Live Every Work Day Like You Just Gave Your Notice

Go ahead and rock that red lip

Photo: Btihal Remli/Getty Images

An interesting thing happened when I decided I was going to quit my job: I got better at my job.

At the time, I held a seemingly sexy position at a well-respected company. For ego-driven reasons, among others, I started in the position hopeful — albeit somewhat skeptical — that this would be the place where I’d finally get to live the life I had dreamed of. Spoiler alert: I did not.

Eventually, I devised a plan to leave. And although it would be another year before I resigned, that decision to quit changed my entire perspective for the better. I became a more effective, engaged, and motivated employee in the meantime.

I realized that you don’t have to start drafting your resignation letter to get that “I quit” swagger. There’s a sense of empowerment that comes from having one foot out the door. Here are some lessons I learned that year that you can apply to your own job — no matter how long you choose to be there.

Like many people, I would get insanely nervous before big presentations. Shoot, I’d get nauseated walking into recurring weekly meetings. But in the months before I resigned, a colleague gave me a piece of advice that radically shifted how I approached work interactions. “Don’t come in to impress, come in to connect,” she encouraged.

At work, many of us believe that we must constantly be “on,” selling, persuading, and playing the part. But it turns out that people respond more to how we are than what we say. Instead of trying to wow people with your knowledge or skills, approach every interaction as if you’re with a collaborator you respect. Think not only about what you need, but also how you can provide meaningful gifts, such as positive energy or a listening ear.

After I decided to quit, I felt freer to acknowledge what I needed to operate optimally at work. I started prioritizing sleep. If I had to leave exactly at 5 p.m. to catch a yoga class, I did. The surprising thing about setting these boundaries was I became sharper and more creative during working hours.

Have an honest conversation with your manager about what you need in order to bring your best self to work. Perhaps it’s heading out at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays so you can spend the afternoon with your kids. When you make your case, reiterate what’s in it for your team: a more focused, fresher version of you.

After I decided to leave, I became more comfortable bringing a bit of my “weekend” self to work. I started boldly rocking red and fuschia lips and creatively interspersing my work outfits with sneakers or T-shirts.

As people of color, we often navigate two worlds when we step into corporate environments — there’s a pressure to code-switch and assimilate, as we fear we’ll lose our “cultural fit” stamp of approval. However, this quest to be the consummate professional can lead to burnout and cognitive dissonance.

Look for ways to let your personality shine through at work. Can you rock Js with your chinos? Or fearlessly wear faux locs down your back? Maybe you can try that bright orange nail color. Do something that showcases the real you.

Two months before I resigned, my manager asked me to share my 10-year plan. I winced, knowing she had no clue I was planning my exit. But a mentor told me that where we want to be in a decade is a great thing for everyone to share with their boss, regardless of whether they plan to stay in their current job or pursue other opportunities.

“No employer should assume that in 10 years, you will still be there,” she advised. “So, just be honest.”

Sharing with my manager that I aimed to be a published author and motivational speaker widened her view on how she could help me. She started rattling off opportunities within the company and various positions I might want to consider to help me reach my goal. I learned that when we share our vision for our lives, even if it doesn’t align with our current position, people often want to support us.

I decided to leave in the midst of a big campaign launch that I was leading. I knew I would not be able to see the project to completion. Looking back, my ability to detach myself from the results of the campaign helped my team because I had delegated responsibility and made sure each phase of the project was as complete as possible.

Oftentimes, we set objectives at work and those become our markers of success. While big goals are important, I encourage you to find new ways to measure your progress along the way. Focusing on shorter-term growth — for instance, having a good meeting or finishing a small assignment — allows you to stay engaged with the process rather than focused on the destination.

The months leading up to my departure were some of my freest — I discovered a swagger that I had been lacking. Now I can channel this energy no matter where I am in my career. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a bold red lip.

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