I quit my job last week.
Well, I didn’t quit per se, but I said goodbye to one employer in an effort to say hello to another. I broke up with my job. That’s better…I broke up with my job and in the same way that romantic break ups take an emotional toll (even if it’s your idea, be honest ladies!), professional break ups are hard as well!
I knew it was time to move on. I knew I was making the right decision. But even still, I didn’t sleep for 3 days and effectively made myself sick over having to tell the people who were so good to me that it was time we part ways. But I had to put my big girl pants on.
This is how it all went down.
Let me start by saying that I have an excellent relationship with my (ex) boss. He’s always been supportive of me, he’s been on a mission to make me embrace life just as much as I embrace work, and we have an uncandid ability to leverage pop culture, real world events, and tv shows to bring work scenarios to life! He was an advocate for me when I decided I wanted to move closer to family and he fights for me consistently during performance and salary review seasons. He has been a Godsend. He has also been grooming me for my next career move--gently nudging me to start looking for more challenging opportunities, even if it wasn’t with him. To me, that’s the sign of a great leader. He juggles my interests with the company’s interests effortlessly. Which is why this was so hard! Not only had I never “quit" a job before (internships naturally end, and I don’t consider moving around laterally within a company as “quitting”…more like transitioning!), but I was quitting a job with an awesome boss. I have had awful bosses before. Leaving them would have been so much easier!
I accepted my new offer after a period of negotiation (out of principle, I do this even if I am satisfied with the offer. Women are paid less compared to their male counterparts and I don’t think we should idly standby and accept that!) and then rescheduled my weekly 1 on 1 with my boss to be an hour long instead of the standard 30 minutes. He told me that as soon as I did this, he knew something was up! That was the point.
I made a bulleted list of how I wanted to guide the conversation and took a deep breath. I was honest about my interview process and how quickly it moved for me. I was firm on my decision and that I wasn’t thinking about it, but that I was definitely doing it. And most importantly, I made sure to communicate how grateful I was for everything my leaders have done for me.
But even with a well laid out plan and the best of intentions, things still seemed to go rogue.
My (ex) boss told me that he felt blindsided and thought that our relationship was good enough for me to tell him that I was interviewing with outside companies. I was thoroughly confused! We talked about me moving on to challenge myself and at almost every meeting that we’ve had, he’s asked me where I was on looking for new positions. I thought we were on the same page. I was shocked, and honestly a bit hurt to learn that we weren’t! The last thing I wanted was disappoint him. I had done a ton of research on whether you disclose information about looking for an external job. Though I may not have been explicit with him about where I was looking, I was very explicit that I was looking. I started to feel like it wasn’t fair for him to be disappointed in me.
It only took a little while for him to see that too. When the dust started settling, he told me that he is happy for me and that this is a great opportunity. He told me that he’s really just concerned about all the work that our team will have to cover and he recognizes that finding a good employee isn't always easy.
He asked me the “is there anything I can do to keep you” question. I cannot stress how important it is to be prepared for this. I knew that what I was gaining was more than what I was losing, but it's important to know what it is that you are leaving for and if there’s any way your employer can give you those things. For me, this move was something that just immediately made sense to me. Most things in life are seemingly gray and squishy as an early careerist, but there was no doubt in my mind that this transition is where I am supposed to be. He validated this completely.
After the hour, my boss told me he wanted me to tell his boss the news. The second wave of terror hit me! My director is also great, but he’s that person you have to be prepared for. You don’t walk into a meeting with hime without back pocket tools and solutions. He will expect it. He is the kind of person that will keep you on your toes and is unafraid to let you know when you aren’t on point. In most cases, I really like that!
So I went back to the drawing board. Made my bullets. Outlined the conversation. Picked up the phone.
Surprisingly, my director handled it very well! I guess when you’re in the game for 40+ years, you just know when these things are coming! He said he was expecting this soon, but hoped I’d find a place within the company to retain talent. I told him that I was the right level of terrified for this new role and he said “Let me stop you right there “ (I told you, he is unafraid to check you at the door!) He told me that I need to give myself more credit for how aware I am and how READY I am for this. He told me that I have brought so much to the team so even though he hates to lose me, this is a bittersweet thing. And then he said… “If it doesn’t work out and you change your mind, come back. You always have a place here.” My level of anxiety flew out of my window at that moment. Knowing that I did something so right that I had a place even if things went wrong meant the world to me.
I’m happy to say that I survived my first “real” work-breakup. Here are some lessons I’ve learned in goodbye:
1. Be prepared for the conversation in advance, but know it likely won’t go just as planned. Know when and why you’re leaving. Know what your decision is and make sure you know the answer to the “what can I do to keep you?” question. Don’t feel bad if the answer to that question is “nothing.”
2. Do not be swayed by the emotion of the situation. In hindsight, I should have been more concerned if my boss didn’t feel like he was losing something good! Stay present, feel all the feels, but stick to your guns. Remember that this is a personal decision for you and a professional one for your leaders.
3. Breathe, be respectful, and offer to do anything your leaders need to make the transition as seamless as possible. This is more about your professional brand than anything else. And karma...that too!
4. Be more excited about the new opportunity than you are sad about the one who’s season is ending. I had celebratory drinks with a friend after I broke the news to my leaders and he said “you should be excited, why are you so down right now?” He was right. I made a life changing decision that I was eager to make yet I was allowing a feeling of guilt to foreshadow how everything I had visualized and wanted for the next steps in my career was happening. It was a distraction. Thank God for friends who are able to steer us back on track!
5. And finally, there's no one way to skin a cat. Do you research, see how other people approached moving on and when in doubt, play some Boyz II Men on repeat, assume your power stance, and do what needs to be done!
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