Getting a job offer is an exciting career milestone, especially if you're actively unhappy in your current role. But what happens when your new employer is so eager to bring you on board that you're told you need to start immediately? On the one hand, you don't want to compromise your relationship with your soon-to-be manager. On the other hand, you don't want to burn bridges at your old company by failing to provide the two weeks' notice most bosses expect.

Clearly, being asked to start a new job right away puts you in a tough spot. Here's how you might manage to wiggle out of it.

Woman holding a paper calendar on a clipboard


1. Give your new employer a reason for needing more time

Just as your new employer might have a reason for wanting you to start immediately, so too might you have your own reasons why that's just not possible. So rather than simply tell your soon-to-be boss that you can't accommodate, prepare one or two concrete explanations. Maybe your current contract calls for a specific notice period. Or maybe you're in the midst of a major project that, if left unfinished, would put your colleagues in a bad position. These are just a couple of reasonable excuses for why an immediate start isn't feasible, so don't be afraid to share them and see what your new employer says.

2. Understand why your new company wants you immediately

It's somewhat unusual for an employer to expect an immediate start date after presenting an offer, so if that's what you're looking at, ask your new manager why you're needed right away. Maybe the person you're replacing has to relocate suddenly, and therefore won't be around to train you if you delay your start date for a couple of weeks. If that's the case, you can offer to come in after hours to meet with that person, all the while wrapping up your responsibilities at your old job. Similarly, if you're needed to start right away because there's a major initiative kicking off, you can volunteer to attend meetings remotely during your lunch hour to get up to speed while wrapping things up at your current job.

3. Ask your current employer if two weeks' notice is really necessary

Just because it's common practice to provide employers with two weeks of notice doesn't mean your company needs you to stay on board that much longer. If, for example, you're on good terms with your boss, and you don't have any high-profile projects in the works, your manager might be perfectly OK with you leaving sooner. Similarly, if you don't have a particularly good relationship with your boss, he or she might actually want you to leave as quickly as possible. Either way, it doesn't hurt to have that conversation, because in some cases, you might easily get let off the hook.

Being asked to start a new job right away can leave you in a bind. It does pay to try to accommodate both sides. But in the end, you might have to weigh your desire to please your new boss against your desire to preserve your relationship with your old one, and see which wins out in your brain.

That said, if your new employer gives you a hard time about tendering proper notice, it could be a sign that you're better off not taking that job, so pay attention to the tone and attitude of those conversations.