When I switched jobs recently, it was a very surreal experience. The stakes were high and there was a lot of ‘be careful’ advise. Luckily I trusted my gut and my values, which made it such a great experience.
Here’s how the story unfolds and some important lessons I would like to pass on to you.
It was another day at the office, I was working late trying to get some kinks out of a new test harness we were creating. I get a call from a company asking if I would be interested to explore a new position. I almost refused since I was not interested in a new job, but loved the caller’s demeanor and reluctantly agreed to ‘scope out’ the offer. Things started to work out and during the process, I felt this might work.
The tough decision
I worked in a matrix reporting hierarchy with multiple stakeholders. Over the years we managed to build great trust among ourselves. I knew if I’d leave abruptly that could harm the future goals for my team and lose momentum in the progress we were having. Plus I would have less time to ‘pass on’ the wisdom acquired. Also the timing of all this was very unfortunate. It coincided with some changes in the organization and how we operated and I could sense expectations from me and our team.
Against the advice I was getting from some, I decided to inform my current employer about the new position under discussion. At the time, no offer had been placed it was very uncertain what the offer would be. I ended up telling my manager, and some senior managers about the position. I made it very clear that no formal offer had yet been placed, but this is the blueprint of what’s going on.
I have to be honest, after the fact I felt this might have been a big mistake. But then I was able to reconcile what I did thinking I did what I thought was right, to preserve the relationship we had. And no matter what happens next, I’m glad I took a leap of faith for the good.
The biggest weapon you can have is empathy. It’s easier to feel empathy towards an individual near to us, but to a ‘company’, no way. Most people hate corporations and I would not blame them. But think about a company like this: a bunch of people like you and me who have to operate under certain restrictions. When I say be empathetic towards the company, does not mean the ‘LLC’ entity incorporated with the SEC, it’s the ‘people’ you have worked with.
I always say: The most important thing you will take away from your job is what you learned and the relationships you built
It’s hard to be ‘nice’ to a capitalistic face, who we feel will strike us down in the first opportunity they get. I don’t want to justify how most corporations run these days, but I do want to distinguish between ‘the company’ and the folks like us who work there. If you can’t come to terms with ‘the company’, think of the people you have spent so much time with. Make it easy and a pleasant experience for them. If you are moving on, it does not mean your relationship has to end with them too.
After informing management about the potential offer, I also started to delegate and train my team on the few missing pieces that I had been handling. Again at this time no formal offer was given, or any formal transition had started. The training was not just for my employer, it was for my team. We had shared tough times together, I wanted to leave them knowing they would be alright and would be well equipped before I leave.
After some time finally the offer was signed off on. By that time it had been almost 2 months since I had mentioned the position to management, which gave them enough time to plan. Also gave me enough time to cover bulk of what I wanted to train my team on. With the news the formal hand over process started in which we did a lot of documentation, created videos and even some last minute features that had to be done in the test harness.
The goodbye email
Most people send a generic goodbye email on the last day with some general lines saying I had a good time. For me this was different. It wasn’t an abstract set of names I had known without any human emotion. These were people I had cared about, and would continue to care about since I knew these were good people and who cared about me in return.
The most precious commodity we all have is time, and our subconscious knows that. Whenever we see a genuine effort by someone in sharing their time with us, we recognize that and respond differently.
So instead of a generic email, I met each person separately and went through what I had learned and admired about them. For those I could not meet but we’re close to me, I created individual videos for them and sent those in emails. For some I wrote individual emails thanking them and extending them my support. What followed was something I was not expecting..
What goes around comes around
I was not expecting much of a reaction, but to my surprise I got many times more love from everyone. I might have never felt such an emotional experience before as I did in those few weeks. The belief I had to spread knowledge, love and good revealed itself so beautifully. There were so many farewells, emails, calls, follow ups, kind words and just unreal responses from my co-workers, managers and senior managers which I will always cherish.
After all was said and done, the tough decision I took did not look like much of a tough decision at all. It felt like it was ‘exactly’ the right thing to do.
What if it all went south?
What if it didn’t work out. My employer would have felt I am actively looking for new positions while I had no real desire or intention of switching? That’s where trust comes in. They way they trusted me, and I trusted them back, I’m sure things would have worked out just fine. They understood I did this because I care. Unless someone is a really twisted freak, they would want to reciprocate with the same care.
We constantly undermine the good in others. Our first impulse to every new thought is mostly of fear, scarcity and negativity. Learning to trust people can be the greatest asset you can have.
All boils down to trust
We humans take this trust thing very seriously, It’s in our genetics. I have to admit you don’t succeed at building it every time, but most of the time it works out just fine.
But how to build trust? There are no shortcuts, you cannot fool people all the time. Building trust needs hard work and genuinely being ‘empathetic’. You care for others, they care back for you. It’s just that simple. You just have to take the leap of faith. Trust in each other, trust the good in others and around you. There is a lot more good than bad. We all are just more interested in the bad than the good, hence we create and attract the bad.
Did I just get lucky?
It can be argued I just got lucky. I happened to ‘charm’ my way into a few good books, not everyone is that lucky, and this might not go so well again.
I knew this would work because this was not my first rodeo. I had done this experiment many times before, sometimes intentionally and many times unintentionally. I cannot say it has always worked, but it has always been worth it. Even when it failed, there were a lot of things I salvaged and helped me become who I am.
If you did something good and it fires back, remember, you did what you did because of what you believe in. What the other person does is with them. If you spread good, you WILL eventually attract good in return. Just have faith, miracles happen all the time.