independent Change Consultant whose time and advice is valued and respected, so you can potentially expand your income and impact. And more importantly, be there for the moments that matter most. The Early Bird offer where you can save $2,000 off the retreat investment ends in just a few days on 31 July, so apply ASAP.
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