[VI] My Resignation – What I Learned

Having secured a NEF placement (see [V] The Matchmaking Process), it was now time for me to formally hand in my resignation to my line manager and team lead.

Up until this point, I hadn’t formally resigned because my place on the NEF programme had not yet been guaranteed (I outline in [IV] The NEF Application Process that, should you go the host company route, you need to have both an offer from NEF and an offer from a host company before you get admitted).

Giving a Heads-Up

What I had done, upon receiving an offer from NEF (but before interviewing with host companies), was notify both my line manager and my team lead that there was a good chance I would be leaving the company in the near future.  My reasoning for this was as follows:

  • Notice period flexibility – I had a 3 month notice period and knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to work the full 3 months if I wanted to start NEF “on time”.  The first few days of NEF training started at the start of September, so I had a tight deadline for getting a job offer.  By providing early notice, I’d hoped that my employer would give me some leeway over this notice period.
  • Ending the “pretending” – A lot of my discussions with my line manager and team lead revolved around what I could do to further my development within the company.  While I really appreciated this level of support early on during my career, I’d grown tired of these discussions once I stopped seeing my long term future being at the company.  I felt I was wasting everyone’s time, and that my bosses and I could focus our efforts on more productive tasks.
  • Why not? – I couldn’t see any serious problems caused by telling my bosses I was thinking of leaving.  At worst, there would be some awkwardness.  At best, it would give my team more time to plan and be a weight off my shoulders.

I ended up arranging an informal one-to-one with my line manager late one day when things were a bit quieter.  I mentioned that I had an offer to join the NEF programme which hadn’t been finalised, but that I was seriously considering it.  We chatted about what my aspirations in my career were and I tried to be as honest as possible in that I didn’t think my future lay within the company anymore.  My line manager seemed very calm and understanding, if a little surprised.

Resigning “for Real”

I found having to tell my line manager and team lead that I wanted to leave quite awkward, because it implied a failure on their part to keep me engaged as an employee

After spending some time interviewing with host companies, I received an offer for a role that I thought looked pretty awesome and confirmed my place on the NEF programme.  The next step was to hand in my formal notice.

I’d never really resigned from a job before (in that I’d never had to tell someone I no longer wanted to do my job anymore).  I’d had part-time jobs when I was in school that naturally came to an end because I started university, or summer internships that had fixed durations.  However, I hadn’t had to tell someone that I no longer wanted to be a part of what they were doing, so I knew this would be a slightly odd experience.

I needed to be able to tell both my line manager and my team lead in person.  Having spent some time in role, I knew that arranging a meeting at short notice between the three of us would be nigh-on impossible – my team lead seemed to have an infinite workload, while my line manager’s calendar was filled with meetings.

Handily, however, I had my mid-year performance review arranged for a couple of days later, so I used that to submit my resignation.  We then raced through, perhaps, the shortest performance review in the history of the company (for procedural purposes) so that we could all make the necessary arrangements for my departure.

formal-resignation-letter.jp
The second revision of my letter of resignation – I was asked to add in the sentence: “My final day of employment will be…” as I hadn’t included this first time round

During the meeting, my team lead routinely grinned at my line manager.  I still have no idea why this was to this very day, especially because they were both in this bizarre position of knowing that I was likely to formally resign at any time – perhaps timing my resignation during my performance review was ironic?  My hunch, though, was that my resignation had just saved them both from having to make a contractor on my team redundant a few months down the line.

Due to the low oil price ($30-$50/bbl), the company was going through rounds of redundancies.  The project I was working on had been ring-fenced, which meant that no company staff were to be made redundant which was incredibly frustrating for me because I would have loved a comfortable severance package prior to joining NEF.

However, contractors were not ring-fenced (they have much higher day rates as a trade off for shorter notice periods/being the first on the chopping block).  I was aware that there was huge pressure on team head-count/plans to make cuts (partly due to a scheduled upcoming reduction in work due to the project nearing completion), so a benefit of my resignation was that one of the contractors on my Flow Assurance sub-team would have managed to keep their job for a bit longer, at least.

To be frank, I found resigning incredibly bittersweet.  I found having to tell my line manager and team lead that I wanted to leave quite awkward, because it implied a failure on their part to keep me engaged as an employee (which wasn’t the case – see [II] Working Out Why I Hated My Job).  However, it was incredibly satisfying knowing that I was officially moving onto a new adventure!

Lessons

Don’t Keep Someone in a Job Against Their Will

When I suggested to HR (as well as my team lead and department lead) that I wanted to cut my notice period, they were surprisingly OK with it.  Upon reflection, it makes complete sense – if someone doesn’t want to be a part of your business, there isn’t any sense keeping them there any longer than you have to.  Hire well, fire fast – see Hiring (and Firing).

Taking Holiday During Your Notice Period = Frowned Upon

I found out that taking holiday during your notice period is typically frowned upon when my team lead’s boss said to me: “Chris, taking holiday during your notice period is typically frowned upon.”

You want to keep employees that don’t want to be in your company around for as short as possible.  If they need 4 weeks to complete a handover, you should keep them around for 4 weeks.  Letting them take 2 weeks of holiday as well as working the 4 weeks keeps them around unnecessarily for an extra couple of weeks and prevents your team from “moving on”.

I actually took some holiday during my notice period because of personal circumstances earlier in the year.  This is definitely not the norm though – it was because my team were sympathetic to my case.  I had to, however, come up with a day by day work-plan to justify that I would be able to complete the work in a shorter time, and get approval a few rungs up the ladder.

Time Your Resignation Well (where possible)

If I had hung around for another year or two, there was a good chance I could have taken voluntary redundancy/a severance package.  This would have meant I would have gotten a financial pay off, received my company shares tax-free and received a pro-rated performance bonus.

If I had waited ~6 months and then resigned, I would have received my annual bonus and more shares.

Both of these options, however, would have meant missing out on NEF (for another year) and spending a year arguably learning minimal skills/wasting a year of my life – I wasn’t prepared to do this (which I think is a good sign – the fact that I made the financial sacrifice to do NEF meant that I was doing it for the right reasons).

Have a Plan

I was asked not to mention to anyone at the company I was leaving until it was formally announced the week before my last day.  This meant that none of my friends at the company knew (except for a couple of my housemates who also worked there – it’s hard to hide applying to jobs, sitting tests and going for interviews from your housemates/closest friends).

I found this incredibly weird, but think this was to minimise disruption to the rest of the team and to ensure that there is a plan in place.  While having a plan is important, I’m not yet sure if I 100% agree with this approach.

Final Steps

Before I left, I had to have an exit interview with HR (where you outline why you are leaving, give feedback and discuss what may have changed your mind), hand over all my work to various members of the team (including some of the admin work that no-one wanted to do – sorry!), hand in my work phone (a Galaxy S4 I’d grown quite attached to), laptop & employee badge and say my goodbyes.

I then had to be escorted out of the building by my team lead (without my badge I could no longer get through the doors) with quite a few people watching – it genuinely felt like I’d been arrested!

I remember how ecstatic I was when I took my first step out of the building – it was sunny, I took in a breath of fresh air and, for some reason, I felt free for the first time in a long while (similar to that feeling of sheer happiness when you finish your last exam).  I had taken my first steps towards being an entrepreneur by disrupting my life (quitting my job and plunging into something new).

Memoirs of an Entrepreneur

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