When You Should Leave Your Bonus on the Table

Posted: Sep 28  |  By: Angie Rentz

I can’t tell you how many people I talk to who are ready to make a career move, but who are also hesitant to leave that hard-earned bonus on the table. While they may know that there is something missing in their current position, they also think that maybe they should just wait it out, collect their bonus, and move next year. That may seem like the obvious choice, but there are more than a few reasons to make a move now.

Finding Your Dream Job Takes Time

Sure, we all have that friend/relative/colleague who stumbled into the perfect position. They weren’t really even looking and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the perfect opportunity fell into their lap. Unfortunately, we aren’t all that lucky. I’m guessing that if you are making a move, you want it to be for a great opportunity: one that is challenging, provides for professional growth, is financially lucrative, and above all, is an opportunity that you really enjoy and can see yourself at long-term.

From my professional – and personal – experience, I can tell you that finding your dream job takes time. That is why I recommend starting your search now, when you aren’t feeling the pressure to get out. More than likely, it will take at least a few months to find the right opportunity for you, and at that point, there are things that you can do to take the sting out of leaving your bonus on the table.

Signing Bonus

Most firms are aware of associate bonus season. They know how much money you are expecting and they know when you are going to get it. When they have a need – and for the right candidate – they are willing to pay some pretty impressive signing bonuses to “make the associate whole” and ease the pain of leaving that year-end bonus on the table. Working with a recruiter can really assist with this. While you are busy wowing the firm with your impressive resume, your recruiter can work behind the scenes letting the firm know what they need to do to secure your acceptance.

Nationwide, we are securing signing bonuses for our candidates ranging from $5,000 to close to six-figures. Just recently, my team was able to negotiate a $90,000 signing bonus for an associate making a Q4 move! Before you decide to “just wait until spring,” I recommend having a frank conversation with a recruiter you trust about what type of signing bonus you can expect. Sometimes you really can have your cake and eat it too.

Consider the Long-term Earning Potential

Even if you aren’t in the position to lock down that $90,000 signing bonus, that doesn’t automatically mean you should rule out making a move now. It is time to pull out a physical – and also theoretical – calculator and do some math. Sure, maybe you will be walking away from a bonus now, but what if you could receive an offer that increased your base compensation, your future bonus potential, your origination credit, 401K match, etc. Perhaps you would be leaving a little money on the table short-term, but trading it in for more long-term earning potential. I recommend sitting down and mapping out your earning potential over the next five years if you were to take a new position. Often times you will find that long-term, you may be much better off than expected.

Even if you do the math and it still stings a little, you have to ask yourself why you are considering a move in the first place. There is often a reason motivating you that has nothing to do with money. If you aren’t happy or satisfied in your current position, it really is worth asking yourself how much your happiness or long-term career success is worth to you.

Make Yourself a More Competitive Candidate

The truth is, not all of us went to a top 5 school, graduated with honors, are working at a top firm or are practicing in a hot area. The principles of supply and demand are at play here. I can promise you that you are not the only associate who wants to collect their bonus before making a move. What does that mean? If you wait to throw your hat in the ring until the new year, be prepared for substantially increased competition for the most coveted opportunities. If your goal is to make a move to a highly sought-after firm, now is the time. The truth is, getting in the door is easier right now, when the candidate pool isn’t quite as deep.

There are many reasons why leaving a bonus on the table may be the right career move for you. Here at Parker + Lynch Legal we have a team of almost 80 attorney recruiters across the country who could serve as a great resource for you in deciding whether or not now is a good time to make a move. Please feel free to reach out and I will gladly put you in touch with an expert in your market!