The art of quitting your office job -- and working in this town again
By Grant Rosenberg
MAY 8, 2000: So you want out of that job you got. You arrange an interview, wear clothes that are nice but not so nice that your boss'll suspect anything, and say you have a doctor appointment as you bail for a couple of hours.
Maybe, you're not unhappy with what you have now-after all, the pay isn't great, but it's decent. You've got some friends there and the commute is just fine. But you want something more. Your own phone number, not an extension. Unrestricted Internet access with a DSL connection. Hell, if you can't download MP3s in seconds flat at home, you might as well be able to do it at work. Plus, all those employment-finder Websites, with their clever, subversive advertising humor is starting to sink in... it's a new world out there. Yeah, they always say that, but this time it's true. The economy is strong, interest rates are blah blah blah, while jobs, Internet-related and not, are booming. You see offers of flexible hours, so a city-suburb or suburb-city commute can be on your terms, when traffic works to your advantage. You want a piece of the action.
But each job is not its own beast. Many overlap, with e-mail allowing for so much correspondence and paper trails between companies that it's important to be able to dump with finesse. Nowadays, applying for new jobs is a cinch. Gone are the days of circling the classified ads while sipping coffee, printing out resumes and typing up cover letters. With all the job Websites on the market, you can apply for fifteen new jobs before your boss even gets to the office. Given what is about to happen as you set sail, you need to ground yourself first.
Take stock of your work habits. Ask yourself, honestly, how many hours of each workday are you actually working? Take away not just your time in the bathroom, your time reading e-mail, but the little two-minute doodling sessions, social calls, etc. From nine-to-five, how productive are you, really? This is important, because over the course of the next few months, you will be fudging your resume, your interviews and beyond. Take the time to know thyself, truly. Then you will know what job is right for you.
1."One word, Benjamin: Website." Depending on how common your name is, it might be too late to register it as the domain. But think of what a resource it is to have your resume and even a portfolio on your own Website. For all intents and purposes, you now have an example of your work on every computer in the country. Think of how tenacious and resourceful you will seem. A domain $70 for two years , but there are free Website hostings available as well, if you are willing to forego your own domain name.
NOTE: Use a respectable e-mail address-no sense in using your existing e-mail address, "sassywench32@_____.com." Leave that for the chatrooms. And AOL users should be aware of any profile they may have listed. If you wouldn't leave the information as an outgoing voicemail message, don't leave it online. Everything is connected to everything. This applies to communication technology as well as Zen Buddhism.
2. No fancy fonts. This isn't Mt. Everest, so don't use them just because they are there. You want all your correspondence readable and interesting, balancing on the wire between tradition and originality. Lucida Sans Unicode, Antique Olive, Verdana and Book Antiqua should be taken seriously.
3. Work that resume, work it, work it. Don't lie, but don't sell yourself too short. Let's say you'll be applying for jobs that require published writing samples. If necessary, create a quickie Web-zine, thus making you not a liar. In the land of resumes everyone is Noah; you may not be the most righteous of all generations, but as long as you're in the ballpark, comparatively speaking, you'll stay afloat.
An employer calls you, makes an offer. You accept. Now you have to talk to your boss.
4. No puffering. Also known as puffing. It is the art of inflating your offered salary to your existing employer, when you cannot find any nice way of saying you wouldn't dream of staying under any circumstances. This is a big no-no in the event that your boss says he/she will match the offered salary. Though this might be a higher sum of money than you expected for another decade, you are stuck in an awkward pickle when you still say no to your boss, who will then suspect that there is more to the story and may turn on you.
A friend of mine, we'll call him Todd, who worked for a marketing firm, puffered like the best of them and backed himself into a corner. Todd's employer offered to match the new job's (fictious) offer that was $16,000 higher than the actual salary and $25,000 more than what he was making at the time. But what's a poor boy to do? Todd was fed up with five years of the same office politics and had to leave. By the time he started the new job, after so much talk of the puffered salary, Todd had to shake off the feeling that he was getting a drop in salary when he got his first paycheck.
5. Give the standard two-week notice. Here's where you show yourself as a grade A, prime, non-fat magnanimous employee. Offer to come in the evenings or weekends, even after your new job begins, to ease the transition with your replacement and tie up any loose ends.
NOTE: Do not get too personal with the boss under any circumstances. Though at this stage you are the equivalent of a lame duck president, avoid the thrill of chucking protocols with your employers. If you weren't calling your boss by his/her first name before, don't start now. Do not discuss your social life, beyond the standard banter. After the puffering incident, Todd's soon-to-be-ex-employer sat him down for a little confab more than several mornings in his last days. Seems the boss hadn't gone to confession for a number of years and thought the next best thing would be this kid he no longer had to face every day.
6. Get thee to the doctor, and quickly. Have doc probe every nook and cranny, even your fanny. Get that colonoscopy you've been putting off since June. At this point, medical benefits are like frequent flier mileage; you might as well fly to Fiji before they expire. You never know what kind of coverage delays you'll find at the new job. Cigarettes may be currency in the penal system, but in the working world it's all about benefits.
Now you've started at the new job. The next step:
7. Stay abreast of the past. Give your old company your new e-mail address so that you are still receiving office correspondence. Chances are, the listserv originates with someone who never knew you in the first place. Now you can give advice on all inter-office communication. Be tactful about it; some companies may be impressed, while others may file charges against you.
8. Quid pro quo. "I scratch your back, you scratch mine." When applicable, lobby for your old company, no matter how much you dislike your boss, to get work from your new employer (or vice versa). If there can be a professional liaison, by all means, do it. You may hate the prick, but he's not the boss of you no more, and may even begin to respect you in a whole new way.
9. Being Martha Stewart. When Betty in accounts payable brings a cake for you at 3pm on your last day, have party favors prepared for everyone. If they offer to take you out after work to a bar around the corner, stick with the ice tea; you've gone this long, so there's no reason to start sleeping with your soon-to-be-ex-colleagues.
10. FW:Try this, you'll love it! Once you are safely established at your new digs, send some witty e-mails to your boss and old co-workers. Even if the jokes come from forwards sent all around, take the time to get rid of all the FW junk and headers. Be sure to send it to each and every person. No mass e-mail. Remember, you are supposed to be keepin' it real. FWs are in direct violation of this.
11.Keep your personal Website current. If for no other reason than propriety. Sure you've just started a job, but Websites are like personal hygiene nowadays. You want to be fresh, and everybody with a browser can see the last time you showered. Also, put a link to your old company, if possible. Ex-employers love it when you refer business to them. See step 8.
12. Giving the fifth. Send over some scotch to the old boss during the holidays. It's a nice gesture that shows maturity and class. You never know when you'll be getting the wanderlust again and another employer will be calling for references.
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