We all know about the Great Resignation.
In the year 2021 alone, 47.4 million American workers voluntarily quit their jobs, a record for the country.
I am part of this trend, having decided to leave my lucrative yet unfulfilling financial services job during COVID to follow my passions and start my own company, Social Musings LLC, a story that was documented in a March 2022 Texas Monthly feature story here as well as by The University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business (click here to read).
According to a Google search, it is estimated that most people will have 12 jobs during their lives, which means that you may on average have to hand in your resignation almost a dozen times.
Yet are many of us good at quitting a job gracefully?
I started thinking about whether there were three tips about quitting a job that I could share with you based on my 20+ year professional career.
All told, I held six “office-type” jobs.
I am not counting when I started as a janitor in an office building or made milkshakes at Fuddruckers or folded clothes at Abercrombie & Fitch or worked the register at Blockbuster Music. If you include those, then the number of different jobs I held is definitely over 12.
That’s right, I started working as a 15-year-old cleaning toilets in my mom’s office and ended up a Wall Street investment banker. That is a story for another time, however.
I started thinking about all the times when I had to quit a job.
The decision about whether to leave your job has been on your mind A LOT. Like me, you might have a great deal of anxiety about your next move.
Once you make your decision, now you have to implement it, which requires the courage to walk into your boss’ office and say, “I Quit,” or something like it.
One time I even started crying in front of my boss when I quit. Years later, he tells people that I “was the most emotional person he ever managed,” which checks out.
Yet despite all of the struggles in my own head about changing jobs, I am grateful that I have never left a job to go work for a competitor, which adds additional complexity. For those special rules of engagement, please refer to #3 below.
So what did I learn during my career in Corporate America about leaving a job gracefully?
1. Give Ample Notice
The term “two weeks’ notice” is not just some contrived Human Resources concept. Companies will need time to find a replacement for you, and these days filling positions can take months. I never gave less than a month's notice when quitting a job, and I would typically try to complete as many short-term tasks and then transition as many longer-term projects as possible before leaving.
2. Help Identify Your Replacement
In addition to making sure that all your responsibilities have been clearly handed off to the appropriate authority, where possible, I always spoke with my boss about who I thought might be a good fit for the role I was leaving. Sometimes, I would help write the official job description so that Human Resources could immediately post the position.
Ideally, you would also participate in an open and honest exit interview so that the company knew the skills required to succeed in the role and also how they might improve the experience for the next person.
3. It is WAY EASIER to Leave to Work for a Client than a Competitor
If you leave to go work for a client or you are actually retiring or leaving to pursue your passions like me, your colleagues may even throw you a party. That is how it used to be.
Your accomplishments were celebrated. People from your past would show up. It was like an episode of This is Your Life.
When I finally left Corporate America, my team was kind enough to give me a framed plaque, which was a very classy move.
However, nowadays, this utopian work scenario may not be likely or possible. Perhaps you have received a much more generous offer with a better career path from a competitor, and after much introspection and insight, you have decided to accept the offer.
This is the most difficult situation to navigate, and you have to disregard the aforementioned advice.
I have seen people escorted out of the office by security time and time again, either because they were terminated for cause or because they were doing the unthinkable: going to work for a competitor.
If you are leaving to work for the competition, it is probably best to take all of your personal belongings home on the weekend before you resign, as it is most likely that you will be asked to leave immediately.
Your work email will be deactivated before the days’ end of your resignation, so make sure you have everything you need to be successful in your next position.
Leaving a Job is a Normal and Natural Thing to Do
Please know that it is completely natural to quit a job, especially if you are moving upwards in your career. It is completely acceptable to move into another position if you are unhappy or fail to see where your career is heading. Ultimately, if you are miserable or uncertain at work, you will be miserable and uncertain in your life, and your life is more important.
Good managers will absolutely understand your career ambitions, good companies will always be proud that you once worked there, and good friends will always support you.
So as you go, remember that no matter what the situation may be, it is best to be as considerate as possible. This level of respect exhibits class.
After all, you never know when a merger might happen and your new company is consumed by the old company and all of a sudden you have boomeranged right back to the place where you quit. I have seen this happen many times on Wall Street in my career, and the consequences were not pleasant.
Good luck out there.
If you are interested in reading more articles based on my career, check out the Career Learnings section on the Social Musings by Austin website.
In the same vein, I also recorded the story of "My First Day on Wall Street," available on the Social Musings by Austin podcast on Apple Podcasts here.
Have a great week everyone!