Mergers and acquisitions within the business world signal economic growth and business changes. Depending on your position on the business chessboard, a strategic move may be necessary.

You have a vested interest in your professional success. Whether you leave the company or stay, a smooth transition looks great on your resume. If the decision to leave is mutual, make sure your finances and career growth are not hindered as a result. In either case, consider the following:

Your rights

If you are a professional or executive-level employee, you have particular challenges. When ownership changes, you need to address your active benefits. Further, your compensation package, bonus incentives and company stock portfolio may change. If you already signed a non-compete agreement, you may have limited employment options. Further, the new owners may require you to sign a new set of legal documents to ensure your continued loyalty.

Your benefits

Termination from your job is a possibility during a business merger. If you sign a severance agreement, you must also sign a general release. This relinquishes your right to file a lawsuit. Besides receiving severance pay, you may also file a state unemployment insurance claim. The coverage takes several weeks to begin and helps relieve financial stress. Make sure you understand your legal rights before signing anything.

Your future

Protect your professional status during a merger or acquisition. Learn about corporate culture through direct contact with other employees. If you are a long-time employee and decide to move on, request a signed and dated letter of reference. Ask both your previous boss and the new owners to provide one. If you honor a commitment to stay with the new owner, lay out the specifics in detail. Address any concerns that you have about your pay, benefits, accrued vacation and time off.

The upside to business mergers is often growth. If you are not sure that you want to ride the wave of change, review your employment options. In either case, ensure that you do not leave your benefits or career shortchanged.