The moment has come again.
It’s time to tender your resignation and take the next step in your career. Although this is something that you have been planning for (and most likely looking forward to), be prepared for a deluge of mixed emotions.
I used to be under the illusion that leaving a company meant leaving certain “issues” behind (read annoying colleagues or a difficult manager). After many years of stumbling through frustrating work days, it dawned on me that maybe I was the annoying colleague (shock, horror).
So now, my more seasoned self has learned how to take things with me instead of leaving things behind. Along with my photos and pot plant, go my hard-to-weigh practical experience. Every job has the potential to give you more than just a monthly paycheck. It can, if you will let it, create opportunities for you to acknowledge your limitations and grow your capacity to take on and overcome difficult things.
Every job will stretch you. In many ways, you are able to step into the new role because of the old one. It was a crucial stepping stone. If you’ve overlooked the various ways to increase your expertise in a particular domain, might mean that you will enter in a new cycle with old lessons waiting in the wings.
Your work ethic and character doesn’t transform into something magical when you enter a new environment. You still bring who you are and who you are growing into when you enter a new-to-you department in a different organisation.
This is my learnt-it-by-doing-it guide to handling transition gracefully:
1. Pop the everything-is-going-to-be-better-there bubble: There is no perfect job. No perfect manager. No perfect work environment. All the things that used to annoy you about your current place of work is going to surface once you hand in the resignation letter. Yes, depending on the work environment, sometimes you leave because of various factors limiting growth (and threatening your sanity).
But leaving a job doesn’t always have to feel like looking for an emergency exit. Sometimes, a new opportunity presents the next logical step along your personal career pathway. It is possible to leave a job that was good for you so that you can say yes to something better.
There will be inherent challenges in the new job that you will have to face. And that is eventually going to be difficult and frustrating – but that’s why they hired you right? To provide solutions to problems that need to be fixed.
2. Focus on the value you created: Before you write the goodbye email, make a list of all the ways you’ve grown in this current job. It could be that you have learnt how to be more assertive, or you gained valuable experience in managing people. We often need to crystallise the intangibles of growth so that is becomes a strong rung on the ladder of self-development.
Celebrate your victories and outline the areas where more growth is needed. Make it your personal handbook that you refer back to after the new day on the job feeling eventually subsides.
3. Leave a positive legacy: Don’t toss your focus into the trash just because you are working a notice period. I remember the surprise of a former colleague during a meeting to tie up loose ends. “You still care about your job. Most people check out mentally the minute they hand in their resignation letter.”
Don’t be that guy. The way that you leave a place influences the way that you start in a new place. If you leave messes behind for other people to clean up, on top of their already flooded inbox, any fond memories they had of you will quickly vanish.
You also never know who you might meet somewhere in the future – the world is smaller than we realise and your former contact might just be a new contact that you encounter in a different setting… and when it comes to customer service, people never forget how you made them feel.
4. Remember the good times (and move on): Research that has shown that you lose touch with your former work colleagues within six months of leaving a job. Don’t be heartbroken when life happens and the catch-up coffees eventually fall off the calendar. You will need to give your energies to the new place you will find yourself in – and to the people that inhabit that space.
5. Keep praising and stop complaining: Never compare your old job with your new job. That’s like getting out of a relationship, only to compare the new person to your ex. Don’t do it. There will be good things about the new job that the old one didn’t have and new bad things about the new job that the old one didn’t suffer from. Resolve that you will only highlight the positives of ex-managers and former organisations. Confidentiality is still a thing.
(Oh: and don’t leave packing up your office until the last day – I’m still struggling with that one!)