Leaving a job – whether we chose to resign, saw the contract ending or the retrenchment coming, were suddenly fired, been waiting and preparing for retirement – involves loss and transitioning. I have found that being transferred to another department can be tough too and, perhaps, this post could be relatable in some ways. Loss and transitioning are stressful events for all of us; the emotional experiencing of leaving a job can be intense.
My Personal Emotional Experiencing of Leaving Past Jobs
Even when I had planned to leave and I knew exactly when I would depart from the position, the emotional roller coaster rides with highs and lows with the periodic “is this it?” would entertain me, before, during and after the actual departure.
Frustration: “Even leaving is difficult. This job is horrible! Everything sucks!”
Sadness: “Nobody cares if I’m here or not.”
Confusion: “What do I do from now? Why am I in this fix?”
Calm: “This is it. I am at peace. I know this is good for me.”
Doubt: “Maybe this was the best job ever, as horrible as it was. Maybe the next place would be worse.”
Nostalgia: “That lunch we had as a team was the best ever.”
Exhilaration: “Yes!!! I’m ecstatic that I’m saying goodbye to all this b*s*!”
Regret: “I shouldn’t have done that. How did I end up here?!”
Hopeful: “The possibilities are endless.”
Anxiety: “The world has changed since I last had an interview. I won’t be able to get it right.”
Empowered: “I know my strengths. I can carry on.”
Fear: “I won’t be able to pay the bills.”
Our Emotional Experiencing and its Messages
Perhaps I feel more than others. I have always been highly sensitive – when growing up, I had been sensitive to emotions and they often felt bigger than I was. I am used to emotional turbulence and even before I learnt the language around emotional regulation, I had come to treat my feelings as guests. They weren’t here to stay forever; they would be off on their way.
With my current training and Susan David’s work on emotional agility, I have come to embrace the full spectrum of my emotional experiencing. They are guests with messages for me: once I get the memo from my body (one of the techniques you can learn to lean into your emotions is the RAIN meditation, they have done their job.
Rather than only relying on cognitive processing of the external environment, I pay attention to my emotional experiencing to help myself make sense of the happenings in my life.
I have come to appreciate that relationships with others matter a lot to me. This showed up in my emotional experiencing when I leaving my jobs.
Saying Goodbye to Colleagues
Even if I understood that all good things must come to an end “天下无有不散筵席”, saying goodbye to the relationships formed at the workplace has been one of the most difficult things. Things will never be the same again: The synergy of the team, the personal relationships formed, the overcoming of hardship and hurdles together. Giving myself permission to feel sadness for the loss also meant celebrating how good it had been.
I have learnt that appreciating and honouring the good moments while still in any job has made saying goodbye eventually easier: I showed up, I was fully present. I basked and soaked in those moments so the memories would be carried with fondness.
Saying Goodbye to a Position but Not the Career
When I experienced doubt and fear, I understood that they reflected the unknown and uncertain parts of my journey. Allowing the expansion of those feelings also created space for excitement and hope. What helped me in my transitions and stepping into the unknown was the belief that I would continue to grow as a person. I have a varied career experience and perhaps some may not appreciate it, but some would. My experiences are what make me unique.
Most of us spend a large part of our lives working and certainly, our work forms a significant part of our identity. Many articles discuss the importance of considering our personal identity when we transition: who we are without our jobs, our relationship with the organisation, the role and the occupation, the meaning of our work, what was fulfilling for us at work. Taking time to process and understand would help us in the next chapter of our lives, as we continue to thicken the stories we have of ourselves.
You may want to consider Sara Young Wang’s article on Forbes about coming out stronger after breaking up with our job. Or Kimberley Lawson’s article on the New York Times where she spoke with various subject matter experts on the importance of taking time to mourn during career transitions. Richard Moy had a relatable discussion about doubt and worry, even when we have chosen to leave. Andy Robinson wrote about understanding job loss grief as part of the healing process and suggested some ways to cope with it.
Our emotional experiences are valid. Our feelings are valid. Leaving a job is stressful and a major change in adulthood whether it was planned or not, so it is essential to take care of ourselves. Tune and lean into our emotions and let them guide you in your self-care routine.