Advice: Quit… before you burn a bridge
I’ve been working for 20 years, in a monogamous relationship for 15 (well, including two short breakups) and have been managing (and getting feedback from) various employees, freelancers and independent contractors for 6 (well, kinda 10) years. That is a lot of mistakes, lessons learned, and things that I must have done right. So I started writing a post about giving advise to my 25-year-old self and that post went on for like 15 pages, so I figured it would be much better as some individual posts and then you all can weigh in.
Let’s start with a mistake that I made.
I started working at Jonathan Adler when I was 23. I think I made 22K a year so I bartended at night to help pay those bills. I was a pretty darn good shop girl – as you can probably imagine really friendly, helpful, maybe jarringly so for New York. Everyone was constantly like ‘Are you from the Mid-West? and I would say, ‘No, Oregon’ and they’d say ‘Yea … the midwest’. Anyway, after about a year I got overlooked for an assistant management position and I was pretty bummed. But I realized it was probably not for me which made me question if retail was for me anyway. As I started to pin point what I loved about the job, I realized that it had very little to do with working my way up in retail. So I started assistant styling and still bartending and cut back hours at JA to just part-time. I should have just quit, but quitting is uncomfortable, especially when you aren’t sure how consistent the other stuff is.
Meanwhile my heart wasn’t in it so I started slacking. While I was there I was still good, but definitely not as good and on Sundays after a late night bartending then going to after hours parties, I would be often late for my 11am shift. I would apologize and I got a talking-to a couple of times in nice ways. Again, I should have just quit! But the following Sunday I slept in, like past 11 and when I woke up at 12 I was like Oh sh*t. I called them and made some excuse about the subway which was SOOOO stupid and such an obvious lie. When I got to work Ginny, the manager who I was actually pretty close with despite our 10 year age difference, pulled me aside and said something like ‘You aren’t into it anymore. Are you sure you want to be here?’. I realized that she was kinda asking me to quit because she didn’t want to fire me. So I said ‘No’ and apologized profusely for lying and gave my 2 week notice. The last two weeks I worked really hard to make it up to them. The only reason that I didn’t burn a bridge was because I apologized profusely and because I was 24. But I certainly left on a not so good note and it was awkward going in the store to rent things for the next couple years.
Since having people work for me, I’ve been able to see the signs that people were ready to move on, do their own thing, be their own boss and it’s been at times really frustrating to watch. I can see them slacking, not doing their best, not really caring and just going through the motions. It always ends up fine, but the longer you/they carry on with that behavior, the trickier it is to recommend them and be a really good reference for them. In a lot of ways, when you leave on a bad note or burn a bridge (especially when you previously worked really hard) you are robbing yourself of someone who will go to bat for you to help you in the future. Every employer you have can be that angel that can help find you your dream job, so every time you taint or squander that relationship you are just hurting yourself.
When you are over it, ask yourself what you want – what would really make you stay – and if it’s not a possibility then it’s ok to move on instead of driving the experience and relationship into the ground. Most bosses would much prefer this over what I did – the ‘over time slack off and resort to bad excuses and lies’. That is good for no one.
The only time that I think it can get tricky is when you are mid-project, but then what I’d do is tell them how you are feeling and ask for what you’d want to keep you there after the project and if they can’t meet those needs then work so hard, kill that last project and move on gracefully. Don’t let the last few months of a job negate the previous years of working hard.
So, that’s my first piece of advise that I would give myself if I could go back to be 25. Anyone have experience that can attest to this either way?