What no one talks about when leaving a job
In June 2020, I gave my resignation at a company I poured myself into for the prior six years. In the two months of ‘closing up shop’ that followed, I observed many thoughts and feelings around leaving a professional setting. Of course, I couldn’t really muse out loud, yet.
While continuing to give our ‘all’ to jobs we’re planning to leave, we can’t be public about so many things… Even the period between letter-to-leaving is an awkward time to indulge in out-loud introspection.
Now I want to share some insights, because if you’re going through it too, I’d love to hear about your experience and — as it’s pretty lonely — you may want to hear about mine. Here are four sentiments from the months between alerting my team and finally closing my corporate email account.
Professional ‘eulogies’: the importance of feedback
Why is it that it takes leaving for people to reflect on their relationship with you, or what you’ve taught them, or what they’ve received from you?
Why are we all so shy to offer feedback on a random Tuesday?
Do you feel like it’s rare you actually get constructive, helpful and actionable feedback throughout your lifecycle at a tenure, that only seem to happen as you are moving on?
It shouldn’t be this way. This is something I will take with me forward. We should be expressing our appreciation and gratitude for each other throughout our working relationships. It would make for a better experience while we’re in the trenches together. Doing that is hard — but it’s a muscle to exercise.
Keep a journal to track ups and downs
The day I handed in my notice, I opened a Google Doc and wrote down my reactions to that intense day. And then I kept going. Knowing myself, I knew I’d entered a period of very severe ups and downs, self doubt and elation, skepticism and optimism…
Self awareness at how you handle life change is critical in these situations. Having it written down as you process can be really helpful — for example, I had what to look back on during the down days when I found myself grasping to remember why I decided to leave in the first place, or why I should absolutely be believing in myself going forward.
Do yourself a favor and give yourself a parting gift — a personal record of your experiences in leaving your job, saying goodbye to your team, and the introspection around finding what you want next. It’s valuable for your next time leaving a job, too.
‘What are you looking for?’ This question is hard
I’m curious and I like to learn. Just about everything sounds interesting to me; I can be too open minded. So pinning down an area of focus with which to answer people trying to help is sometimes a challenge.
But it’s not just interests, or what the career trajectory should look like. We are so many things. And we have so many priorities to consider in this search - how we want to grow; what is our ideal work-life balance. Does team come before upward mobility? Does salary come before flexibility?
Six months later, I can say I spent a good deal of this time trying to figure out my priorities for my next job; and even at the end when I had choices to make about which job to accept, I found myself losing focus on this. It’s easy to get distracted. That’s why writing it out is important — keeping that journal mentioned before. Or reflecting with people who know you and can actively listen to you and parrot back what they’ve heard you say at various points in your search.
Karma is the currency that should keep you going
Sure, I always knew this, but as I packed up, I saw it reflected back to me: When you’re in a management role, or you play a very visible part at a company, people are always watching. They’ve been watching you the whole time.
And it comes back. Have you been compassionate and caring? Have you been cold or unappreciative? Were you helpful and constructive? Did the people around you grow by being in your orbit?
I wondered if my downfall someday would be caring too much; putting others first at work; being too available. This isn’t false modesty; I know one of my strengths is truly enjoying being a team player and helpful, while one of my damaging weaknesses is putting the big picture/larger team ahead of myself too much of the time.
But in the weeks of making my exit, I understood that the examples I worked hard to set paid off. I could see the people who really grew from knowing me. That feels big, and really special.
If you’re currently leaving your job, I wish you all the best: clarity in your thinking, solid farewells, no burnt bridges, plenty of opportunity ahead. It’s not an easy thing to do, leave a job when you know it’s right to do so, with no new prospects lined up. It’s brave, crazy, knowingly getting on an emotional roller coaster. And if you’ve been putting in the effort leading up to this moment, your bold move should pay off.
Catch me on Twitter if you want to talk it out!