Many of us exert great effort trying to keep work lives separate from personal relationships, but the two might be more similar than we thought. For many, making the transition from one career to the next can be a lot like ending a long-term romantic relationship. Either you two can part ways cordially, retaining the ability to partake in the occasional small talk or mutual gathering, or it can end with one of your wardrobes scattered across the front lawn and your partner screaming profanities from the window. We all strive for the former, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Marcy Twete, CEO of Career Girl Network, an online platform for women in business to connect and learn from one another, has experienced her fair share of job transitions throughout her career. When making your own move, Ms. Twete stresses the importance of giving the right amount of notice. Too much notice can be just as harmful as too little. But generally, two weeks is considered an appropriate length. When leaving a position, Ms. Twete urges women to remain grateful. “Even if it’s a bad situation, be appreciative and say thank you for the opportunity,” she advises.
But even appropriate notice and a grateful attitude might not be enough to ward off a nasty breakup. Ms. Twete cautions, “There are going to be people angry with you…that are jealous…who feel abandoned,” but you have to be “willing to not take it personally.” This can be especially difficult for women, who tend to invest more emotion into work relationships than men. When women quit a job they often apologize for their own successes, explains Ms. Twete, but “women need to own the fact that they are doing something that’s right for them and for their career.”
If there are particular people you want to maintain relationships with, reach out to them. Depending on the circumstances of your exit, you may need to give them a couple of weeks to cool off. But with effort and a little bit of luck, you should be able to avoid any long-lasting animosities. It worked for Ms. Twete, who recounts how “even the people who were really angry with me at the time [that I left] the job are now still close connections.”
But not every job can end with smiles. Sometimes the day you quit is the best day you’ve had since you started. In these situations, engage with your company’s Human Resources department if you feel you have something constructive to say. However, “if you’re trying to rock the boat…it’s probably not a smart thing to do with your career,” cautions Ms. Twete.
Leaving an old job can be daunting; it forces you to step outside of your routine and engage in a potentially difficult situation. But the rewards and new opportunities that follow generally make all of the mess well worth it. And just think, if you never broke up with that bad boy you dated after college, you never would have found’Mr. Right.’ So go ahead, have the talk.
By Hannah Howcroft