Do you have an employment contract? If so, when’s the last time you checked its terms? Dig it out from your files and take a close look, because you may have some restrictive covenants in it, such as a “noncompete” clause that could severely limit your next job search.
According to the American Bar Association, a noncompete clause is one that “prohibits a former employee from competing against his or her former employer within a particular geographic area for a specified period of time.” So you can’t quit your job to go work for a rival company or start a competing business, usually for at least six months and up to two and a half years. Sometimes, as in the case of the sale of a business, the duration of a noncompete can be five years, while some states don’t even have time limits, says Wendi Lazar, a partner at specialty employment law firm Outten & Golden where she coheads the firm’s Individual Practice and the Executives and Professionals Practice Group, representing many high-level female executives. According to Lazar, depending on what contract law calls “adequate consideration,” which in simplified terms means the benefits each party gets or expects to get in a deal, you might not be guaranteed any compensation during the noncompete period.