We have all had points in our careers when it is time to initiate change -- to make way for the next great adventure. Maybe you've learned everything possible from your current position, and no growth opportunities are presenting themselves. Perhaps a tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime dream job has landed at your feet. Or, it could be that your boss has irritated you one too many times and you are just plain miserables (as in les). Whatever the reason, your intention is to exit stage left as quickly as possible.
When quitting time arrives, talented players might stumble. How you leave an organization stays in people's minds sometimes more than how you performed on the job. Your arrival and departure is crucial to your reputation, so before and after you say, "bye-bye now," keep the following pointers in mind.
Decide to leave in a state of awareness, not confusion
Are you making an emotional decision or a rational one? Are you looking for a geographical cure? Do you really want to go or are you just angry about a particular condition? If it's about money, can you negotiate? If your current employer counters and fixes whatever issue is bothering you, would you stay?
When a recruiter or hiring manager calls, that person always paints the new picture as being quite rosy. These are talented experts who insist that Oz is waiting, and they are motivated to get you hired -- their commissions depend upon it. Your new employer might never look as good to you as during the dating phase, so take off your "I want out" filter and think through why you must call it quits. My mother-in-law's adage is, "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't." That's grim -- but sometimes valid.
Consider your "rights"
Is the new opportunity at the right company? Is the position the right fit? (Will you be content doing whatever the job requires all day long, five days a week, for the next X amount of years?) Is it the right package? Is it the right challenge and is there opportunity to grow and be promoted? Just like looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, does the prospect of the new gig thrill and excite you? (Are you looking to get married or break up in eight months?)
Too many people fail to find the right fit for them simply because they're trying to get away from a wrong one. But as we all know, two wrongs don't make a...well, you get the point.
Finish the negotiation process with your future employer before you give notice
Every detail about what you are getting yourself into should be in a written agreement, signed and countersigned. Those details include a thorough understanding of your new role and exactly how you will be compensated. With a background in sales, I'll use that as an example of what to explore and uncover during negotiations.
Ask the following:
- Where's the comp plan or calculator and can you explain it to me? (Don't agree to anything without really understanding this formula.)
- What's my quota? What's the year-over-year growth expectation?
- What is my specific account list? How much of this business is returning? Why isn't it coming back? (You don't want to get stuck with a scorched list.) How much hunting vs. farming?
- Guarantee on the commission? Signing bonus?
- What is the benefits package?
- What is the expense policy and budget?
- Marketing budget? Can you review the marketing materials?
- Is there a support or operations team located in your region?
- Parking situation? Where's your office and desk located? (Closet turned into a makeshift workspace?)
- How much training will be provided? ("On the job training" translates to no training.)
- Are you allowed to work from home? (If you love producing from your granite kitchen countertop and that is now verboten, a compromise on your lifestyle might not be worth an additional $20,000.)
Also find out:
- How experienced is your new manager? What is her or his style of management and does it jive with how you operate?
- Who else is on your team?
- Why did the person before you quit? (Call them. Call anyone you know that has worked for this organization.)
- What's the culture and how important is culture to the company?
- Is there an office manager or will you be fixing the broken copier by yourself?
- Does the product work? (If possible, call clients and ask them if they would buy your new product, media, or service. Find out the real deal on the new company anyway you can. And of course, do so discreetly.)
Keep in mind that once you say yes to your new employer and goodbye to your present one, you have no leverage: The courtship is over.
Once you have decided to go and before you submit written notice, have a conversation with your manager
The respectful tactic is to give verbal notice to the person to whom you directly report, and that must be your very first conversation with anyone in the organization. Like it or not, you are going to need that person in the future. (Even if you don't mention your manager in your references, don't think that any respectable, savvy, future employer is going to hire you without first having an "off the record conversation" with your former manager.)
Assuming that conversation does not result in your reconsidering leaving, you should then submit a short, professional note thanking the company and providing a clear declaration of your last day. Your notice is submitted to HR and, like a tombstone, will remain there forever -- so be nice.
Give two weeks' notice, no matter what
You can't just walk out the back, Jack. Or get in the office at 7 a.m. to drop your laptop in your cube with a Scotch taped "I quit" note. The worst way to exit a company is to leave without notice. "I quit" might give you two seconds of joy, but the pleasure is short-lived. Save the drama for your bathroom mirror. No matter how angry, tired, and done you are, professional is always the way to "go."
Don't use a job offer as leverage
Countering cannot be a strategy, as it makes everyone angry. However, if your employer actually amends some of your issues for leaving (title change, retention bonus, bump in salary, allowing you to leash your Norwegian Lundehund to your desk, etc.) and the prospect of staying is now making you swoon, do not be afraid to change course and stay if it is right for you.
Disclose your new company when you give notice
Please don't say, "I need some 'me' time, so I'll be spending the next year swinging on a hammock in the Grenadines writing my memoir," and then two weeks later show up on LinkedIn at a competitor. Be honest and reveal where you are heading. It's not a secret you can keep.
Be prepared to be walked out
Have your affairs in order. You never know how your current employer will react to your notice. If the company decides that today is your last day, breathe. Do not get angry or resist -- just leave peacefully. If security shows up, you have blown it.
Most likely, you will not be walked out, as your employer needs you to transition your business. So try not to giddily proclaim, "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go. Can I leave, now please?!"
Create a turnover report
The status of all your business should be well documented with as much detail as possible so that whoever picks up that business can step right in. Turning your business over in an organized manner is critical to your colleagues still in the game, as well as your clients. Clients can be thrown into turmoil when their point of contact leaves a company. If something goes wrong after you depart, you can get blamed for it. ("You sold me this product, and then you deserted me!") You have a vested interest in making certain that what you sold, marketed, or managed is executed flawlessly if you want that same client's business in the future.
Don't parade around the office as if you have been exonerated from death row
Yes, we all know you are exhilarated because you have been relieved of the burdens that continue to plague us, the remaining warriors. We get that you think you are off to see the Wizard, and we are still here slogging away, perhaps even cleaning up the mess that you made. But try not to rub it in our faces. You do not know what lies ahead. You might suddenly realize the ex-lover is quite intoxicating after all, and you might need to come running back.
It takes courage to shake up your life, make changes, and start anew. So before doing so, try to ascertain whether the new road you're choosing is actually a better one. Ask questions. Then be sure to leave the party you are currently hosting with grace and gratitude, and move fearlessly forward.
Dea Lawrence is a seasoned sales leader living in Los Angeles.
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