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Too scared to change jobs

Don't let a closed door stop you from making a change
Don't let a closed door stop you from making a change
Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Recently a former candidate invited me to lunch. We met at our usual place at the usual time. And we even ordered the same thing that we always do. However our conversation wasn’t usual. She looked at me and said, “I wanted to let you know that I am giving notice next week.”

She instantly had my undivided attention. She described the role and what it would mean. In fact she went so far as to share why she took the role. But at the end of her speech, she also confessed something else.

“I don’t know why, but I am scared about leaving,” she said as she looked across the table. “So do you have any advice for me?”

I looked back and smiled, “I have a few thoughts.”

First you need to remember the practical and then the personal when you have decided it is time to move on. I would start by making sure that after you speak with your manager, you ask how they would like to announce your departure. Let them know that you will respect whatever timing makes sense for the business, but that you want to tell the team personally.

How you share with co-workers that you’re leaving can be a function of your level and role as well as the size of the company. I would encourage you to share it with each member of your immediate team in person. Do it one on one. Give them a chance to hear the why.

And obviously share what you are comfortable in sharing. For some that you have worked with a long time, the more detail you can share the better. For other co-workers that aren’t so tenured, you can be more neutral.

The goal in having these conversations is to preserve relationships that you have built over time. And these relationships are not just peer to peer, but to management as well. So when sharing your exit announcement, don’t turn it in to a gripe session, instead generate good will by exiting with a level of positive professionalism.

If you have a large group, perhaps an email would be okay. And if you decide to end up sending one, make it brief. Also if you are using team member’s personal emails, I would encourage you to place the email addresses on the “BCC” line. Some may feel uncomfortable with others having their personal email. Also you can put your personal email in the TO line and in this way replies will come straight to you.

Oh and speaking of personal email, make sure you change your LinkedIn to point to your own email. It is easy enough to forget. And along that same vein, make sure you connect with folks that you want to stay in touch with after you leave.

Now that was the practical, what about the personal? I think this is the most overlooked element of a job change.

And at the risk of sounding too much like a granola-eating-tree-hugging-Prius-driving-Californian, changing jobs can be scary emotionally.

You spend almost one quarter of an entire year with your co-workers. You see them 40 hours a week maybe more. If you have been together any length of time, you have been through everything from weddings to funerals. Sometimes you spend more time with your coworkers than your own family.

So if you don’t feel nervous, scared, or apprehensive about making the change, then that’s not natural. You have worked hard to make real and meaningful connections with your coworkers. These are the people that make you laugh about the silly stuff. They cheat on Weight Watchers with you. And they rally to help you when you have an important deadline on a project.

Your support system won’t be at the new company. You will be like the new kid in school that just moved in from out of state. And who likes being the new kid?

Obviously you will make new relationships. It will take time. But it will happen. However that does not mean you should forget about the old ones. (Okay, come on, at some point, you just had to know I was going to talk about networking.)

Today a worker is also defined by the relationships they keep and not just the employers they have had. So if you must move on, find a way that works for you to keep in touch on a regular and consistent basis. Perhaps you create a group on LinkedIn and invite current and former coworkers of the company you just left. You also don’t have to make it so formal. It can be as simple as meeting at the Faultline for a beer every so often.

“Sir, you’re not at the Faultline and this isn’t Friday,” said the waiter peering over the top of his order pad. “But that sounds like really great advice, and I promise to keep in touch with everyone here should I ever leave.”

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