I knew the day would come that I would have to inform my employer of my impending departure. I’ve never left a job before, so I didn’t even know where to start. With the help of my boss (who’s known of my plans), I decided to give a month and a half’s notice. That way I would provide plenty of time to transition over my responsibilities and avoid the perception of a hit and run.
I’ll tell you, though, this was not an easy decision. In my over five years with the company, the vast majority of coworkers that have left were asked not to return the following day to finish out their two weeks. Keep in mind that generally these people were either fired or leaving to work for a competitor, but it still made me nervous that I might become unemployed sooner than I anticipated.
On January 15, I took the first of two steps: I told the HR woman, who also happens to be a friend. In my head, I knew she would be objective and able to provide advice on how to approach my resignation. But in my heart, I worried that she would feel resentful that I’d kept this big (huge! gigantic!) secret from her for four and a half months.
I went into her office, closed the door, and sat down. I took an audible breath to calm my nerves, even voiced to her my anxiety, and then came out with it. Her expression was relatively placid, neither skeptical nor discontent, which is what I had feared. Big sigh.
We spent the next hour and a half talking through the process of resignation as well as my future plans. Based on the information she presented, we concluded that it would be best if my last day of work were February 28. That’s the day I’ll officially be moving out of my apartment, but I wasn’t sure if March 1 would have been better so that I’d have health insurance for the short window before I leave. I learned that, if something were to come up, I could retroactively pay for COBRA for up to 45 days and be covered. It’s expensive but not a bad emergency option. That way I won’t have to needlessly pay my portion (a couple hundred dollars) of health insurance for March.
The best part of the conversation is when she – completely unprovoked – said she understood why I hadn’t told her sooner. Guilt assuaged. I left the conversation much relieved and feeling more confident for the next step: telling the senior VP in charge of the office.
The senior VP is one of these guys that’s nearly impossible to read. I think I read people really well, so when I come across a man or woman like this, I find it incredibly frustrating. I’ve always believed he thinks well of me – in fact, he’s said as much directly to my face several times – but his facial expressions and intonations do not reflect the sentiment (nor any other sentiment, for that matter).
So I was nervous to talk to him because I didn’t know how he would react. Have I mentioned confrontation isn’t my strong suit?
The following day, after a pep talk from my boss, I knocked on the senior VP’s door and asked for some face time. After closing the door and sitting down, I found myself struggling to maintain eye contact. It’s like I was sent to the principal’s office in high school (if that ever happened, which it didn’t…because I’m a goody two shoes nerd).
And then I just said it.
“I wanted to let you know that I will be resigning from my position as of the last day in February. I’m going to take a hiatus from working to hike the Appalachian Trail.”
“I think that’s such a neat thing you’re doing. I’ll be sad to lose you, but you’ll have a great time. My cousin hiked it years ago…”
Wow. Not what I expected. And it gets better. Later on:
“Are you sure you want to resign? Especially in this economy, it’s not the best to have a gap in your resume. What about staying on the company payroll as a consultant. You could work an hour here and there. We could come up with a bill rate that makes sense. That way, you get paid for any support you provide, and you’re still technically an employee. Even if you don’t come back, it’ll be better for you and better for us to have you as a resource.”
“What?! I didn’t know that was possible.”
“Anything’s possible. Think it over and let me know what you decide.”
“I don’t have to think it over. I would absolutely love that option.”
“OK, well draft something up that specifies your intentions and the type of support you might be able to provide (as needed), and we’ll get it up the chain for approval.”
So, I went from anxiety to exhilaration in a matter of minutes. The conversation was about thirty minutes long, and we discussed my plans for the trail, what I may want to do when I’m done, and how we’ll transition my responsibilities between now and when I leave. And just yesterday, I got final approval to become a part-time, as-needed employee.
What a relief.
And you know what else? I must’ve hit a nerve with the senior VP because, for a fleeting moment, I actually got him to crack a smile.