So, you’ve been working for the same company for a few years, and just don’t feel that same excitement when you sit down at your desk in the mornings.
To make things worse, you’ve learned about a perfect job opening at one of your favorite clients. Since your current company has been good to you and you don’t want to burn any bridges, you’re currently stuck between a rock and a hard place.
You really don’t want to let this opportunity pass you by, but you also don’t want to potentially alienate your current employer.
Applying for a job at a client company can be tricky. However, if you handle it correctly, you may very well be able to bag that dream job. Here’s how to go about applying for a job at a client company.
Why Would You Apply For a Job With a Customer?
There are various reasons why you may want to leave your current company to work for a client.
Perhaps you feel that you’ve hit a glass ceiling in your current job or you think that the client company is more cutting edge and progressive.
It may also be that the culture at your client’s company is better suited to your personality, or perhaps they offer better salaries and perks.
Whatever your reason for wanting to leave, going to work for a client often makes sense.
Apart from the fact that you already have contacts there, and possibly even solid relationships, you also know something about how the company functions.
Depending on the job you’re wanting to apply for, the responsibilities and focus of the new position may also align with those of your current job, which would mean a smooth and easy transition.
Can a Company Prevent You From Working for a Client?
Before you go through all the trouble of wondering what your chances are of getting hired by a client or you actually start the process of applying for a job with a customer, it’s advisable to first find out whether your current company can prevent you from working for a client.
The first step you should take is to check your current employment contract to learn whether it contains any non-compete agreement.
A non-compete agreement will prohibit you from working for a competitor, which may include a client company, for a specific period of time.
You will also want to check whether your contract includes a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). If it does, there will be certain limitations on the type of information you can and can’t share about your work.
You’ll need to keep this in consideration in the event that you do start applying for a job at a client company.
For instance, you would need to omit confidential information about your current company from your resume. Such information may include business plans, products, and sales figures. You may also need to omit the names of other clients you have worked with.
How To Approach a Client For a Job
Once you’ve established whether you’re legally allowed to apply for a position at a client company, it’s time to decide on a game plan.
Here are a few tips to remember and steps you can take to ensure a painless and professional transition between jobs.
1. Be As Transparent As Possible
Leaving your company to work for a client is not a crime, so you should not lurk around in the shadows because you’re feeling guilty or scared.
Employers are well aware of the fact that employees don’t sign up for life and are bound to want to move on to another position at some point.
If you want to make a good impression on all involved parties during your job search and application process, my advice to you is to be as honest and transparent as possible.
While you don’t want to tell your boss that you’ve decided to leave the company before you know there’s a reasonably good chance for you to gain other employment, you should have an honest chat with them sooner than later.
Employers often appreciate it when employees play open cards with them regarding their wish to find employment elsewhere.
What they don’t appreciate, however, is when employees leave them in the lurch by resigning without proper notice.
Who knows, an employer may even help you bag that position you want by putting in a good word for you with the client.
2. Test the Waters
Apart from wondering about how to let your current employer know you’re wanting to work for a client, you may also not know how to approach the client.
Should you just apply for the position through formal channels or should you first chat with them? In my opinion, it’s probably best to follow the latter route.
It may seem strange to a client when they pick up on the fact that you’ve applied for a position at their company without consulting them first. Also, you may stand a better chance of getting the job if you let them know about your intentions first. Otherwise, your resume may just get lost in the pile.
The way in which to approach this situation will depend on your relationship with the client.
If you have a close contact there, I would start by having an informal chat with them to hear whether they think there would be any problem with you applying for a position. You will also want to gauge whether they think the company would actually be interested in hiring you.
Depending on the position of your contact, they may be able to give you the go-ahead, or can put you in touch with a decision maker who can.
3. Err on the Cautious Side
Especially when it’s still early on in your search and you’ve not had the necessary conversations with your boss, it’s best to remain cautious.
The last thing that you want is to lose your current position with no prospect of another job in sight.
Whether you’re checking out job openings on your client’s website or sending an application, be sure to do so from a private e-mail account and outside of office hours on your home PC.
In the event that your company has provided you with a phone, I would also rather not make any phone calls or send emails from that mobile when they pertain to your job search or application.
To ensure that you’re going about things in a professional and effective way, you may want to enlist the services of a recruitment professional.
Such a move would be especially wise in the event that you’re not eyeing a specific job opening, but are currently looking for another position and think that one or two clients or competitors may be able to provide you with attractive offers.
4. Take Calculated Risks — But Don’t Burn Bridges
Applying for a position at a client company may put you in a position at some point where you need to make a decision without fully knowing what the consequences may be.
Opportunities and events don’t always line up in the order that we’d prefer them to. Sometimes, it pays off to be courageous and take a chance.
As long as you’re not taking a plunge without having done as much homework and damage control as possible.
A golden rule to remember is to not burn your bridges. Regardless of what happens, it will be in your best interest to remain on a good footing with your current employer.
You will need their good references in the future. Besides, you never know, you may be knocking on their door again at some point down the line if an attractive new opportunity beckons.