I did a lot of research before I quit my job to take a traveling hiatus. Not the kind of research you’re thinking: budgeting a year off, risking leaving a good job in a bad economy, couch surfing without getting bedbugs… getting rid of bedbugs. No, that stuff I’ll be throwing together as I go along. I had to research how to quit my job.
By the time I gave notice at Citi, I was one month shy of my eight year anniversary. That is four times longer than I’ve ever worked anywhere, 60 percent longer than I thought I’d last at a Fortune 50 Company, and about 100 percent longer than most people I know (even from business school) thought I would spend working for ‘the man.’ The closer I came to the day I had chosen to give notice, the less professional it felt to call up my boss and say “I quit.” Surely, there must be some slightly more respectful, elegant language that didn’t sound as if I was slamming the door in his face.
In my eight years, I’d been promoted, transitioned through six different positions, and built a reputation as a hard-working straight-shooter. Privately, I may have groaned and rolled my eyes in agony at the business speak, and I certainly voiced cocktail-hour despair at the atrophying of my brain or the addition of responsibilities without extra pay. I had dyed my hair pink and pierced my nose, as if wearing my insides on the outside would keep me leaning left. Who with a nose ring can recommend in any seriousness that we “socialize our approach to receive critical input from key decision makers?” I was buttressing myself against the empty language of business speak, and the world it represented.
At the same time, I gratefully recognized my survival through multiple rounds of layoffs. I appreciated the business and operational acumen I’d acquired in the past few years. I had no illusions about the benefit this experience, and this company’s name, would be to my resume. All of which meant this conversation in which I gave notice wasn’t easy to come by. I wasn’t quitting. I wasn’t giving up, I was growing up.
I made an appointment with a friend in HR. A mentor, who had become a friend, she had worked her way up through multiple levels of Operations and multiple positions in HR over her 20-plus year career. When I asked her for help with verbiage, she laughed and asked for clarification.
“I don’t want to say ‘I quit.’ This isn’t the bakery I worked at in high school.”
“OH! All you need to tell your boss is that you’ve decided to resign your position, and your last day will be – whenever your last day is.”
She made it sound so easy – so guilt free. She made it sound like it wasn’t my responsibility that he was slammed with work and cracks in his normally flawless armor were starting to show. Her verbiage proposed no relation between my departure and the end of the world. No assurance that I would be damned to work at Starbucks for life for having taunted the Fates of Employment. Her advice sounded so undramatic and straightforward. So I took it.
When the time came, I used those exact words. At the beginning of a weekly conversation to review upcoming deliverables, I took a deep breath and told my boss, “I’ve decided to resign my position. My last day will be May 17th.”
My statement was met by a stunned silence. And then a four letter word. And when he asked me where I was going, I told him I planned to travel the world. His response? “Take me with you?”