“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” -George Bernard Shaw
There seems to be a culture of fear around leaving your job. It is a mindset that we somehow owe the organization we work for, or we are afraid of the future, yet we never consider what is best for ourselves. I will address both issues individually and then provide the proper steps to moving on from an organization.
First up on the chopping block is the tendency to feel sorry for the organization you plan to leave. Everyone who leaves a job has a reason, it is not an arbitrary decision that you make one day when you wake up. More common than not it is a matter of poor management or a bad culture fit, which I fully support in any capacity, so long as you follow Step 1 in the list below. There is no reason to stay in a job that causes undue stress or anxiety when there are other options and methods of providing for yourself or your family, but when you go to leave those same feelings of anxiety and apprehension can cause many to feel like they are hurting the company, especially when you have a bad manager that attempts to guilt you into staying because now they have to work until they hire and train a new team member. Any business anywhere must accept the fact that employees and talent will come and go, and that it is their responsibility to try and hold on to that talent by creating a positive environment. If that is not provided to you it is my opinion that you deserve to look around to find a better culture to spend the many hours of your day surrounded by. The only person you owe is yourself, and you owe yourself a better work environment. If there is the slightest feeling of sorrow for the organization because you are leaving cut it off as quick as you can. Feel proud of yourself, not bad for the company.
The absolute biggest issue I know of that causes an uncountable number of people to never pursue their interests, take risks, or even take a promotion is fear. The fear of the unknown stops us in our tracks because for thousands of years of evolution our subconscious has developed to keep us safe. We fear the night because we can’t see danger, and we fear the unknown because we’re safe now. Our instincts need survival not economic or business success, and when the job you’re in is comfortable and pays the bills it’s hard to leave that security blanket. Greater responsibility just means there is further to fall, and the fear of failure has driven us all at some point. Our thoughts will convince us that moving up is not worth it because it might not work out, your experience might be worse than it is now, and all those issues are rooted in the fear of failure. So, you ask, what can a person do to overcome the fear of failure? Well, that’s a tough one. There is a wide range of psychological and sociological study that covers this and I am far from qualified to comment on, but in my experience, the easiest way to get past the fear of failure is to fail regularly, but only once. That means that failing is the absolute best way to learn and improve, but only if you commit to never making the same mistake twice. If you fail daily, and each failure is unique, you have learned 365 new lessons each year. It is a mindset, and not everyone has it, but believing that failure is actually a step to success is in itself a pole vault to success.
“Only man clogs his happiness with care, destroying what is with thoughts of what may be.” – John Dryden
Now we will get into the basic steps to leave a job, and they’re easier to make than people seem to think, but it is important to execute in an order that builds on one another and not make things more complicated than they need to be. Example: don’t put in your two weeks before you have a job. These steps could be elaborated on into deep detail, but above all being respectful to all of the parties involved prevents the burning of bridges and a smoother transition, so you can take the next step up your career ladder.
1) Have a New Job Lined Up First
In normal circumstances, you should never quit a job until you have a new position lined up. This is for both your financial stability as well as how potential employers view you. It is easier to hire an applicant who is employed than one who left their job one month ago.
2) Notify Relevant Parties with Relevant Notice
Be sure to notify your supervisor well in advance – the standard being a two-week notice. Giving proper notice is a courtesy to everyone affected by your leaving, and offers time to tie off loose ends and begin the search for your replacement.
3) Never “Check-Out”
Speaking of loose ends: keep working for those two weeks! It is so easy to “check out” and stop being productive now that you’re leaving, but don’t be tempted. Continuing your work through the last day shows character, commitment to your work, and ensures that you leave on a good note. Back when I played baseball we would never end batting practice with a bad hit. We would tell the pitcher “one more”, hit it foul or a grounder and then say “one more good one” until we made solid contact, even if that meant ten more. Or, if we had five more, and on the third rocked it, we “ended on that one”. It is a momentum thing, confidence thing, and good practice in all parts of life. Slacking off could burn bridges, and you never know if you’ll have to cross back.
4) Don’t Blur Lines
Please, for similar reason listed above, don’t use the time you’re on the clock to apply for jobs, interview, and fill out paperwork for new jobs. It is unprofessional and offensive. You want a smooth transition, not to smack your current employer in the face. Phone interviews on lunch break are acceptable, but from a company standpoint, if you’re getting paid for your time by the company, try not to waste it for profession’s sake.