The lead up to leaving

In two days, I’m planning to quit my job.

I’m quitting because I want to get out of the corporate race and do something good for the world.  I’m quitting to take some time out and “find myself” (for lack of a better term).  It’s the right decision for me.  It’s a good thing (a great thing, even).  I can’t wait to make this change.

But this stage still sucks. Totally sucks.

I think that some of the hardest times you’ll go through in your work-life are the days/weeks  lead up to announcing that you’re leaving a job. No matter what your reasons for leaving are, it’s stressful. Whether it’s waiting to find a new job, waiting for a job offer to come through/be finalised, waiting for the elusive 12 week mark of pregnancy, or just waiting until the time is right, you almost always have to endure some time when you are aware you are planning to leave, but are unable to announce it.

What makes it hard is that during this waiting time, you still have to do your job. You have to attend meetings where you’re planning for the future. You have to talk about next year, all the while thinking “except that I won’t be here”. You have to hide the truth  You have to bite your tongue.  And it’s tough…

All of these things lead to The Guilt.  The Guilt starts for many leavers as soon as the thought of leaving pops into their minds.  In fact, for many people it jumps in so soon that it stops them from leaving at all.  The Guilt is the little voice in your head that says “But you’ll be leaving them in the lurch.  How can you just walk out on your boss, your clients, your colleagues? What if they can’t find someone else? You’re just weak – suck it up and stick it out!”.  The voice is often wrong, but it’s still hard to make it shut up.

But that’s not the worst of it. Not for me anyway. The worst thing for me is The Nostalgia Effect. The Nostalgia Effect sneaks up when you least expect it.  You’re working away, thinking in the back of your mind that you can’t wait to be out of there.  And suddenly, something good happens – a conversation with a coworker, a fun coaching session, a successful meeting, a great report.  And that gets you thinking again.  “What if this isn’t so bad after all? What if I’ve over reacted?  Can I really give this up? How can I leave this solid job for unemployment? What if the next thing sucks too? Maybe the old saying’s true – Better the devil you know?”  You start to miss things before you even leave.

The Guilt and The Nostalgia Effect come in waves, one after another, taking you on an emotional roller coaster.  When I’m on this roller coaster, it’s definitely tough, but I also know some tricks for getting off  (I’ve had quite a bit of experience in the last couple of years, I’m embarrassed to say).   So, here are my tips for surviving the hoping-and-planning-but-not-yet-publicising stage:

  • Throw yourself into your work.  It’s often not easy to do, but working hard and getting in the zone really helps get through this time.  (Or at least makes time pass a bit quicker).
  • Start to think about what you’re going to need to wrap up before you leave.  If you have a place to write a list that no one else will see, write it down.  Writing the list is especially good for The Guilt.
  • Talk to a trusted friend about your plans, and your feelings.  It’s usually best if this is not a colleague, even though that often feels easier.
  • Remind yourself of your reasons for leaving.  Write a list or create a mantra to remind you (mine is “For me, it’s more important to do good than to do well”)
  • And finally: Whatever you do, do it as soon as possible.  It’s easiest to get past it when the feelings have only just started.  The longer they last, the more they work themselves into your mind, and the harder it is to kick them out.
If all that fails, just remember that it’s only for a limited time.  Soon enough, you’ll have let people know, and you can actually talk about it.  (Of course, that starts a whole new difficult stage, but that’s a topic for another day…)
Have you ever been in this awkward position?  What did you do to help you through?

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