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How to say goodbye to your old career

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Our son is going to university. This week we've been packing up his stuff. It's been a whirlwind of endless lists, completing online forms and packing and re-packing his clothes and cooking gear so that it fits in a number of bags and suitcases that three people can reasonably drag onto a train (and 1.5 miles from the station to his student halls).

It's made me think. About saying goodbye.

There is a lot of that. Saying goodbye. When you change your career.

When you say goodbye

First of all, there's the time when you realise that you don't want to do this anymore. And I don't just mean when you open up your laptop on a drizzly Tuesday morning and can't for the life imagine yourself doing this for another 20 years. I think we all have those days, especially on Tuesdays (or is it just me who has problems with Tuesdays?). But when you REALLY, deep in your heart, know that this is no longer right for you.

Then there's the time when you've decided to leave. But you can't. Not yet. You're planning your transition. You're in the middle of setting up your own business. Or looking for that perfect job. Or training to do something completely different. You've left - in your head. But you haven't left yet.

And then there is the actual leaving. When you actually really physically leave. You give up your job. You transition into your new career. You say goodbye.

Why you should say goodbye

Just packing your bag and leaving. Without saying goodbye. Have you ever done that? Or had it done to you?

Unless you've been fired on the spot, with a cardboard box with your belongings under your arms, you probably had some sort of goodbye. A virtual coffee. A card. A goodbye tour through the office.

The reason we have these rituals is because endings are the beginning of making your transition. Without proper endings we can only make half-hearted new beginnings.

In William Bridges' Transition Model (one we often use in change management) any transition is made up of three stages Endings - Transitions - Beginnings.

Let me give you an example:

Moving house. You're moving to a new house. You're excited. You just KNOW you're going to LOVE the new house. You've gone through all the paperwork, your possessions are in boxes and then the day comes.

To mark the ENDING you walk through your house one last time. Every room. You stand still. Think about what happened in that room. Check if you turned the light off. Close the windows. You might even shed a tear.

You then get into a TRANSITION phase. You LOVE your new house. If only you could remember where you put the colander. The shops are slightly further away than in your old house. And the noises are different. But you KNOW that you'll be OK and will start loving your new house.

Then the new BEGINNING. You are used to the new house. Everything is in the correct place. You've started painting the rooms in different colours. Really making this place yours.

See? All these phases have their place. Including the ENDING.

How to say goodbye

Now that you know it is important to say goodbye the question remains 'How?'.

  • Consider what you're losing

OK, so, you possibly can't wait to say goodbye to your career. But consider for a bit: what is it that you're losing by making the step into your new career?

You may have spent a long time doing what you're doing. You may have invested time and money in getting to where you are. You may have a certain status. Or you may have made lots of friends and connections in your industry and your place of work.

What is it that you are losing when you take your next step? Look around you. Consider what you're losing and have to say goodbye to (or are only too happy to).

Also, see how you can keep what you want to keep. Can you stay in touch with old colleagues? Or keep on doing something that you loved doing at your old place of work?

  • Learn what there is to learn

For those of you who are staying in their job whilst creating their new career: why not learn what there is to learn?

Always wanted to know how to create a webinar (which would be a really handy skill to have if you were to set up your own business) - and know that the Comms and Marketing Manager is a dab hand? Go and sit down with him! Learn what there is to learn. (You might just come away with a handy guide to doing webinars! Which reminds me, where did I leave that again?) Want to know how contracting works? Why not talk to one of your contracting colleagues?

Who in your current place of work will be able to help you learn those new skills or give you the kind of knowledge that will come in handy in your (any) new career?

  • (Work) relationships

You may want to leave your career and/or job. That doesn't necessarily mean that you want to burn all your bridges. Some of your colleagues might be genuinely nice people who you'd love to keep in your network. Others might be people who would be able to support you on your way to your new career. Before you leave, think about how you want to leave them behind. Nurture relationships before you go. So that they remember you in a good way, or continue to be in your life.

  • Clear up, ready for handover

If you move house you don't want your successors to end up in a filthy and messy house, now do you? OK, you might not be as neurotic as me and clean the kitchen to within an inch of its life, but you want it fairly decent so that people can start living in - what you still think of as - 'your' house.

The same is true for your work. You want your successor to not walk into a messy house. Leave in a tidy manner. With a handover note to point your successor to where they can find everything.

  • Celebrate

Whilst it is time to move on, you have had successes and possibly some great times. Celebrate those moments. Think back to when you did your best work. See if you can still find those celebratory emails and those thankyou notes. Reminisce. So that you can leave it behind with a satisfied feeling.

  • Say goodbye

And then, say your goodbyes. To everyone who played a role in your time in this job. Thank them. Agree to meet up with the ones you agreed to keep in touch with. Accept the cards, the goodbye gifts, the cringey speech

And then go.

You're ready.

You've said a proper goodbye. Time to look forward. To go through that transition zone into the new Beginnings.

Are you ready? To say goodbye to the old? And embrace the Transition phase to create that career that you love? Book a free Introduction Call here: CLICK.


Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.

Join her now in Pick 'n Mix - the FREE community for creative, multi-passionate women or sign up to the newsletter.

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