Published on Medium.com
It’s so tempting, isn’t it?
You’re ready to move on to the next big thing, take a leap, start your business, or just escape. The horizon is waiting for you to ride off into it. Why not just close your laptop and take off?
Because there’s so much more hinging on how you walk out that door than first meets the eye.
Whether you loved your job or hated it, the point comes at which you need to decide if you’re going to give your notice. At one time, there wasn’t really a will-I-won’t-I two-step to this. You were leaving your job, you gave your notice. The mentality of the professional world has shifted, however, and a notice no longer appears to be a hard-and-fast requirement anymore.
Now, ask your average VP or director and you’ll probably get a very traditional take on what they might expect from an employee on their way out. Turn the viewpoint around, however, and the mindset is very different, and I don’t believe it’s necessarily an expression of petulance or lack of respect for the establishment.
A Millennial Workforce
On a sociological level, the workforce has changed significantly over the past decade or two. Yes, I suppose that points the finger at the perennial targets — Millennials — but for better or worse, the rise of young working professionals is taking control of the cultural landscape businesses are suddenly stumbling in an effort to make sense of.
It’s a cop-out to blame the Millennial tech-mentality that gives this much-maligned group their trademark “short attention spans,” “sense of entitlement,” and “demand for instant gratification.” Does it all factor into the equation? Certainly, but take the negative connotation and judgment away and we’re looking at an ever-more dominant demographic of digitally-savvy speed-thinkers with a keen awareness of personal value in a market where opportunities are what you choose to make of them.
For such an employee, the question of whether to go or stay will always be a factor in the balance, even if they’re happy in their work. Lack of advancement opportunities, a perception of being undervalued or underappreciated, low compensation, a hostile work space, or disagreement with the company’s brand values can all be deal-breakers. No longer do employees feel they have to lower their heads and accept the inevitable. Thus, we have the modern “episodic” career.
Keeping Things Professional
With a revitalized workforce culture that empowers the employee to decide when to leave based on individual preference, does it really matter whether or not a piece of paper gets handed to a manager and a team member whose eye is on another ballgame entirely cools their heels for two weeks as a ritual gesture of professionalism?
Is that really a valid expression of “professionalism,” anymore?
Yes. It is.
When I had made my decision to leave the company I was working for in order to launch a freelance writing biz I kept on running across articles that made the case for the walk-out approach. I was floored to see a number of these articles being put out by major business publications and e-zines.
Not happy? Then just leave! So, this must be the new normal, no?
Hold up, there.
It’s undeniably tempting to take these articles as permission to cut and run, but think before taking that leap. Your heart may not be in the work you’re looking to leave behind, but providing notice is about more than what appears to be empty symbolic gestures.
When it comes down to it, even if you’re moving on to a fantastic new job or launching the startup of your dreams, shutting the door in the faces of the people you’re walking away from is — and should be — a last resort approach.
You Never Know When You Might Need Them
A reference, anyone? You may or may not have a job lined up to turn to once you take your leave, but it pays to have your former boss on your side when you take either this next step or the one after it. Giving the notice and — more importantly — working it raises the likelihood that they’ll be there for you when you need them.
Even if you don’t care about a reference, consider how life has this funny way of looping the past around to intersect with the future. What if you wind up hating the new job or can’t make a go of your startup? What if you get fired? It’s a hit to your pride, but you may end up looking back to your former employer for a position.
On a brighter note, it’s also important to maintain positive relations with former employers as potential in’s or even clients later on down the line. If you left a bad taste in their mouths, are they likely to want to hand out business cards or commission your services?
There are so many ways one person can influence whether your career succeeds or fails after you’ve left their employment. You don’t need to make friends with them, but while it can never hurt to be in their good graces, it certainly can if you aren’t.
Who Else is Watching?
How many co-workers are on your team? In your department? On your floor? In the building?
How many eyes are watching each step you take towards the door?
Whatever your standing in the boss man’s eyes, you have many more potential judges waiting to see what you do next. That’s a lot of pressure. Turn it around, though, and think of them as X number of potential supporters.
Working out your notice gives you a nice, solid period of time to make connections and nurture opportunities. Again, you never know when you may need a friendly voice singing your praises.
Unless Human Resources prohibits you from sharing the fact that you’re leaving, start reaching out to the people around you. Email peers you haven’t talked to in a while. Grab a coffee with an old teammate who went to a different department. Have business cards? Pass them around to let people know what you’ll be up to. It may seem archaic, but send thank you cards once you’ve left.
Now, obviously, don’t be fake in your efforts. At the very least, take this as an opportunity to reconnect and leave everyone with a positive vibe.
(A word of caution: make sure not to use any of this as a way to solicit business from your co-workers. You’ll probably end up in trouble and may be told to leave immediately — something you DEFINITELY don’t want to have happen)
Lastly, make sure you offer to help with the onboarding of your replacement. This could mean actual one-on-one training between you and the new recruit or typing up notes that can be shared to ease the transition. Not only will this make things easier for the person filling your seat, but takes pressure off the team to try and figure out the odds and ends of your process in order to pass it all along.
Never sabotage your team even if you despised them.
Leaving off on a nice, positive note like that benefits your reputation as a professional as well as the team’s efforts to move forward.
Defining Your Professional Self
Love it, hate it, providing employers you’re leaving with a two-week notice remains a key part of what makes the professional world work. Unless there is a very good reason not to (and yes, they certainly exist), it’s a step that can’t just be skipped over.
Moving on from a job is an opportunity to assess who you are as a professional. What makes you attractive to the businesses you want to be hired by? Is there enough gas in the tank to get you up that corporate ladder and into the corner office? Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur yourself and grow a brand that succeeds? Are you who you should be in your core values and ambition? Are you who you want to be?
If nothing else, these two weeks give you the chance to reflect on where you are and where you want to go. Will your next step take you all the way, or are there some more points to plot along the route?
The manner in which you leave a job plays a key role in what happens after the door closes behind you. If you’re sitting there wondering whether to just get up and walk out, look around you at those who have the potential to make or break the course you’re setting. Even though you may never need to call on them for a helping hand in your career, that you gave them your time here at the end matters.