Leaving Your Job Gracefully
Monday, October 31st, 2011

There was nothing scarier for me after the decision to travel around the world than the aspect of leaving my career.

For 20 years I had identified myself by my career and the idea of leaving terrified me. I’ve written a lot about this internal turmoil and the resulting feelings a year later.

Warren & Betsy Talbot

One of the many aspects I had to confront, and I am sure you are wrestling with as well, is how do I leave my job gracefully and when do I tell them. There have been jobs in my past where I wanted just to light a match, set it to the kindling, and burn the bridge in spectacular fashion. Trust me when I tell you that the corresponding elated and satisfied feeling will die away quickly when you see the impact in has on your career prospects.

Assuming you are looking for a less incendiary departure, here are a few suggestions:

When do I tell my employer?

This is one of the most challenging questions facing us all and there is no right answer. In my case I gave 15 months notice that I would be leaving my career to travel (yes, this is a LOT of time). I had spent almost a year thinking about when would be the right time and debating the benefits and many of the concerns of telling them too early.

For me the decision came down to wanting to talk about my plans with people around me. Also, I just wanted to be honest with everyone and not have to feel like I was hiding the single biggest thing that was happening in my life. So, I made a leap and announced my plan one morning about what I was doing and the why this was so big for me.

The result: In those 15 months after giving notice I was promoted twice, was given my dream project to drive an effort and acquisition I felt was key for the company, and received a wonderful bonus for the hard work. The company was able to let me run with projects because they wanted to keep me motivated and I certainly was. It was a great 15 months of fun work, new challenges, and a result I am very proud of today.

Key things to consider:

  • When you give notice, provide your boss with recommendations for how you will spend your remaining time. Let them know you will remain motivated to work hard. Talk about helping to recruit your replacement and get them trained and up to speed before you leave.
  • Make sure to focus the discussion about your desire to explore the world. Do not turn this into your opportunity to explain all the ways they have disappointed you in your career. Remember, you may want to get back together with this partner.
  • Read your situation – every scenario is different so be sure to have an idea at how your boss will take the news. Be prepared for the worst case scenario (walked to the parking lot and start your trip earlier than expected) but plan for the best. Provide you employer with reasons why keeping you on is going to be good for them.
  • Always keep the door open to the future. For most people, this is a “career break” and as such there is at least a “plan” to return to the corporate world. Keeping your options open and remaining flexible is generally a good strategy. Make sure that you could return to the company if possible.
  • Not everyone will understand – this is something I faced immediately after giving notice. People simply could not grasp why I would even consider doing “something this stupid”. It is inevitable you will come across this at work and will spend many hours trying to explain. This is normal. What you are doing is odd (sadly) but you are following your dream and your heart. Explain why you came to the decision and remember why it is so important to you. Your career will likely be there if/when you return.

Warren & Betsy Talbot

Leaving my career remains one of the hardest, and best, things I have ever done. I am still happy that I gave so much notice and was then able to tell all my friends at work about my adventure. It created a new way to open discussions and to share the idea of career breaks with others.

When are you telling your employer? What concerns do you have?

About the author:
Warren Talbot and his wife Betsy quit their jobs and sold everything they owned to travel the world in 2010. You can learn more about how to Live the Good Life at their blog, Married with Luggage. In addition, their new digital guide Dream Save Do: The Step-by-Step Blueprint for Amassing the Cash to Live Your Dream provides you with the inspiration and process to save for your dream.

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