didn’t give full two weeks notice

by Ask a Manager on June 26, 2008

A reader writes:

I quit my first job out of college after staying at a company for a year because I found a new opportunity. However, I did not give a full two weeks notice. I told my manager the day he came back from a vacation and by that time, I had to start my new job in a week and a half. He was very upset and asked if I could stay a week longer but I wasn’t able to and I didn’t want to start my new job on a negative note. It still haunts me to this day. I have learned my lesson and this time around, I gave a two month notice to my employer that I am quitting to go back to school.

When looking for a job in the future, how negatively will this affect me? And what could I do to not jeopardize future opportunities? Should I bring this up before a background check is conducted? I am sure that my future employers will find out about what happened at my first job when doing background checks because I am ineligible for rehire.

Oh jeez. Penalizing you for giving two or three days less notice than they would have preferred is silly, especially since it would have been a full two weeks if your boss hadn’t been on vacation. Believe me, I am huge on giving lots of notice — like months and months — but two or three days really doesn’t amount to much in the larger scheme of things.

You can explain this to future employers if it comes up, by explaining it exactly the way you did here. Any reasonable employer isn’t going to hold it against you.

Should you bring it up ahead of time? If you’re sure the reference isn’t going to be a good one because of it, then yes. You could say something like, “By the way, I had glowing reviews from my boss at that job, but I was only able to give a week and a half notice rather than a full two weeks when I left, since he had been on vacation earlier. He wasn’t happy about it, and I do worry that it could color that reference. I’ve always given lots of notice ever since.” And if you can offer another reference from that company who can speak to your work there, that would be good too, although not strictly necessary. (In fact, sometimes merely offering it in this sort of situation is reassurance enough, even if they don’t call the alternate.)

But I do wonder if the reference is going to be as bad as you think. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to call them and ask, so that you know for sure.

By the way, if you need to give notice and your boss is on vacation, give your notice to someone else — HR or, if you don’t have an HR department, your boss’ boss. Less than ideal, yes, but then you can’t be blamed for not giving appropriate notice. People will understand why you wanted to alert them right away and not wait. And most of them will appreciate it.

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