Regardless of whether you love or hate your job, someday, you’ll part ways. The average job tenure for Millennials is now less than three years, so for many in the workforce, this day comes sooner rather than later. Given that most of us hold many different jobs throughout our careers, we’ll have to leave a lot of jobs to make these moves. Ideally, the process is as smooth as possible for all parties involved. And yet, we all feel anxiety. We all worry we’re doing wrong, or offending someone. At a minimum, we’re all probably nervous about announcing our move in the first place.
There are some basic considerations that can help everybody navigate this process more easily. At a high level, be the best possible version of yourself. As I recall from a communications coursework at Sloan, most of us only remember the beginnings and ends of events. This is a key moment that people are going to remember about you. Make it count. Be your best self.
At a more tactical level, there are some actions you can take to make the situation more positive for all involved:
Give people enough notice
The minimum is about two weeks unless your employer tells you they prefer a shorter period of time to minimize awkwardness. Many people believe that as you advance in seniority, you should offer to give even more time. The company might value your help with succession planning, recruiting, or training. Offer this support if you can; after all, in many cases, you’ll want a great person who can carry on your “legacy”, someone who can continue to grow the initiatives you started.
Be sensitive if your employer wants to elongate or shorten the time period before you leave. If possible, try to avoid setting a new start date before you speak with your current employer to at least get their buy-in.
Make sure you communicate any critical information such as new opportunities, key contacts at other organizations, and looming deadlines. Ideally, communicate in as many forms as possible; walk through important information verbally, share it in writing, and communicate with different people. If you have a knowledge management system, (which you should!) leverage it so that your hand-off is accessible company-wide.
Also make sure you’re open about any operational or process logistics. For instance, passwords and account ownership can be a pain to untangle; make it as easy as you can. Even basic information can be a big help: share details on whether you’re ok being contacted afterward if people have questions. If so, give people guidance on how to get in touch. Your company will appreciate honesty and openness about your process as you transition out of the company.
Handle things the best of your ability
Don’t let the projects you were working on flounder. You want to make sure they have the highest probability of succeeding after you leave. Depending on the kind of company you’re leaving, you may even be eligible for stock options or equity after you go, so it’s in your best interest to support the company.
Furthermore, you’ve probably become close with some of your co-workers, so do what you can to help them succeed. There’s no value in bad mouthing something unless it’s seriously broken and threatens the safety of the company or team. Approach the situation with respect. Don’t use this is your opportunity to vent all of the things that have bugged you about the organization over the years.
Skate Fast over Thin Ice
My mother leveraged this adage throughout a long career in banking. She was part of Bank of Boston for years before they were acquired by Fleet, then by Bank of America. Company mergers are hard, and often, it’s easier to rip off the band-aid quickly when facing organizational change. Having a key member of a team depart certainly qualifies as organizational change. Skate fast; the process is guaranteed to be at least slightly awkward and uncomfortable for at least one of the involved parties.
The best we can all strive for is quitting with respect, grace, and love. In many cases, this means leaving while the going is still good. Don’t wait until you’re miserable in a role. Oftentimes, if you wait until that point, it’s too late. You may have already spread dissatisfaction or apathy around the organization. Leave while you can still do so with a friendly smile.
Help your former team continue to grow and thrive. If people ask you about the company, or ask to be put in touch with someone there, do what you can to help. I’ve found myself connecting a number of talented engineers with Wistia over the past few years, and I never hesitate to tell them what a special place and team Wistia is. (And engineers in Boston are a hot commodity!) Given my love for those crazy Wistians, I delight at the thought of talented friends joining such a great team. I will remain an ambassador for the company and will continue to send them talent and goodwill whenever the opportunity arises.
It’s also worth noting that employers need to be their best selves with departing employees. Make it easy for them to be honest, conduct an exit interview, and encourage them to share information in a knowledge management platform. Every employee, present and past, is a potential ambassador for your brand. You stand a better chance of having them represent your best interests in the business ecosystem, and they may even send talent in your direction in the future!