Leaving a long-held, cherished job is not easy. Even with a new dream job in-hand, cutting the cord that connects you to a place you have become part of can be one of the most difficult challenges you ever face in your career. While there is no surefire method, the steps below reflect lessons from the experience of those who have been successful in so doing.
To quit, follow the steps below in order and as precisely as you possibly can. Make sure first, though, that you have really decided to quit and that it is not just a ploy to get your employer to talk you in to staying and giving you a raise. If you want an offer to stay (even though when you announce and then decide to stay it is likely that management will from then on question your loyalty and motives which may be a fatal blow to a thriving upward progression) then this is not the method to follow.
- Remember that you need to be loyal first to yourself, not to your employer or your colleagues no matter how much they have done for you up to now. Almost everyone thinks their own departure will be more catastrophic for their organization, its employees, and its customers than it will really be. Any one of us in virtually any position leaves a hole upon departure about the size of the hole left in a pitcher of water when a clenched fist is pulled out from it.
- Come up with three iron-clad reasons that explain why you have decided to quit. Any more than three leaves you open to having the weakest refuted allowing your employer to claw their way back to convincing you to stay, and their instinct will be to try to talk you into doing exactly that. Memorize your three reasons and become glib with them.
- Say out-loud that you are leaving and why, over and over again, in front of a mirror so you will have heard and felt yourself speak the words in a safe and unemotional setting. The last thing you want at the moment of truth is for a tear to come to your eye or for your lip to quiver. Practice quitting to a few close friends, family, and advisers. Ask them to help you state your points more firmly, with more authority, with less emotion, and to tighten up the message.
- A day or so ahead of announcing, do something to manifest your decisionto leave; for example, exercise and sell all of your vested stock options, take your favorite knickknacks out of the office, give up your parking space, or something along these lines to convince yourself and to show colleagues and management that you really have checked out.
- Set up a time to speak with your manager; ideally in-person but electronically if it is the only option. Use the departure letter template to draft your resignation letter that says:
- You resign as of a specific date to pursue a specific other opportunity.
- You have strong positive feelings for your time at the organization.
- You are committed to do all you can to orchestrate a smooth transition.
- At the start of your meeting, hand over the signed letter and allow time for your manager to read and absorb its contents. Offer to talk through the three reasons why you are quitting and explain what you have already done to mentally and physically check-out. When s/he attacks your reasons for leaving it is important to say exactly this: “I appreciate you helping me to rethink my decision but it is my decision to leave”.
- What will follow is a gradual progression through a series of predictable stages of acceptance: shock, denial, pain, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Stay calm and help orchestrate the progression through the stages until acceptance is reached.
Peter DiGiammarino is a professional CEO, professor, and author with 30+ years of success leading public, private, private-equity-owned, and venture-capital-backed software and services firms. He consistently helps leaders, top teams, and organizations achieve their full potential to perform and grow in the name of IntelliVen.