How to quit a new job if something better comes up

So, you’ve landed a job, signed on the dotted line and you’re all set to start your new role. Then you get a call that the dream job you’d given up on is now on offer. You’re keen to take up this dream opportunity, but you don’t want to burn any bridges—or break any contract laws. Here’s how the employment experts suggest you handle it.

The human resources professional

Arguably the biggest risk in bailing out on a job you’ve already accepted is the potential hit to your reputation. With that in mind, Andy Pope, Principle at Contingent says you should be very sure your dream job is worth it.

“It’s worth noting we work with a lot of contractors who experience the most growth or satisfaction in roles that weren't always initially that attractive,” he says. “It’s also true you are often making decisions about what job is or isn’t your ‘dream’ with a very low amount of information about what life will be like day-to-day in either role.” 

He recommends taking stock of what you do and don't know about both roles, especially focussing on the learning, development, progression, and industry connection opportunities.

If you want to take the new opportunity, Pope recommends you prepare comprehensively before contacting the original job, having polite and professional answers prepared. “Explain that you have respect for that company and their time however hope that they can understand that in these exceptional circumstances you feel you need to take another role,” he says.

The recruiter

Taking the dream job doesn’t have to dent your reputation if you do it thoughtfully, says Narmie Thambipillay, recruiter at Arjan Consulting.

She recommends calling the recruiter first to talk through the decision—sometimes the original employer will endeavour to match the various benefits the ‘dream’ job does, depending on how much they want you.

That said, if you are going to take the dream job, bear in mind there are often multiple people suitable for the job, and a simple chat is all that’s required to clean your slate and your availability. Thambipillay also notes as inconvenient as it may be upfront, employees that do skip the dream job are far more likely to leave the role if the dream job comes up again.

“Most recruiters will make a note that they accepted and then pulled out, however, if the person has been honest about their job search and the various stages, the recruiter would have been aware this may happen. It’s when someone goes missing in action after accepting the role that they’ve really burnt their bridges,” she says.

Tempted by a better offer? Here’s the go-to guide to handling it:

  1. Identify what you do and don’t know about each role to be clear on what both actually offer.
  2. Check the contract you’ve signed and seek legal advice if you’re concerned.
  3. If you’ve signed up through a recruiter, get in touch and talk it through.
  4. If you decide to take the ‘dream’ offer, be upfront and let them know as soon as possible.