How to be a good quitter?

It is now. It is happening.

You have finally submitted your resignation letter and you are leaving the company. Your accounts will be closed, and access to all company systems will be hopefully disabled/deactivated. You will soon start your new shiny job and… the same thing will happen when you quit again.

Job hopping is a sport, and like any sport, it has its perks and challenges. In this post, I will focus on the challenges: the rarely talked about twin of the job hopping – job quitting.

Without further ado… advice #1: before your first job starts… create a spreadsheet, a note, or use whatever tool you have at your disposal and start jotting down details about your first job (what details? see below). And definitely complete it before you quit, when you still have easy access to all the information. It will save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Why?

Companies close, change names, get acquired, move offices, paper records get shredded, electronic records get deleted, and you must remember, in many countries company and personal records don’t need to be stored forever – one day there may not be a single official record preserved about your employment. And you will need these, one day, and sometimes – badly.

Why?

When you retire you may need to present proof of your employment from 20-30 years ago — don’t assume that employers, revenue offices, insurers, pension schemes, etc. hold your records, and that these records are accurate. You may literally need to fight a battle one day, one where preparedness and thinking ahead may save you a lot of trouble. One where these documents may help to secure a higher payment from your pension or government scheme. Yes, it is on you.

So…

Scan every paper document. Scan or take photos of your badges. Scan plastic (cards of interest: employer-, hiring-company-, insurer-, government-issued, etc.).

Ink may fade away, older paper may get yellow, and you may have your place destroyed (insert any natural disaster, fire, burglary, etc.), kids or animals or yourself may spill a liquid over the document, or you will lose stuff when you move your home, etc. – it’s always wise to have an electronic copy available.

Print electronic copies of your important documents – offer letters, contracts, RSU grants, etc. You want to make sure you have some printed documents in hand in case your electronic backups fail.

Create backups. Can be offline on external drive, can be cloud, can be paper. Then create backup of backups. In different physical / logical locations. Yes, you may even consider paying for a secure vault to store originals of your documents: this covers not only work-related items, but also birth, marriage, death certificates, wills, diplomas, certifications and certificates, home insurance, some bank statements, utilities, whatever that needs that extra protection that you can not provide at home.

Coming back to quitting the job — what details should we preserve in our say… quitting spreadsheet?

  • Company name
  • Company address
  • Company WWW site
  • Company contact details: phone, email, even fax
  • Generic global (HQ) HR contact: phone, email
  • Generic regional (NA, EMEA, APAC) HR contact: phone, email
  • Generic local (country-specific) HR contact: phone, email
  • Specific HR contact (they may still work at the company 10 years down the line and may help to speed up communication)
  • Alternative office/HR addresses/contacts in case you work for a very small branch/subsidy that end up being closed few years later (happened to me when I worked for a company in HK where the HR was in Singapore and the actual HK branch got closed one day)
  • Work location: country, city, detailed address
  • Your employee ID
  • Your title (the one in your contract! not necessarily the one you use on daily basis)
  • Your grade
  • Your exact Start of employment date
  • Your exact End of employment date
  • Your total comp, base salary, annual bonuses, sign-on bonuses, RSU grants, benefits, etc.
  • If you have any secondments in your employment, jot down all the dates and locations very precisely!!!
  • Name of your direct manager
  • Title of your direct manager
  • Contact details of your direct manager: email, phone
  • References: can be your direct or second level manager, but also anyone with a meaningful title — you may want to keep these updated in case people move companies as you want to be able to have someone higher than you in the hierarchy that is available and eager to speak to your qualities and their work experience with you
  • Names of your coworkers + some notes about them: that sounds like a really, really bad one… but… I will be honest… I don’t remember everyone I have ever worked with… when you leave you may connect with many people on Linkedin, but 20 years later it’s really hard to remember who they were… I literally remember I had lunches with people but I actually no longer remember what they worked on and what was my relationship with them! yup, sad
  • Achievements: don’t be shy, write down what you have achieved, changed, what impact you made, what awards you got, what tools you created, what problems you solved, what diplomas and certifications you obtained, what documentation you created, etc.; it may sound silly at first, but few jobs later you will forget about it, and you need these details to have stories to tell during your future interviews
  • Travel: yes, yes, it may sound weird, but it’s good to collect exact dates when you were traveling, in and out, where you stayed, etc. — this is good for interview stories and rapport building, but also gives an insight into your credibility and status; if you travel, whether for work or leisure, all the traveling memories become really, really blurred very fast if you do it a lot… notably, if you ever apply for a citizenship, green card, permanent residence, indefinite leave to remain, etc. these details will help you a lot

Additionally, create folder for each employer and keep copies of:

  • offer letter
  • final contract
  • documents listing benefits
  • sign-on bonus
  • initial RSU grant
  • copies of PDFs or other media files showing your internal Awards (not from learning courses, but achievements f.ex. CTO/CEO/CIO/CISO Awards, screenshots of praise messages from your leadership), etc. — they will become your points of reference one day.
  • all the other documents listed in the next paragraph

In the course of your employment collect electronic/paper copies of all your payslips, stock transactions as well as bank statements showing all the income from the company — these are important not only to fill-in your tax returns, but create a traceable evidence of your employment.

Why is that important?

Background checks.

Yup, the higher you climb, the more you job hop, the more and more scrutiny will be applied to your background screening. The questions asked by background screening companies are VERY DETAILED and when you move around a lot you will need to provide a lot of additional details.

For instance, if you move countries — you will be filling-in tax returns and having police records in both of them — that usually means 2 different background checks in 2 countries! Yup, background check companies will go to these two jurisdictions and will be sniffing around your past in both places. This usually covers last 5-10 years.

If you move around as a result of moving home you will want to jot down all the dates when you stayed at different addresses as background checks go at least 5 years back for these! Be mindful of providing dates when you actually LIVED at specific addresses, and not the dates shown on the rental contracts – they often differ. You must focus on accuracy.

And finally, preserve all your paper and electronic utilities bills, council tax or TV License slips (in UK). And yes, keep a detailed record of questions asked and answers you gave during each background check so that it will be easier to answer them in the future.

You must understand that background check companies are kinda mean. While they are not out to get you per se, they process the information you give them in a very scrutinizing way – they not only verify/validate it, but also assess the ‘experience’ of their interaction with you. They form an opinion about your character based on the information you provide and how you provide it. DO NOT BE LAZY with them. I got some point deductions in the past by being a bit off with the dates I provided, or missing some details they asked for (I was too lazy to fetch them in the first iteration). That character assessment is part of the report they provide to the employers… So… be a good screenee.

Last, but not least… don’t burn bridges. I know, I know… it’s VERY hard sometimes. Been there, really really didn’t like people put in a position of power above me, but… in the end, these are rules of power. And one of them is that power over you ends when you quit. Use it to your advantage. We are in this privileged position that cybersecurity is still a fertile ground and changing jobs will actually benefit you more than sucking it up. And that is our power play today. The best quitters are the ones that are not afraid to quit.