Friday was the day! My last day at Walt Disney Imagineering. It was another good one too—only the last one!
After deciding to pursue my passion to write and create to full time, I put my notice into Disney earlier this month. I’ve been blessed with support and encouragement and when I drove off the lot it felt like the perfect ending to that chapter. I was relaxed and at peace. My farewells were positive. I hugged all whom I needed to hug, I thanked all I needed to thank, I wrapped up the loose ends, I prepped for the new person, and I even left them a little gift for their first day. Then I did a last round with my team. I honestly don’t think I could have had a much more perfect exit.
But not everyone leaves a job happy with how it went, or even leaves willingly. So here are three tips to make the most of this important milestone.
1 – Peace Out Positively
Your short-term reasons for leaving are legit, but plan your exit for the long haul.
Over the course of a lifetime there will be many relationships that come and go and then…come back again. Make sure yours don’t come back with a bite!
This tip was given to me by Dr. Edward van Luinen, a business and career coach, and Founder of Global Talent Builders.
Before you tell anyone about your departure, spend some time in a quiet place on campus or at home, and journal about everything that you’re grateful for from the experience.
- List people who you met
- Experiences you had – i.e. that you learned from or were fun or expanded your view of the world
- Advice and mentoring you received
- Opportunities for growth and to practice what you’d learned
- Connections you made
- Skills you developed
- All the things you would NOT do that you learned
- Every other random thing that you’re grateful for…like it paid the rent, got you that trip to Hawaii, provided security for your family, maybe you met the love of your life there
Doing this activity will help you give some grace to your leader (and anyone else who sucked your spirit or squashed your soul). But hopefully after doing this activity you realize it wasn’t really so bad. Hey, at least it’s over.
Here’s the payoff…when you go tell your leader and others about your departure, they might be shocked (or relieved), but you can still walk away with their respect and your own self-respect if you do this…
Let them know you have another offer that was too good to turn down. You are not required to share details, but give the standard two weeks notice. Then…thank them and give at least two specific examples of when they shined and how you appreciated and learned from the experience.
Worse case, they might think you weren’t such a waste of time after all. Best case, this enables you to leave the door open for future contact and their last memory of you will be that you had class. You never know where you or your leader, or other colleagues will end up. You should even say, “I’d love to keep in touch.” People don’t know this unless you say it. I assume anyone who didn’t say they wanted to keep in touch with me really doesn’t want to keep in touch with me.
Then keep in touch. Connect on social media or send a short email or written note when you are settled. Don’t hound. You have new mountains to conquer.
The bottom line is that gratitude helps you see the world in a much more grounded and positive way. So use it.
2 – Ease the Transition
Any good HR Team will have a checklist to help you wrap your personal loose ends, but be a good sport, and set the next person up for success, or whoever is going to carry on the work.
Two documents that I recommend are:
The Status Sheet and The Team List
The Status Sheet can be an excel document with the name of the initiative, the current state with what’s next, and the project leader or key contacts.
The Team List has anyone who might have reported to you, and a description of his or her role. I also like to give a little insight into any specific strengths, and definitely make a note if that person is due a promotion. Leave off anything negative no matter how tempting.
It’s also nice to add a section to the team list that includes “people you should know.” This is a spot for tips on peers and collaborators that can help the next person succeed. Nothing is ever accomplished by one person.
Bonus tip: The Succession Letter. This I named after the letter presidents leave to incoming presidents. Yours doesn’t have to be so serious, but if you know there will be a new leader in your office, or even if you are advancing in the same company and someone is taking your spot, a simple welcome and your own fun tip is a nice first day experience. Ex. “In the cafeteria, definitely try Walt’s chili but skip the broccoli surprise.”
3 – Give Thanks and Receive Thanks
This goes back to tip number one. A lot of people gave you a chance, helped you along the way, provided advice and information. Maybe some even inspired you from afar. They will never know this, unless you tell them. So do it. And a written note is my personal favorite to receive, so that’s also what I try to do. If not that, then an email or in person is great.
You were probably pretty awesome too, right? Let the people you helped thank you, and don’t brush it off. Listen attentively, and thank them. Every thank you I have received I have either logged in my heart and mind, or it is in my book of thank you cards that I saved. I don’t keep much in terms of mementos or souvenirs, but as I’ve gotten older, these notes are the thing that keep me inspired to always give my best, because you never know when something you’ve done makes a difference. And I want my actions to always make a positive difference.
Do these three things with intention, and I’m pretty sure, no matter what your circumstances are—you will leave without regrets, you will leave on a high, and you will be able to pat yourself on the back. You did your best to make the perfect exit.