My First Professional Quit

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

My hands shook, and I felt sick to my stomach as I went to work that morning at my job in semi-rural Iowa. After a sleepless night of wrestling with what I had to do the next day, I looked like roadkill. I went to work early to calm down and collect myself before my bosses, Brian and Dave, arrived at the office. I wanted to get this out of the way as soon as possible so that I could breathe again. After a few minutes at work, I did start to calm down. I was an adult and knew what I needed to do, so best to just do it.

Dave arrived first. He walked into the office and said, “Good Morning!” and I immediately burst into tears. So much for keeping calm.

As a married man with two daughters, Dave had enough experience living with women to immediately intuit that something was NOT right in my world and steered me into his office to talk about what was wrong. Also, I’m sure that I was making a scene in the open area where my desk was located.

He sat me down and kindly asked me what was going on. Darn him for being kind! That just made it harder to talk, and I blubbered incoherently for about ten minutes.

Dave patiently waited, and finally, I told him that I needed to put in my three-month notice; I was leaving the company. I explained that my husband had gotten a job in North Carolina, and although he would be moving almost immediately, I would stay a few months longer to get our house on the market before I left town. I probably could have gone much earlier, but I wanted to spend every day possible in this job that I loved with the co-workers I loved. I was putting off the inevitable.

Dave said one of the kindest things (darn him!) that an employer has ever said to me. He said my husband and I were both smart and capable young adults and that he knew when he hired me that he wouldn’t be able to keep us in that small town forever but that we would eventually be recruited away. After more tears on my part and a big hug from Dave, he offered to write me a letter of reference and do anything he could to smooth the transition and help me to get a job in my new city. No wonder I didn’t want to leave this job!

Brian came in from a meeting a few hours later, and I broke the news to him. I was calmer this time because the first telling of my resignation was so cathartic, but Brian likewise offered me a big handshake and a letter of reference. How dare my bosses to have the decency to be so decent!

Once word got around to the rest of our company, there were many best wishes and farewell expressions, a lovely going-away lunch, and great support in general. The administrative team even gave me a big basket of snacks for the road trip to my new home. Their kindness allayed my fears of disappointing my bosses, and they showed me tremendous respect and friendship during my resignation period. They even let me help interview, hire, and train my replacement, even though I was only 23.

This formative experience taught me:

  1. Quitting a job is VERY hard to do, especially when you don’t want to go
  2. The resignation period does not (should not!) have to be antagonistic
  3. My management appreciated the long resignation period because it gave them more time to prepare for my departure
  4. Management also appreciated my help in training my replacement, and the transition went much smoother
  5. I can do hard things (AKA adulting), and life moves on

I still think back to that first professional job out of college fondly. I learned a great deal about professionalism, camaraderie, and working towards a common goal, but most importantly, I learned how to treat employees well. It was a lesson worth learning, and I’m grateful I had Brian and Dave to teach me.