Each of us has uttered the words "I quit!," "I'm out of here!" or even "take this job and shove it!" when leaving a job. Our reasons vary, from personality issues, to demanding asshole bosses, to embarrassingly low salaries or lack of respect. Having quit more than 22 jobs in my career (all professional, full-time jobs at that), and watching numerous others run out of funding, I have learned a few things about gracefully giving it to the man. Simply telling someone to go to hell can obviously be seen as a negative on both your resume and your reputation. So how do you go about leaving a job while still coming out smelling like roses?
Jobs are placeholders in our careers. They represent a span of time in our lives when we were working for a specific company, doing certain tasks at that company. But companies vary as much as personalities do, and on occasion we find ourselves at a job that feels like being at a really bad party -- one where you don't know anyone, the beer is warm, and the food sucks. So what to do? You can either grin and bear it, or you can quit. But part of the formula in figuring out "how" to quit involves evaluating your standing in the company. This can get personal.
What exactly do you do for the company? No, I'm not talking about your job title -- I'm talking about what do you physically "do" for the company you work with? Just because you are a director or a general manager says absolutely nothing about what value you bring to your employer. Why does this matter? Because what you physically accomplish become the bullet points from which the company judges you at your departure. Where you a fast worker? Cooperative, friendly and innovative? Or were you lazy, always avoiding work or did you treat coworkers like crap?
The bottom line in a career isn't always made of dollars and cents. Many times it also includes your work habits, your personality, and your drive to help the company succeed. But there is a downside to being a superstar when you quit. It means that the company is now faced with trying to find someone who can do what you used to do, preferably in the way that you did those things. It becomes a tall order once a job description also includes personality and work habits.
So what's the key to leaving a company on a positive note? Folks who know me know that I advocate the "cowboys leaving a room" scenario. In this scenario, two cowboys armed with guns are trying to leave a room, worried that the other will shoot them in the back. The answer -- each of you backs out slowly, hands exposed, to make sure the other doesn't make any sudden moves. Nobody gets shot, nobody gets hurt, and you both walk away unscathed. It might sound adversarial, but the reality is that both employer and ex-employee have a lot at stake and lots to lose if things go south.
Ultimately, the method ensures that the departure remains both professional and mutual, without falling into personal vendetta.
Even after so many jobs left, I am still sought after by name for the work that I do and the engineering design horsepower that I bring with me. The cherry on top is that I typically get along with everyone, and have an easy going work style which is supported by the premise that nobody mistakes my kindness as a sign of weakness. I leave no ambiguity there.
A job is not your life, nor should it be. A job is a means to and end, and so you should never be hesitant to leave a job if you know there are better pastures out there waiting for you. Some jobs can be more personal than others, but a job should never take the place of your personal life. Remember that like fish in the sea, there are more jobs out there with your name on them.
... the key is to leave your employer on a positive, professional note, to ensure that the four letter word you remind them of is "rose," not "jerk"...