Recently my sister experienced a big change with work. She’s a mom of 2. I’m a mom of 2. We think alike. We’ve both experienced “challenges” around having kids & working. She wrote on her experience and it’s spot on! Here’s her take on valuing yourself – your time, your salary, and checking yourself on expectations.
I wasn’t looking for a new job. I already had a good one. A career in healthcare that generally met my needs financially, gave me work-life balance, flexibility with my graduate school schedule, and even offered me a 50% tuition discount. I worked with great people in a kind and respectful work culture. But something was missing. Despite my hope to grow at my company, momentum had slowed. I had been passed over for a promotion, and as a highly productive worker, found myself siloed into a couple of critical projects that no one else wanted. Despite my attempts to pivot into other projects and communicating clearly to my superiors where I felt I could be of service, I found myself back in the silo on the same projects, without opportunity for advancement.
So when an opportunity for a promotion came my way from a competing organization, I was certainly curious. I went through a lengthy interview process and eventually got a job offer. Just after I accepted the offer, my current company posted a promotional position that I may have been very well qualified for, but it wasn’t management. I felt confident, however, that the job at the other organization would better serve my growth mindset. It would better expand my experience into new areas, diversify my field of vision, and provide my first real opportunity to manage and lead a team of direct reports.
So, how do I leave? It was unclear to me how the news would be received. I knew my colleagues respected me, but this was a move to work for our largest competitor. I live in a right-to-work state. An employer has the right to fire you, and I watched managers in other departments walk people out the door the very day they announced their 2-week notice. I did not think that was the culture in my department, which had low turnover rates, but it was still an unknown. Worst case scenario, I knew I had about three weeks of PTO accruals just in case. Thankfully, this was not the case. My managers asked me to stay for a month, which bought time to train a replacement and pass off my key projects effectively. The one-month notice also worked for the new start date for the new job.
On the other side of it now, I could not have asked for a better transition out of my job. I cared about the people I worked with and wanted to show that in both actions and words. I accomplished this goal, leaving with a feeling of warmth and respect for the people who remain executing the hard work at my now-former organization. When I think about how this satisfying transition transpired, I realize that the steps towards effective transformation started well before I submitted my application for the new job.
- Communicate your need to grow. I communicated this formally and informally as I began to feel the tug to expand my skills. After being passed over for the internal promotion, I applied for a lateral move to diversify my experience, for which I also lost. That action, however, sent a clear sign and opened up the opportunity to communicate to my superiors that I was feeling stagnant and looking for growth.
- Keep outside searches to yourself. Researching jobs and applying is just that: research. I applied for another external position, and my application was denied immediately for not meeting the minimum qualifications! I wanted my team to trust in my commitment to them, as long as I was working with them. So until the new opportunity was asking for references, I kept it private. Searching privately also allowed me to dive deep into my values without the noise of outside opinions, to decide if the new job was the right move.
- Give a heads-up. When HR wanted to check references, I gave my superiors a heads-up since the new job would be asking them for a recommendation. I let them know that in my search for growth, a job inquiry went further than expected, and they would be checking my references. If they offered me a position, I would only take it if the package met my comprehensive needs. At this point, the outside opinions started to leak in, which led me to feel grateful for my step 2 strategy! Some of the comments I heard: “I heard things are a mess over there,” “I hope you know what you are getting yourself into,” “I hope you consider what it means to give up your tenure and retirement!” Plenty of opinions. Plenty of unsolicited advice.
- Know your number. When going into a salary negotiation for a new job, know your number. I cannot stress this enough. Do the calculations — research what would be a fair salary for the role. Because wages are not typically transparent, be brave and bold, and ask around. I found a couple of friends who had worked in similar positions who were willing to discuss their salaries with me, so I knew my number was reasonable. If you took time off throughout your career to stay home with your babies, for example, be aware that they may try to shave off those years from your experience. Be prepared to counter those tactics with your worth. What are you losing if you leave your current job? If you have some longevity, your PTO may accrue faster, you are probably fully vested in your retirement, and you may have other benefits that you could lose (like a 50% tuition discount!). I knew the number I needed to make to make a move work, and I stuck to it. I had my rationale laid out, so when the offer came in low, I was prepared to negotiate. Now, if I get into my new job and feel overwhelmed, the decision is on me because I am the one who determined what I am worth.
- Be prepared for “the escort out.” If you are unsure how your current managers will receive the news, have a back-up plan, especially if you live in a right-to-work state. Gather information from HR beforehand on your benefits and when they terminate: like Flex-Spending account rules, COBRA, and PTO pay-out. This way, you protect you and your family from a financial hit should you face a “walk-out” situation. Thankfully, this was not my case. But I was prepared nonetheless and knew my family would be okay if my announcement day ended up being my last day.
- Tell management face to face. Depending on your situation, this may not feel like a safe option. For me, I felt that being brave and facing up to my choices was important. I found a moment to discuss my intent to take the offer with my most senior report. This conversation was crucial because I was able to find out how much time they needed from me so I could communicate a solid start-date to my new employer. We decided on four weeks, and I am grateful that this plan worked for my new position as well.
- Tell your closest team-mates. Immediately after I met with my director, I walked out and gathered my small team to meet with them privately before any gossip could take hold. Before I could say anything, one of my team members jumped the gun and said: “let me guess, you’re leaving.” I confirmed it and told them I would plan to stay for a month to transition my role. I let them know too how much I appreciated them and that I would do my best to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
- Compose an exit email. Do your own dirty work. My manager offered to send an email FOR me to let the department know. Perhaps this was just a gesture to be helpful, but I would have felt disempowered if I let someone else speak for me. I quickly (and kindly!) responded confidently that I was already composing an email and that I would be responsible for that. I wanted it to be clear how much I valued my co-workers. I knew I was the only one who could express the right words for myself.
- Clean up your side of the street and do good work. Cleaning-up is two-fold. First, focus on the things that are within your control, and second, let go of everything else! Training my replacement was my primary focus. I was fortunate to have someone to teach and took advantage of it. Equally important, I wanted to provide constructive feedback about some of the barriers I saw to improving some inefficient processes. I had a kind, brave, yet candid exit interview with my leaders, knowing I had no control over the outcomes. I stuck to the principles and kept personalities out of it. I stayed in my lane. I did not compromise my values, jump over mountains, over-commit, or over-compensate. That would have led me to a state of insanity if I thought I could control anything after I left!
- Leave in gratitude. I left in December. I left my family Christmas card and a gratitude list for my colleagues to read at a later date, expressing all the positive things I learned from the job, even during times of challenge. This gratitude list prepared my heart and mind to leave on good graces. On my last day, I made the rounds personally to everyone individually in my department to express personal gratitude for their work. I feel confident that I left with bridges and open doors as opposed to walls of resentment. Gratitude is infectious. The more you give, the more you get. It is a beautiful tool to use when working through tough job transitions, and I highly recommend it!
Salt Lake City, Utah