In our quest to create new ideas and strive for what's next, one thing gets lost in the evolutionary life cycle for companies, products and even employees: finishing well. We've become really adept at starting, and often inept at finishing.
Over my 15-year career in the online world (yes, the Internet actually existed in 1994, we just didn't tell anyone about it), I've seen the rise and fall of more great ideas, can't-miss companies and promising careers than I can remember. I certainly understand this phenomenon isn't unique to the Internet industry, as progress has never stood still for anyone or anything even before we knew what a smart phone was -- or any phone, for that matter. While the technology and the companies change over time, one thing that remains constant in the equation of any industry is people.
Careers used to be defined by longevity, loyalty and perseverance even when faced with economic downturns and industry changes. My father-in-law worked for the same company from the day he graduated from college until the day he retired nearly 40 years later. 40 years in one company -- seriously. In my experience, four years at an Internet company would be extraordinary. One Internet year can roughly equate to 10 years in the traditional careers of our parents, kind of like digital dog years.
The point of all this is that our constant churn of employers moving from one company to the next means that we are regularly faced with the opportunity to choose how we finish.
Last Friday, Amy Auerbach and Jason Krebs' Online Publishing Insider column addressed the problems one can have in the sales process when a contact at an important client or prospective customer leaves the company. What about the other side of that equation, though? What does this look like from the perspective of the person leaving the company? How can they finish well?
When I recently left my previous employer, one of the first items on my agenda was to reach out to all of the partners, vendors, colleagues and friends that I had worked with over the past four years. I wanted to thank them for the time they had spent working with me, helping me achieve the objectives critical to my success and the success of the company I worked for. I also provided information for their new point of contact after I was gone along with my new contact information. I made sure to position my previous employer in a positive light on the way out and was truly grateful for the opportunity that the company had provided me during my four years there.
While this wasn't necessary, and possibly not an option for everyone depending on the terms they leave under, it serves a number of purposes. First, it benefits the company you are leaving. I'm a firm believer in not burning bridges. Positioning yourself in a positive light on the way out can have long-term benefits down the road. Second, it maintains contact with the partners you've spend years cultivating and solidifies your professional network. Third, you build positive capital in the hiring marketplace when prospective employers begin to dig into your previous jobs, seeking feedback from past colleagues or researching your social media history.
So, before you make another leap to chase your next life-changing career opportunity (that will probably last about two years), consider how you are going to finish. It could just turn out to be instrumental in opening doors in the future and provide the building blocks for starting the next chapter in your career.
Excellent advice, Kory!
After working for an ad agency for six years (2002-2008, I was "given the opportunity to pursue other creative endeavors" ... my words and POV of situation ...
And the email I sent internally on my last day there -
Subject: Before I Go ... I Want To Thank You All ...
I wrote a thank-you note, naturally, since I'm also the author, "Why ... THANK YOU! -- How to Have FUN Writing Fantastic Notes and More."
And the subsequent email I sent to friends, colleagues, et al -
Subject: Hey, I'm A Cat And I Land on My Feet ... Let's Stay In Touch
I got positive comments all around, which reaffirmed for me that being grateful and proactive is the best way to handle an otherwise unexpected, difficult change in jobs.
As a writer, too, I'm constantly composing quotes and affirmations, and this is the latest addition to my repertoire ...
"When the Universe pitches a fastball at you, you either duck, get hit, or catch it with confidence!"
... and you can quote me on that!
Have a delightful day, and safe, fun-filled Labor Day weekend!
That is a wonderful story. However, it is a fairytale with many businesses that have people, from laymen to managers, escorted out the door 2 minutes after resignation/lay offs. Sometimes, people cannot even retrieve personal items from their desk. Your way is win-win.
This is excellent commentary. I personaly wish the opportunity to express your thanks to the mentors, partners, vendors, and all that help make you success possible was realistic. Seems that all the compassion and energy we put into our work is felt sometimes by us alone.
@Paula Lynn - Yes, it may be a fairytale for some, but even in the worst of circumstances, people can still choose how to respond. In the case you described, maybe the only thing they can do is to reach out to their contacts after they left, or just carefully consider how they communicate their "exit" to others in the industry. With all that said, there are still circumstances when it's extremely difficult not to crash & burn on the way out the door. I've been there too - but have learned from experience.
Kory, great post. Although what Paula Lynn wrote is sometimes very true as I have witnessed it a few times during my career. It's a shame that some companies think that employees might go 'postal' and therefore have them escorted out of the building right after they have been given the pink slip.