As I wrote in an earlier version of this article, everything communicates in a job transition whether starting, leaving, or doing both at the same time. One mark of integrity is being the same person in all situations. But different situations call for different approaches. So, when leaving a job, choose the right approach for your situation and manage your personal brand in a way that strengthens your reputation and long-term relationships. And, if you’re laid off, stop – call – manage.

Situation While there’s always a push and a pull when anyone leaves any job, the balance varies.

In natural progressions, manage your exit together with the company. These happen when you’re retiring, at the end of an interim or contract assignment, as part of a merger or acquisition or similar situation.

If you’re resigning and it’s a surprise to others, that can trigger irrational behaviors, especially if the company doesn’t have a contingency plan. They may make a counter offer – which you should never take.

If your exit is not of your choosing, remember you can’t control the event; but you can choose how you proactively react to influence what happens next. Stop. Call. Manage.

  • Stop and take a breath. Fight or flight mode will kick in and lead you to panic. Don’t. Take moment or longer to regain your composure.
  • Call an advisor or lawyer to help you think things through.
  • Manage. Then manage your exit story, termination date, non-competes, severance, bonus, stock/options, unused vacation, benefits, outplacement, legal fees, etc. More on these later.

What matters and why – By definition, transitions are temporary states on the way to something else. Armed with the context, focus on what you want things to look like after the transition. What do you want to leave behind? How do you want people to remember you? Where do you want to end up? In another job or series of jobs? On a beach drinking Margaritas?

Get past your natural inclination to inflict pain on people that have hurt you to focus on preserving and strengthening long-term relationships. More on that later.

Approach – Choose your approach to bridge the gap between the context and current state of play and what you want things to look like after the transition. This is about your personal brand. The core of your personal brand should be constant. But the reasons for others to believe that about you vary by context and situation. The question is what messages do you want to send during your transition to reinforce your long-term positioning.

Relationships – As I’ve written before, “Happiness comes from choosing to be happy with whatever you do, strengthening your closest relationships, and taking care of yourself physically, financially and emotionally.” Relationships matter – a lot.

The way you treat other people always comes back to help or haunt you. Could take two weeks or twenty years. But it will happen. Some people will be part of your life directly. Others will influence people that are part of your life. Shame on you if you don’t treat each of them well enough to tell others to support you whatever naysayers say about you.

Actions – Understand the context. Choose your future. If the exit is not of your choosing:

Remember you can’t control the event. But you can control your reaction. Don’t quit, or sign or say anything.

Call advisor/employment lawyer.



With advisor/lawyer’s help work towards best outcomes re:

  • LEVERAGE – You probably have more leverage than you think (especially if you are in a protected class). 1st prize is leveraging the exit agreement in your employment letter or contract. 2nd prize would be written company policies. 3rd prize is leveraging future positive contributions you can make to the organization before, during or after your exit. Leveraging potential negative consequences for the organization, like suing them, is a last resort. Even if you win the battle, you’ll do real damage to your reputation. Which leads us to your exit story.
  • EXIT STORY – Your reputation matters so much more than anything else. Get all aligned around how your exit is going to be portrayed now and in the future.
  • TERMINATION DATE – Later is better. Perhaps linked to written notice.
  • CONSULTING post exit?
  • NON-COMPETE – Either none, waived or paid for.
  • SEVERANCE – Paid at or after termination.
  • BONUS – Especially when earned/when paid.
  • BENEFITS – Including healthcare and how they will run
  • OUTPLACEMENT – VIP your choice
  • LEGAL FEES – To look over and get agreement right

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