It’s that magical time of year when ambitious young professionals everywhere quit their hard-earned jobs and shuffle off to that hallowed realm we call “The MBA Program.” It’s a small-scale mass exodus all over the world. It’s always a relief for us humans when a long-awaited change finally happens, and you may be more than ready to leave this job behind. After all, you’re going to get an AWESOME job after b-school, right?
This article is really applicable to anyone who’s leaving their job at any point and for any reason. That includes if you were laid off for downsizing, counseled out of an up-or-out culture, or even fired for misconduct.
It can be tempting to torch the place or trash the industrial copier on your way out. But before you have your epic I QUIT moment, consider that a few years from now, when you are in a better place, one of the most valuable aspects of that job will be the people who knew you, worked with you, and believed in you. That’s right, your network matters. And there are no stronger members of your network than those who have worked directly with you, watched you grow, and seen what you are truly capable of.
Will those connections diminish while you are in business school or in your next job? You are going to be very busy and it won’t be easy to keep in touch, no matter how well-intentioned you are. But, you have an opportunity to nurture these connections NOW so that they persist even after you are in a different place doing different work. This is important even if you plan to transition into a different industry in a different geography.
The world is round; you never know which relationships will come back around to be important.
Before you peace outta there, there are three things you need to do.
Say Your Arrivedercis
Say Some New Hellos
Optional but Highly Recommended: Get out of Town
Say Your Arrivedercis
The idea here is to cement your professional relationships before you disappear. Have a moment of closure, and create a new future so that staying in touch is easy and natural. This requires you to move your contacts from the “coworker” bucket into the “friend” bucket.
Ideally, you will seek to establish meaningful contact with everyone you have known in your job to date so that the relationships you have built will last. We call this “saying your Arriverdercis” instead of “saying your goodbyes,” because Arrivederci is Italian for “until we meet again.” It promises that the relationship has a future.
Here’s how to do it right.
1. Make a list of all the people who fit into one of these categories:
- Supervisors, mentors, champions, and sponsors
- Collaborators, peers, and colleagues
- Subordinates, people you managed
- Important clients and external service providers
- People you didn’t work with directly but who helped you out at some point
- People you wish you had gotten to know better
- Anyone else who comes to mind as someone you want to stay connected to
Give those people your personal email address and let them know how to reach you in the future. Connecting on LinkedIn is also a good idea. But these small steps are not enough. They won’t deepen the relationship. Real relationships require a personal touch. So for the more important people on your list (the more the better – don’t stop with your manager! Try to connect personally with 10-20 people or more)
2. Schedule appointments to meet with each of them, preferably outside of the office.
Why outside? Well, the direct professional aspect of your relationship is ending, and if you are going to keep the connection alive, you will have to create a personal connection. It will be harder to do so if you are in a “strictly business,” setting. So, get them into a new environment if at all possible.
3. Accomplish the following in your Arrivederci Chat.
Say Thank You
Thank them for whatever they have done for you; Dig deep and be honest and specific. “Thanks for all your help this year,” is vague. “Of all the things you’ve done for me, you might be surprised to learn that the constructive feedback you gave me on my presentation style has had the greatest impact on me,” is vivid and real. Specific and honest acknowledgement is a great gift to the receiver. Vivid Appreciation always works to deepen relationships.
Tell Them Your Plans
Let them know what you have planned for your future: Tell them what you are excited or nervous about as you look forward to Bschool (or your next job). Let them know what you plan to do for your internship. Even if you are considering a few different options, talk it through with them. They will appreciate you sharing your plans with them in a frank and open way.
Give the Connection a Future
The easiest way to give the connection a future is to ask them for something. When you give someone the chance to contribute to you, it deepens the relationship. It’s important not to force this, but try, for example:
- “Do you know anyone who is doing Management Consulting right now that you think I should speak with to learn more about it before my internship?”
- “I’d love it if you’d continue to forward me any great articles you come across, and I will do the same.”
- “Would it be alright if I ping you when I am preparing for internship interviews to ask you a few questions or perhaps have you serve as a reference?”
- “If I meet anyone at BSchool interested in working for our firm, would it be alright for me to introduce you?”
As with all my advice, do what comes naturally to you when you are speaking with someone you know and like; trust yourself.
One final tip: the more interconnected your network is, the more useful it will be for you. Give your colleagues a chance to connect you with their colleagues. Ask: “Is there anyone else you think I should meet or talk to before I go to business school?” Ask this question in the context of your future career plans – even if your plans are still undefined and you want to do more research. This leads us right into the thing you should do…
Say Some New Hellos
Take this chance to extend your network beyond the people you already know. This is especially important if you are going to bschool and planning to change careers – you will want to begin building a network beyond your current firm and industry. But even if you already have your next job lined up, building new relationships now will make it easier to transition out of that one into the next one when the time comes. In all probability some of the most valuable relationships to your future are only one degree away.
Ask your colleagues to introduce you to the people they know in companies or industries you are interested in. Don’t just get an email address and follow up yourself, ask your friend to introduce you directly via email. Connections facilitated by the “connector” will be much more warmly received.
Think about the difference between “Hi, I’m Joe.” And “Vanessa, have you met my friend, Joe?” Vanessa is going to be much more likely to be interested in Joe when he is introduced via a mutual friend.
Follow up with these new connections right away. When you get time on their calendar, use the time for an informational interview and be prepared to ask thoughtful, interesting questions about their work and their industry. You can use our Informational Interview Guide to do that. Do some research in advance, so that your questions can go well beneath the surface and make the most use of this primary research.
Then, be sure to give the connection a future. At least ask them if it would be alright for you to follow up with them again at a later date once you get into the recruiting process. You could also ask them if there is anything you, as a future Awesome U MBA student (or Company Awesome employee) can do for them or their firm. It is great to use these conversations to inform your job search, but it is even better to make these connections a meaningful part of your network.
Collect Constructive Feedback
Learning how to fail gracefully could be one of the most important things you do in your career, because failure ultimately leads to success. But even if you have excelled at work, do not forget to leverage a final opportunity to learn from it. If your supervisor delivers a final performance review, be sure to think carefully about the areas for development he or she identifies. Schedule conversations with your key reviewers to ask follow-up questions and seek guidance on next steps for your personal growth.
But don’t limit yourself only to your official reviewers. In your farewell coffee chats with collaborators, peers, and subordinates, take a moment to ask them for some final advice and feedback. Don’t neglect office staff and other people you worked with indirectly in the course of business. Asking people for their input not only further deepens your relationship with them, but can also yield surprising insights into potential areas for growth. Here are some good questions to ask:
- What professional skills do I most need to develop to become a business leader?
- What do you think my top three learning objectives should be?
- What strengths do I have that you think I should try to further hone?
- What weaknesses in my professional profile should I seek to address and how do you suggest I do that efficiently?
- What is the number one piece of advice you would give me personally as I seek to advance my career to higher levels?
This is especially important if you are headed to bschool. Never again in your life will you have such a prolonged safe environment in which you can try and fail with minimal long term consequences. Think of your MBA program as your personal incubator – your chance to go into a cocoon, largely protected from the real professional world, and develop yourself as a leader with abandon. Going into that process with some clear learning objectives and action items will make that time all the more valuable.
Optional But Highly Recommended: Get Out of Town
Last but not least, plan a vacation. Don’t neglect your friends, family, or desire to explore the world! Work is important, but so is play. Taking time off allows you to internalize the lessons you have gained in your career to date. More importantly, if you arrive on campus or to your next post with some new experiences under your belt and refreshed from a week or two of relaxation, the next step of your career will get off to an even better start.
Did you already quit your job?
If you’re already backpacking Europe, don’t worry. It’s never too late to complete these three steps. Plan a few days before school starts to say your Arrivedercis, get some new introductions, and cull feedback.
But please, don’t skip this process. Don’t save it for the fall when you are in classes. And DEFINITELY don’t put it off until recruiting season when you plan to reach out to these people for their contacts and connections. Before you ask a new favor, you need to close the loop on all the past favors and turn the relationship from professional colleague to genuine friend.
Angela Guido runs Career Protocol, the web’s most refreshing destination for no-nonsense career advice and awesome professional development coaching. She’s helped thousands of MBAs get into dream schools and dream jobs while staying true to themselves. Want to turn your career from meh to HOLY COW AMAZING?!!! Angela has an MBA from Booth and extensive post-MBA experience at the Boston Consulting Group.