Recently I left a company after 14 years of service. That’s a long time to be at the same place, and it’s uncommon. I experienced multiple changes in leadership, structure, focus, and strategy. During times of change, I soaked up every scrap of a lesson that I could scrounge. During stable times, I knocked out some of the ideas I had accumulated, those “wish I had the time for this” projects.
I hired several “generations” of entry- and near entry-level employees and watched them grow in and eventually out of my purview. They took on new and different roles both in and outside the company. I contributed to several projects that have had a lasting impact on the organization. I continued to have a back pocket full of ideas and plans that I was excited to get started on.
And then it was time to go. An opportunity to work with new technology (who can resist something called Operation Dogfood?), with someone I highly esteem, with a small, nimble, and growing company was too much to resist. A month in, I am relishing the change.
If you find yourself ready to leave, I have a few tidbits for you to consider:
- Two weeks is enough. I firmly believed and have coached everyone I know to give no more than two weeks’ notice. But when it came to my own resignation, I choked. I thought it was only fair to give my employers as much time to transition as possible, so I gave them three weeks. It was a mistake.
- Carve out some time in between jobs. I didn’t think I needed it. In hindsight, it would have been an easier transition if I had taken some time to catch my breath between gigs. After 14 years, I had collected some baggage. I didn’t recognize that until after the actual separation.
- Prep work. For the weeks and months prior to my leaving, I began prepping my coworkers. I stopped volunteering for new projects. I asked more from my staff than usual (probably more than they wanted or thought was fair). In team meetings, I carved out time for topics like managing change, dealing with ambiguity, developing strategic relationships outside our group, and opportunities for professional growth beyond traditional career pathing. Whether they noticed what I was doing or why, I like to believe they appreciated the groundwork that had been laid once the change was in motion.
- On being replaceable. Many of us say it’s important to be replaceable (the article on the subject from Kevin Alavi seemed to resonate with a lot of people). However, to step out of a position and company that I had given so much of myself to and find that they didn’t seem to skip a beat when I left was a challenge on a personal level. Frankly it is exactly that type of disregard that played a big part in my decision to go, but it was still painful to experience the door actually hitting me on the way out.
With my track record, I’ve got another 13 years 11 months before considering a similar transition, and truthfully, I’d be happy to never do it again. Thanks, Lora Cecere, for the opportunity to join your journey!
I’d love to hear your comments. What worked with your last exit? What didn’t?