Switching Jobs? Don't Leave Money on the Table

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — With the specter of the Great Recession shrinking and unemployment rate now officially at 6.6%, many Americans are either finding new jobs or finally contemplating a switch. But not so fast. Too often, say career experts such as Russell Herring, CEO of Atlanta-based recruiting firm Strategy Source, people leave money on the table or make crucial mistakes during the job transition that cost them dearly.

Although the lure of higher pay and new opportunities can be exciting, managing your transition for maximum gain is nearly as important as getting a better job in the first place. Consider the checklist below.

Before the Offer

The Great Recession stymied wage growth, leaving many workers' salaries stuck in 2008 – or worse. If you haven't gotten a new job since the recession, it's time to re-assess your market value (websites such as Salary.com or GlassDoor can be helpful tools). You might be surprised to learn how much your experience now commands, and this information could be crucial to getting the best offer.

Also consider how to take advantage of existing benefits at your current employer. Vacation time, for example, often needs to be used prior to submitting your notice. (Note, too, that depending on your state or company policy, unused vacation or PTO may have cash value which can be paid out upon your departure.)

Your job departure, says Herring, should ideally be timed to maximize any bonus pay-out to which you're entitled.

"A common mistake is not knowing your employer's policy for bonus and/or commission payouts following a resignation," Herring said. "If your annual bonus gets paid in February, and you resign in January, make sure you are able to collect on the previous year's bonus at 100% or you could be very disappointed."

The same may be true of other perks, such as Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Accounts. Any contributions made to an HSA are yours to keep, so leaving your job doesn't necessarily mean forfeiting the contributed funds. On the other hand, FSA contributions (including health FSAs – it's important to distinguish between these and "true" HSAs) operate on a "use it or lose it" basis. Funds don't roll over from year-to-year, and any unused monies are forfeited. Plan to use your remaining FSA funds prior to leaving your job.