So I put in my final resignation at my first big corporate job the other day. Prior to this position, I worked in a smaller company, where I really fine-tuned my skills as a sales professional and as a leader. My new position was also in sales, but took away a lot of the self-direction I was previously used to. While the overall experience was good, there were a lot of challenges presented and mistakes made all around. Ultimately, I learned far more than I anticipated.
1. Use Leverage When You Have It. This lesson takes place before you even walk in the door. With the economy as it is, it’s easy to forget that you have something a company wants: experience, labor, skills, personality, etc as the case may be. The minute an offer is made, the company has shown their hand; they want you. If you’ve been looking or you really want the position, it seems like a risk to ask for more money. But asking for more doesn’t necessarily mean turning down the offer. Most companies plan to negotiate salary, and they start lower to compensate. They are then willing to come back with a second offer.
2. Be the Best. All hope for leverage is not lost after the initial negotiation. Leverage comes and goes, and there are always more opportunities. In my particular situation, I learned that other people with similar backgrounds and experience were making a significant amount more than I was. At the same time, I was clearly out-performing them – at one point selling more than the rest of my team combined. I took the opportunity to bring the issue up to my manager, explaining calmly that I was not making enough money for me to continue working there. I did not mention that I knew what my co-workers were earning, or that I was doing so much better. I let her do that math.
3. Build Relationships on Positivity. In any work situation, there will always be people that are unhappy and want to share their pain. Whether their grievances are true or not, indulging this type of attitude will not only cause a personal dissatisfaction, but also teach other people assume you are negative as well. Don’t gossip, and don’t complain. If you can’t think of something good to speak about work-wise, change the subject to something that is pleasant in your life. You are more likely to maintain the relationships when either party moves on if the memories come with a good feeling.
4. Document Everything. Due to the frustrations I was feeling, I was willing to hear a few of the companies that contacted me for potential employment. At this point, I was also in the habit of archiving all positive feedback and any directions or comments sent to me by the upper management. As a result, when I went to interview, I was able to put together a portfolio that included actual numbers compared against my team, acknowledgments and awards, commendations from management, and referrals from my current customers. Have hard copies to show my perspective employers allowed me to offer proof that I was what I claimed on paper, and expedite the screening process before I was offered a position.
5. Keep Your Mouth Shut. No matter how much of a relationship you’ve built with someone you work with, as long as you are co-workers, it is better to assume they will drown you to save themselves. My team was a pretty tight knit group, and I let it out that I was contacted by a couple of companies and thinking about leaving for one of the offers; it was a company I wasn’t in love with but would increase my income. I was, however, willing to stay if my then-employer made a counter-offer that included a promotion. It got back to the VP in charge of making the offer that I had spoken about it very quickly. Bottom line, unless something is absolutely final, do NOT mention it. Real friends won’t fault you for it.
6. Never Give Something Away for Free. This is a pretty common sense rule for someone in sales, “Sure I’ll put together a pricing program for you. In return, if I can show you an overall savings, will you agree to move forward with this partnership?” But this works in business as well. The company should learn to come to you with the expectation of offering a perk in exchange for work done beyond the scope of your job. For example, and expensed lunch in exchange for training a new employee, or a recommendation letter in exchange for taking an extra day to think about turning in your resignation.
7. Resign on The Best Terms Possible. Sometimes circumstances come up that are outside of your control, but do your best to leave on a positive note. Like a relationship, you should absolutely break up in person no matter how uncomfortable. Unlike a relationship, you should not take the blame. Don’t throw anyone under the bus as you leave, because these are the people that will be responsible for your references later on in life. As much as possible, allow outside forces to be responsible for the situation at hand. In my case, one of the companies I’d interviewed with prior to being awarded a promotion came through with a significantly better offer. When I pushed for the promotion, I did not suspect a better opportunity was a week away. In the end, it would not have been a good business decision to turn down the new offer and stay out of loyalty for a company that could, and would, turn around and cut me loose if it suited them. Timing just was not on our side in this situation.