There are two ways to leave a job: by choice or not by choice. As most of us would prefer to have a say in the length of our employment, we do all we can to not get fired. When we finally decide to move on from our current job, we, the professionals that we are, offer our employer two weeks notice. But maybe we didn’t really think this through, maybe it would have been better to just quit on the spot because, man, those last two weeks of work are just the worst. They’re the most cumbersome, strange days when you’re just “kind of” employed. You never really know what to do with yourself and even if you do, you’d really rather be doing anything else. It just stinks.
Depending on your relationship with your employer or the environment you’re working in, you may be subject to the old cold shoulder. In my experience, this usually occurs in smaller operations where the owner or your direct supervisor takes your resignation extremely personally. While this makes things palpably tense and awkward around the water cooler, it might be one of the better possible circumstances for this kind of thing. If your boss is actively ignoring you, you can feel free to stay at your desk, type a few things, harbor your disdain for your boss and daydream about your bright future. After ten days you can leave without a twitch of sadness. Your exit will feel incredibly awesome and you’ll be so thankful that you’re not only out of that job but away from the meanie of a boss. While this scenario is cloaked in negativity, it may be preferable to the elaborate charade of of trying to make it look like you’re doing something when you’re really doing nothing.
Last week I left my job of two years. I didn’t have a terrible time at the company, I just decided it was time for me to move on with my life. Of course there were elements to my job that I didn’t care for and that’s what sparked my desire to leave, but I had no ill-feelings toward my employer, co-workers or managers. In fact, I really liked everyone a lot. Giving my two weeks notice was bittersweet…but working those last ten days was agonizing.
Each day was a new struggle to overcome my overwhelming sense of Senioritis. A prideful little worker, I always strove to go above and beyond at my job. I couldn’t stand the thought of tarnishing my stellar performance record during my final days of employment but I found it nearly impossible to stay focussed on a job I knew was over. Ever overzealous, I agreed to work 10 hours of overtime during my last week. This was a stupid idea and I do not recommend it. Since my job had a daily quota, my output was measurable which made slacking off during my last week challenging (but not impossible). As my mind wandered further and further from my tasks, I pasted a smile to my face and forced myself to finish strong. On my last day, I sent my final emails, cleaned off my desk, and ate as many free string cheeses as I could (you always get free string cheese at startups, fact!). My manager escorted me out of the building and to the nearest bar for a whisky-soaked farewell happy hour. I survived those brutal last two weeks. I am free.
So if you want to survive too, here’s all you gotta do:
Focus: This is the hardest part about working those last two weeks. Staying focussed is really unlikely to happen, but if you want to leave your job without unnecessarily burning a bridge, you’ll have to try- at least a little. Wrap up your current duties or projects as best you can or work to transfer your knowledge to another worker early in the process. Creating a plan to get your work completed will help with this. Your energy and focus will be strongest at the beginning of your last ten days, so cram as much productivity as you can into these few days. The sooner you get your tasks completed, the sooner you can scope out full length movies people have taken the liberty of uploading to YouTube for discreet, in-office viewing.
Organization: Big life changes like leaving your job, while exciting, can cause anxiety and stress. Take a deep breath and don’t question your decision. Instead, use your last couple of weeks on the job to tie up any loose ends, organize your workspace, ask the HR department a million questions about COBRA and stuff, and bring in an external hard drive and gather all the great music you’ve spent your tenure collecting. You can make this step of the process take as long as you want--so keep that in mind when you’re trying to look busy.
Attitude: The two final weeks of any job have high potential to give you a really crummy attitude. Suddenly everything that used to be important seems silly. Who cares if you don’t know the answer to a question? In two weeks you’ll never have to think about these work-related problems again. But still, maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to ending your employment happily. Make a point of playing it cool at work. Smile a lot, share some memories with co-workers in the kitchen, invite your work pals out to lunch and be extra nice to your boss. You want them to see you and your remaining time there as a positive. Kill some time uploading hilarious GIFs to your co-workers’ Facebook walls, ensuring that your light-hearted and fun spirit will be missed.
Keeping in Touch: “Let’s keep in touch!” may be the biggest lie ever told between co-workers but it comes from a good place. If you haven’t taken the time to get to know your colleagues outside of work and formed a friendship, it is unlikely this is going to happen after you leave. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good to hear you’ll be missed. “Let’s keep in touch” is a lovely sentiment and if you hear it a lot, it’s a pretty good indicator that your co-workers honestly did enjoy their time with you. Enjoy this feeling. Then plan a fun last hurrah for you and your co-workers.
Saying goodbye to your string cheese supplier (and your job) can be tough, but as long as you keep a smile on your face and your nose near-ish to the grindstone, you’ll emerge from your last two weeks of employment ready to take over the world.