Now THAT'S the way to wind down a job!

This IT consultant pilot fish has been assigned to the same client for several years -- during which the consulting firm that employs him has changed hands, changed contracts and provided plenty of drama.

But the client work? Not so much. "It finally reached the point for my time at the client to wind down," says fish. "I was tired of the place, the on-call requirements, the BS, the technology -- I was in consulting for the variety.

"As my system was being replaced -- the fourth system I had worked on there! -- I let my client know I'd be happy to transition out."

Fish wraps things up at the client in April without incident. But a week later, it's more drama from the consulting firm, in the form of a letter giving him official notice that his contract isn't being renewed and will expire in November. That's not a big surprise -- the consulting outfit is shuttering its office in fish's area.

The letter also advises fish to use up his accrued vacation time before the contract runs out. Fish is more focused on finding another project to fill out his final six months, but with no luck -- with the office closing, nobody is selling the firm's services locally.

Still, fish's paychecks keep coming. And so does the consultancy's drama.

"Around June came a letter that vacation accumulation policy had changed," fish says. "They were capping total carryover and earned time at a level just over what I currently had.

"Come August, I got tired of putting off some recruiters I had worked with at a previous company and let them start marketing me."

Fish's new gig is set to start in October, so he sends notice to his current firm to terminate his contract. He also suggests using his vacation time to carry through to the end of the original contract, so he won't officially be leaving early.

He never hears back about that idea -- but his paychecks keep coming. And after the original termination date, fish gets a final check for all his remaining vacation time.

He later learns why. "When the firm changed hands, I negotiated a contract that let me continue outside activities like teaching, technical book writing, and running websites for some local non-profits," says fish. "Their standard contract also had a big flaw: They couldn't end a contract early except for cause. It wasn't 'at-will.'

"They had been buying out those contracts from most of the consultants, but they didn't offer a buyout to me, expecting that I'd turn down a few dollars to retain the right to those outside activities.

"They were correct. I would've given up a six-month free vacation."

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