Jobs and the Future of Work

3 key lessons on leaving a job

Mark Weinberger
EY Former Chairman and CEO, EY
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For many people, voluntarily leaving a job can be awkward, uncomfortable or downright unpleasant. But it almost never should be. It’s possible, and also important, to make the transition between jobs a positive experience.

I left EY three times during the course of my career. Every time I left, I did my best to grow from the experience, to make it count. And that’s a big reason why I didn’t just leave three times — I came back every time.

When I look back at the jobs that I’ve left, there are three lessons that stand out:

Never burn a bridge if you don’t have to — and you almost never have to.

I’ve been lucky throughout my career. I worked in the U.S. Senate, started my own business, and served as President George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy. In the process, like I said, I left EY three separate times. And of course, I left each of those jobs as well.

No matter where I went, EY kept drawing me back. I’m glad I didn’t burn that bridge. I’m glad that I kept in touch with the fantastic people I’d met. Because as I look back now – and as I look forward – EY stands out as a major part of my career, and my life.

There’s a good lesson here for anyone changing jobs: leaving on good terms isn’t just more pleasant; it’s a good idea. That’s true if you’re moving between departments, companies or even entirely different industries. You never know where life will lead you.

You may leave a job, but that doesn’t mean you leave the people that supported you, the friends you made or those you were helping. So don’t leave your coworkers high and dry. Give plenty of notice. Tie up loose ends before you go. And once you’re gone, keep in touch. You’ll be glad you did — even if you never return.

Leave for the right reasons.

A lot of the time, people leave their jobs to find a higher salary elsewhere. And that’s often a solid decision. But remember, salary isn’t always the most important thing to consider.

When I chose to start my own business, I knew that meant a big risk of not having a steady salary. When I left to become Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy, it came with a big pay cut. These were factors I had to weigh carefully – especially with four young kids at home. Ultimately, in both cases I decided that the challenge and the opportunity were worth it. But they weren’t easy decisions.

They were, however, the right decisions for me. The people I met in government, the friends I made starting our own business together, and the skills I developed — from consensus building to building a personal brand — all help me do my job better today. I wouldn’t be where I am without those experiences.

The “right reasons” for pursuing new opportunities are different for different people. You could be looking for a better salary, a different lifestyle, or a career that offers you different personal or professional growth potential.

But no matter what, before you take a new job, make sure to stop and really think about what’s most important to you – and what you’re willing to sacrifice. When you’re clear and confident about the reason you’re leaving for another opportunity, that can make all the difference.

If you’re a manager, create a culture that stays with people even after they leave.

It’s important to create a culture where people feel valued and challenged — a culture that allows them to grow. Ultimately, your organization should be a place where people learn the skills they need for the next step in their careers — wherever that step may be. I call it “polishing their personal brand.”

At EY, our promise to all our people is that whenever you join EY, however long you stay, the exceptional EY experience lasts a lifetime.

As a result, we’ve developed – and continue to develop – leaders who have successful careers at EY and go on to some of the most exciting roles in business, government and academia. Today we have over 750,000 of them. If you look at almost any major field, there’s a good chance you’ll find an EY alum excelling within it.

Job changes are opportunities for growth, challenges and new experiences. But often, the job you leave behind is just as important as the one you’re about to begin. The people you met and the experiences you had are just as valuable as the ones that come later on.

So take it a step further. Go beyond just doing the paperwork, packing your desk and saying your goodbyes. Make the transition, the experiences, and the relationships count for all they’re worth. It’s the right decision, no matter where you’re going next. And who knows, you may just return some day!

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Mark Weinberger is the Global Chairman and CEO of EY.

Image: A employee shakes hands with his former boss. REUTERS/Jim Young
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