Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.
One morning, I was working on this post, but the concepts weren’t gelling.
Then, like a gift from heaven, Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover started playing and my writer’s block subsided, as new thoughts emerged…
Just slip out the back, Jack.
Make a new plan, Stan.
Don’t need to be coy, Roy – just listen to me.
Hop on the bus, Gus. Don’t need to discuss much.
Just drop off the key, Lee and get yourself free…
Before we go any further, I need to clarify – I’m not advocating Paul Simon’s 50 Ways as your best road map to resign, but there were glimmers in that song that sparked a few ideas for making a smooth and successful exit.
Humility aside, resigning gracefully is one of my strengths – not by design, but by necessity and repeated practice.
True Confession #1: I’m a Serial Resigner
As I scan back over my 38-year career journey, it’s a patchwork quilt of diverse work pursuits, filled with plenty of resignation moments. On each occasion, there were also sleepless nights as I pondered how to convey such news in a candid, yet compassionate manner.
In 1979, I started my career as a high school band director in Dayton, Ohio. After my first year, my husband job was relocated to Detroit, Michigan. I managed to land another high school band assignment, only to leave a year later, prompted by another relocation – this time to New Jersey.
In 1984, our son was born and I chose to take a one-year sabbatical to figure out my next career step. While teaching was something I loved, the financials were tough to reconcile. The bulk of my teaching salary would go to child care, so I purchased an IBM PC Jr. and started a home-based typesetting business.
Within the first year, I recruited a half-dozen contractors who would typeset book manuscripts from home. Happily, I was making much more than I did as a teacher, with a more flexible schedule that would accommodate my new role as mom.
Guess what happened next?
Another relocation. All told, there were nine moves in 15 years. Then we landed in Cleveland and thankfully, the relocations stopped. Through the years, I’ve toggled back and forth between jobs and entrepreneurial endeavors.
While it’s much easier to resign due to a spouse’s job relocation, there were a half-dozen resignations that were prompted by my own choice. Either the culture changed, the job changed or I changed — and the job was no longer a fit. Those resignations required a bit more finesse.
Through each resignation, I strived to leave on the best of terms, giving plenty of notice and going the extra-mile to train my replacements. Happily, nearly every self-imposed resignation prompted the same question: “What more could we do to keep you?”
I share that not to boast, but to emphasize that extra-mile players who resign gracefully are remembered fondly. Now, about that headline: 50 Ways to Leave Your Employer…
True Confession #2: You’re Not Getting 50 Ways in This Post
Sure, I could brainstorm and create a whimsical list of 50 that might make you chuckle, but they won’t help you prepare for your own resignation moments. So instead, how about five that matter?
- Be an Extra-Mile Team Player and Lifelong Learner
As a blog reader, you’ve already demonstrated a strong appetite for learning and personal growth. That attribute is in short supply today and many employers notice this more than you realize. Alas, that’s often not evident until the goodbye conversation. If your track record is strong, while they’ll be sad to see you go, this resignation conversation should happen more easily.
- Don’t Burn Any Bridges
There might have been a misdeed or two (or twelve) that contributed to your decision to resign, but revealing this now has more downside than upside. Let it go and do everything you can to stay positive. For many, a previous employer could become a future client. Past employers are also good referral sources for new business opportunities.
- Find Something You Appreciate About Your Employer
Thankfulness helps to soothe the resignation sting, but you need to keep it real. Think hard and find something — or someone — you truly appreciated at this company and share it during the resignation conversation. You’ll be amazed at how this affirmation helps to diffuse any tension as your employer processes your news.
- Be Ready to Share More About Why You’re Resigning
You can bet your employer will ask and for most, launching your own business will be well received (and not something they can easily counter). One of my trickiest resignations happened amid a series of mergers and acquisitions. The culture was changing rapidly and so was my role. For me, it was cathartic to list every reason on paper — the good, the bad and the ugly. Then, I winnowed down my list to things that were less contentious.Ultimately, I acknowledged that this company needed to move in a new direction, but this shift wasn’t aligned with my strengths or what I envisioned for my career. Life is too short to wake up less than delighted about the work you do. Who can argue with that logic?
- Keep in Touch
After the hugs and goodbyes on the final day, I’ve sent handwritten thank-you notes to colleagues, calling out something I appreciated about them. I’m also a big fan of connecting with work colleagues on LinkedIn, too. I’ve had some great referrals come from people who read something I posted on LinkedIn.While everyone has the best of intentions to keep in touch, most are too busy to ever get around to it. Go the extra mile and schedule these chats regularly. For me, these catch-up chats have been a tremendous catalyst for my network. If you’re launching a consulting practice, your network will be a crucial business accelerator — but keep in mind, a vibrant network requires constant care and feeding. You must give as good as you get and without any expectation of reciprocation. Yep, it’s the golden rule and then some.
Are you preparing for a job exit? Or have you recently resigned to launch a new gig? What tips or insights can you share to help us all tackle this resignation exchange more gracefully?