A 'Grey's Anatomy' Love Contract

"It's just common sense," she said. "If you're leaving, don't spout off and tell everyone you're leaving company A to go to company Z and you'll see them in the marketplace."

Consult a Lawyer

If you don't understand the terms of your contract, ask your human resources department to go over it with you, or consult an employment contract lawyer who's familiar with your industry. State laws on various employment contract provisions vary wildly -- for example, most noncompete clauses aren't even permitted in California -- so be sure to hire a local lawyer.

Employers will grant you a few days to review an offer letter or employment contract, so "not having the time" is no excuse for signing blindly. Neither is "really, really needing the job." Some contracts are overly restrictive, plain and simple; the career equivalent of a Donald Trump prenup. After all, they're written by lawyers hired to protect the employer, not the employee.

So if you think that the contract you've been offered stinks to high heaven, or that some of its terms conflict with, say, the fact that you're a silent partner in the family business or an inventor on the side, get some legal advice and try your best to negotiate.

"Generally, the terms become more negotiable the higher up the chain the employee is going to fit into the company," Whitemore said. But if the terms aren't something you can live with, it's important to try to improve them from the get-go. You won't be able to change them later.

Finally, if you think accepting a new job offer might put you in violation of your contract with your current employer, definitely talk to a lawyer. Do not talk to your current employer's HR department about this first; its primary loyalty is to the company, not you.

Your new agreement may not be as sexy as a love contract, but follow these guidelines and you'll definitely come up with a contract you can love.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author, and former cubicle dweller. Her books -- "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" and "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" (October 2008) -- offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work, and the freelance life can be found on her blog, Anti9to5Guide.com

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