How to successfully leave your job

Transitions such as quitting one job for another opportunity or retiring from your current career are usually far harder than we imagine. It’s easy to talk about letting go, but when the time comes, it’s hard to do. The emotional aspect of departing is difficult to fathom, but at a recent meeting I attended, a marketing exec put the dilemma in succinct terms to a group of us.

She said, “My job was my best friend. It’s very hard to leave your best friend,” I watched the expressive face of this fantastic leader as she shared her personal feelings about leaving her job and her organization. The other people in the room hung on her every word. “It seemed like I was getting promoted every few years. I loved the company, my co-workers, and our customers. Going to work was a joy for me,” she said, sighing. “And then one day, it was time to leave. It hurt,” she said. “An opportunity arose that I couldn’t pass up. I had to go.”

No matter where you are in your career or how you feel about your current job and colleagues, it is good to think about what you might want to do if you leave your present position and how it will feel to leave. For some people who are unhappy in their current position, they might think leaving will be only a happy experience. While this could be true, there may be a person or two you will miss when you go or a specific part of your job that you really enjoy doing. For those like our marketing exec, who love their jobs, leaving for another opportunity can be a very emotional experience, and it’s important to think these through before you make the jump.

Below are three questions to ask yourself as you consider taking the new opportunity.

  • Will I be making a contribution?
  • Will I find meaning?
  • Will it make me happy?

Next let’s think about retiring: today people live a lot longer than they used to, and they are a lot healthier at 65. Think about it: if you have the drive and energy to become a successful leader, it is unlikely that these traits will immediately stop when you leave your company, so you better plan for an active retirement!

I have found that most people don’t want to “do nothing’ all day. We have hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions. We want to contribute to the world, make it a better place, not “retire” from it to a life of “leisure”. For most of us, sleeping in late, lounging on the beach, improving our golf scores, and lazing about all day are great for a short time, but they hold little allure in the long-term.

The happiest “transitioned” executives I have met are still making a contribution to the world, they are finding meaning and contentment in what they do today—not just reflecting on what they did yesterday.

Think about “life after work,” and ask yourself these three questions:

  • How can I continue to make a contribution?
  • How can I find meaning?
  • What will make me happy?

You might have 20 or more years to live after your primary work is finished. How can you make this time count for yourself and the people around you?

Now is a good time to start planning.


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