“Robbie, I would recommend that you don’t call yourself a Junior Analyst in your email signature. You can just call yourself an Analyst.”

“OK. But when I become CEO, I’ll make sure my signature says CEO!”

This email exchange was me foolishly believing I was going to be the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company.

15 years later, the thought of running a multi-billion dollar company is not only outlandish, but I’m 110% sure I never want to have that job.

Expectations as a 21-year-old vs. reality change as you progress through your career.

Here is everything I would tell my 21-year-old self.

Your career is not a straight line. Sometimes it feels like a circle.

You’re going to wonder how in the world you got so far from your original plan.

If you follow the money, you’ll end up with more money but farther from where you want to be with your career.

If you follow your passion, you’ll end up with no money and a little bit closer to where you want to be.

If you figure out a way to merge a way to make money & do something you’re good at, your life will be better.

Start budgeting right now. No, seriously, right now.

Start writing. I know you’re not good at it. But, just do it anyway.

You’re going to become good at what you do, and others are going to ask you to join their team. They are going to ask you to make life changes to help them. Make sure that life change is part of your plan, and not just theirs.

Don’t listen to those people who tell you to say no to everything. You can only say no once you figure out what you want to do with your life. Say “YES” and see where it takes you.

You’re going to ask yourself if you should apply to a startup called “Facebook” in 2007. You’re also going to tell yourself that the company is too late stage for you to make any money. Don’t listen to that voice. Your voice is stupid.

This thing called “Bitcoin” is going to come up once in a while. You’re going to think to yourself “That sounds too complicated, I’m not going to buy bitcoin for 22 cents.”. Don’t listen to that voice. Your voice is stupid.

Your instinct about traveling is right. Do it now before it’s too late.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but if you have just enough in your bank account at any given time, you won’t have to make decisions that make it harder to live life.

Don’t pick up the phone when you’re sleeping. It’s a phone interview at Google you hustled to get. You’re not a good at pretending you’ve been up the whole time.

Don’t nap before phone interviews.

Use an alarm clock even when you’re napping.

An interviewer is going to ask you who your worst manager was. Don’t answer that question. It’s a trap.

You can think more than a few years ahead at a time. I promise it will come faster than you think.

Sometimes it’s ok to help yourself before others.

If you take more than five deep breaths before you get to work, you need a new job.

If you check your email before work and you swear more than five times, you need a new job.

You need a new job.

Yes. You can go to your friend’s BBQ. You don’t need to work every weekend. It will be OK.

Find the cubicle that is closest to the exit so you can leave work early without anyone noticing.

Real life is going to get in the way of success. Embrace it.

“It is what it is” will go from being a meaningless quote to your life’s motto seemingly overnight.

Don’t worry when you post your writing online. Post it as soon as you finish it.

21 Year Old Robbie: Even if it’s a Friday afternoon and no one will read it?
35 Year Old Robbie: Even better.

What would you say to your 21-year-old self?

“Are you sure I can’t start January 6th? I’m ready to start.”

“No, sorry. Orientation is January 13th. I appreciate the eagerness, Robbie, but you can’t start earlier than that.”

“Do I need to be in this two-week orientation? I programmed before, so I don’t need to be in this class. I’m ready to start the real job.”

“Sorry, Robbie. You must be in this class. I appreciate the eagerness, but you’ll have to finish the orientation. It’s only two weeks.”

I was the most eager new hire of all time. I just graduated college and was ready to join the workforce as a consultant. I was optimistic that I would be on the “career fast track.” I promise you that no one was more eager than me.

I knew what I wanted out of my career and in life. I didn’t want anything to slow me down. I wanted to work long hours. I wanted the challenge. I was ready to show my bosses how smart I was and how different than I was than everyone else.

Some people take a year off school to find themselves.

I never understood that. Find yourself? What is there to find, exactly?

And let’s be real. I had no money to take a year off anyway. I found myself in the mirror every morning. That was good enough.

Time off is for lazy people. Hell, I tried to convince Human Resources to start a WEEK EARLIER than my start date.

My first day after orientation completed I was taking a flight from O’Hare Airport to the client I was assigned in New York. At the airport, I met a work colleague that was on the same project as me.

I had so many questions for her.

How awesome is it to travel every week?
The client seems super cool. How cool are they?
Where does everyone hang out after work?
They must be smart. What cities are they from?

Her response shocked me. She seemed frustrated. She talked about the struggles of working with the client and how traveling every week was tiring. She didn’t get along with her manager. She wasn’t complaining, but you can tell she wasn’t happy.

I shrugged it off. She’s probably having a bad day. It’s 6 a.m. on a Monday. She’s definitely having a bad day.

I paid close attention to her for the next six months.

She left work early every day. There was no way to leave without being noticed. She had to walk through a center aisle where all of her co-workers and managers sit.

This office wasn’t the “As long as you have work done, you can leave whenever you want” type of environment. If you left before 7 pm, you are doing something wrong.

I had several thoughts:

“She must not have her act together.”

“How dare she leave early every day, especially when everyone else stays until 7 pm. They are paying you money, the least you can do is obey the rules.”

Later that year, she quit and joined a competitor.

It surprised nobody.

I met with her a few years after she left.

She was happy. It was the best decision she’s ever made. She was doing the same work for someone else and yet everything was different.

It was then that I realized I was wrong about her.

When she left early, it wasn’t because she didn’t have her act together or she was a bad worker. It was the exact opposite.

She knew she wasn’t happy. She knew that her career wasn’t going to last long at her current company. She knew that leaving the office early would piss everyone off.

She had everything figured out! If they didn’t care about me, I’m not going to care about them.

Even if meant the death stares when walking out of the office.

She was free, and no one was going to get in her way.

Some people suffer through 30 years of career misery before doing what’s right for their life and their career. It only took her six months.

That’s what career freedom looks like.

Happiness is the freedom to build a successful career and live life on your terms.

The reason most ambitious, career driven people end up hating their career is because they started the job with every intention of succeeding. They had a vision for how they would flourish in their role and help their company grow. Then it all goes downhill.

Here is a timeline of how it happens:

Job starts.

Things are great.

Everything is going as planned.

Then deadlines start slipping.

Disagreements occur internally.

Disagreements turn into arguments.

Arguments turn into misery.

Misery turns into a reflection of your life and career. Longer lunch breaks. Showing up later and leaving earlier.

This is when you realize you’re not living on your terms.

You’re doing it on someone else’s time & money.

You have two decisions:

OPTION 1: Continue through the pain and suffering of showing up to work every day knowing that the work you’re doing has no meaning.

OPTION 2: Live your life and career on your terms.

Let’s be real. If you’re reading this, you want to do Option #2. But we all know, it’s financially impossible and irresponsible to quit for many of us. You have a good source of income that you can’t lose because you want to be “free and happy.”

So, now what?

Happiness is waking up every day and doing what you want to do. Happiness is going to sleep without worrying about work and bills. Happiness is being excited for the next day and not living for the weekend.

This DOESN’T mean that you have to work for yourself to be happy. I always like to say that dream jobs aren’t real. It’s about the dream situation.

The dream situation is, you guessed it: To live your life and career on your own terms. And yes, this means making enough money to support your dream situation. This could be working remote instead of being in the office every day. This might mean working hard Monday to Thursday and having Friday off. This might mean being able to work with people you learn from and appreciate you. This might mean being able to travel every week.

Everyone’s dream situation is different.

How you get there is for another post.

Just know that the dream situation is something you probably think about all the time. Don’t ignore it.

May 20th, 2013 – New York City.

“How much is this luggage?”

“It’s $199”.

“Oh. What’s the cheapest luggage you have? I just need a small handbag. I can’t afford this luggage.”

“This is the cheapest we have, Sir.”

Did you ever get to the point where you can’t look at your bank account because you’re afraid of what it’s going to tell you?

Have you ever added up your expenses in Microsoft Excel and couldn’t believe what the total was? I mean, literally not believe that the sum function in Excel was telling you the truth, so you added it by hand?

That was me.

The answer was the same regardless of how I added it up.

I was burning $10k / month in expenses, and I had no idea how this happened.

I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t party. I didn’t shop. I didn’t travel. I was reasonable with groceries. I had a mortgage and a wife that was more frugal than me.

How in the world did me living on my own means add up to $10k a month in expenses?

My expenses were higher than my income. I was losing money fast.

I flew to New York City to interview for a job I didn’t want. This job was was my backup plan.

While I was there, my luggage that I’ve had for a good 8 years fell apart 2 hours before my interview.

I was in the middle of New York City and was in a frantic mode to find new luggage. Luggage that I couldn’t afford.

I couldn’t come while holding my luggage in complete shambles. I would have been rejected before the first words came out of my mouth.

I made the last minute decision to buy new luggage. The new luggage that I definitely couldn’t afford. I had no choice. I couldn’t price comparison shop. I was running out of time.

I made a choice to not look at my bank account. I didn’t want to know the answer if I could afford this luggage or not.

18 months prior I made the decision to quit my full-time job. I was done with the rat race. I was done with the 9-5. I was done making money by the hour, even if it was considered “salary.” I knew I was capable of more. I needed to get out.

However, I couldn’t make it work financially being an entrepreneur without a stable source of income. My Plan A, B, and C failed. And most importantly, my cash reserves plummeted.

I had no choice but to get a salary job. I called it the “real world.” The world I was desperately trying to avoid. The real world is PLAN D.

And here I am fighting to get back into PLAN D.

PLAN D

The one smart thing I did when I quit my full-time job was to prepare for PLAN D.

Meaning, If I ever needed to get a full-time job I could make a few phone calls and explore my options. I did this by keeping in touch with previous co-workers. I did this by networking my ass off in Chicago. I took 250 coffee meetings in 400 days.

I learned new skills every day. Whether it was programming or marketing or writing, I made sure that I was ready to go.

“In case of emergency use this hammer to break open the glass.”

I built my own hammer.

Within a week of deciding that I needed to use my hammer to break the glass, I had 3 interviews lined up. Everything was going as planned.

All of them were in consulting. Nobody saw me as a marketer. Nobody saw me as a writer. Nobody saw me as a programmer.

They saw my previous 8 years of experience doing consulting. I was a consultant by their terms. That’s what I was good at in their eyes.

I had no time to tell them what my dream job was.

Income and stability are what I needed.

Fast forward a month, and all of the interviews are completed. Every meeting went well. I was 100% sure that I would get at least two offers, if not three.

Friday, May 24th, 2013. (Memorial Day Weekend)

I used the leverage of having 3 solid opportunities to let them all know that they needed to get back to me before Memorial Day. As luck would have it, I found all the answers on the Friday before Memorial Day.

The reality was that my financial situation was in bad shape and I needed income faster than they would ever know.

Then the first phone call came. I took a deep breath while watching my phone ring. “please let this be good news,” I thought to myself.

REJECTION #1

“Robbie. I would love to have you on. But, you’re a little too premature for what we need here. The team likes you, but let’s revisit in 6 months. We’ll have a much better idea of where you fit in at that time.”

In any typical situation, this was a positive outcome. The company isn’t ready for me, but they liked me. The door was still open.

But, not in my situation.

Anything that resulted in me not working the following week was a failure.

REJECTION #2

“Robbie. We’ve decided to put the position on hold. The team really likes you, but we need to feel out the market a little bit more. Can we revisit in the next 6-12 months?”

Devastating.

REJECTION #3

“Robbie. You’re too senior for this position. The team likes you, but unfortunately, it wouldn’t be a fit for us. When we have a more senior position open up, we’ll let you know”.

You know how I mentioned PLAN D? This final rejection was PLAN Z. I thought I had this job in the bag.

And here I am.

Jobless. Incomeless. Lost. Embarrassed.

I secretly wished they just told me that they didn’t like me. I wish the company said, “Robbie, you’re not qualified for this job.”

I would have felt better.

It was the longest weekend ever of my life. I needed to go back and look at my options again. I was determined.

The problem?

It’s Memorial Day Weekend.

Everyone is off Monday.

To 99.99% of the world, a holiday on a Monday is a great thing.

That meant spending time with family. BBQ’ing, laughing and volleyball.

For me, it meant one more day I couldn’t apply for jobs. It was one more day I couldn’t email my contacts asking for referrals. It was one more day of me contemplating what my next steps were.

The day I got rejected by 3 different companies on one day wasn’t the longest day of my life. It was that following Monday, Memorial Day.

It was the first day I felt truly hopeless. I had everything under control. I PLANNED for this day, so this would never happen.

And here I am again, in a situation I told myself I would never be in.

6 weeks later I run into a co-worker at an alumni event. I must have worked with him for less than 2 days. I’m surprised he recognized me.

He asked me what I’m up to and I said: “Just finished my last gig, exploring my options.”

He was in a hurry, but he said to contact him the next day. He has an opening.

2 weeks later I nailed the interview and got an offer.

Thus, putting an end to PLAN D.

The funny thing is that I’m back to Plan A.

Plan A never dies. It just takes a little longer than you want it.

For many of you, you know you want out of your 9-5. You know you are more capable than what you’re achieving now. Except, that you’ve been in PLAN D mode since the day you started your career.

Don’t let PLAN D get in the way of what you want to accomplish. Just keep it there in case your original plan fails.

Plan A all the way.

“Do you mind if I send your resignation letter to the entire company?”

This is what the CEO of Deloitte Consulting asked me after receiving my resignation letter.

2 days later he sent my resignation letter to over 10,000 employees. [The full email is at the bottom of this post].

Before I dive into how to write your resignation letter, I’m assuming one thing:

I am assuming you already told your company that you quit, in person, or over the phone, and that you provided them with the standard two week’s notice, or four week (one month’s notice), depending on your contract stipulations.

If the first time your company hears that you’re resigning is over email, you’re doing it wrong. I don’t care how badly they treated you, do not resign over email.

If you haven’t quit yet, please refer to my ultimate guide to quitting your job article first.

OK, Let’s dive into it.

This is the exact process of writing a resignation letter.

You need to send two, yes, two resignation letters. (P.S. when I say “letters”, I really mean emails. You don’t need to write a physical letter)

  1. Formal Resignation Letter to HR and your boss
  2. The Simple Goodbye email to all your colleagues

Let’s start with the formal resignation letter.

The Formal Resignation Letter Template:

The purpose of this is to let HR know your intention of leaving the company and when your last day is.

That’s it!

Nothing more, nothing less.

It looks like this:

TO: <human resources contact>
CC: <your boss>

Subject: Robbie Abed’s Resignation

Body:

Jennifer,

As discussed with Michelle, I am submitting my formal resignation from <company name>. My last day will be <last day>.

Please let me know if there are any documents to fill out or any processes that I need to follow before my last day. I really enjoyed my time here and I wish nothing but the best for my co-workers and <company name>.

I will send a separate thank you letter on my last day.

Thank You!

Robbie

DO NOT LIST WHY YOU’RE LEAVING OR WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO NEXT.

As a matter of fact, just copy and paste exactly what I wrote above. Don’t add another sentence to it.

If you want to tell them why you’re leaving, tell your boss in person or over the phone and again during the exit interview, if you have one. Once again, I have to reiterate how important it is there is not a record or paper trail of that conversation.

I highly recommend never putting the reason you are leaving in writing. It won’t help you and it can, and most likely will, come back to haunt you. To re-iterate, I have no issue with you telling your employer why you’re leaving, just don’t put it in writing.

What you say over email could be different than what you said in person, and a few forwards of that email can end in the wrong hands and all of a sudden you cause unnecessary drama. It is also difficult to process tone over email, and you don’t want others making up reasons why you left.

So, in regards to a formal resignation letter that is it. It’s really that simple.

THE SIMPLE GOODBYE EMAIL (Sent on your last day within the company):

The main purpose of the goodbye email is to say to your final farewell and inform anyone that hasn’t heard already, that you are leaving the company.

It’s a simple email, but it’s often messed up by many people.

Before I give you the details on what to include in your goodbye email, it’s important to note these few things:

Your simple goodbye email is either an extremely thankful, or it’s a quick thank you & goodbye email. Nothing in between. Do not offer constructive criticism in your email, or offer suggestions on how to improve the company after you leave. You had your chance to improve it, so now is not the time. You’re on your way to bigger and better things, what you say now needs to be graceful and appreciative and appropriate. The reason the CEO sent my email to the entire company was because I called out co-workers that I enjoyed working with and how they helped me advance my career. I really enjoyed working at this company, and my resignation letter showed it. Most of all, it was positive and inspiring during a time of my leaving the company, which I could have made negative if I approached it from another perspective. When I left other firms, the email was 2-3 sentences at the most, but always still positive and respectful.

I want to repeat this again with annoying periods between each word: Do.not.offer.constructive.criticism.

  • Don’t offer it in the goodbye email.
  • Don’t offer it in the resignation letter.
  • Don’t even offer it in a private email to your boss or superiors.
  • Don’t even do it in person.
  • Keep it to yourself.

If you couldn’t move the needle while you worked there, what makes you think you’re going to help by giving advice after you told them you were leaving the company?

There are two goodbye email templates:

  1. Short and Sweet – Does the job in a professional way.
  2. Long, Personalized & Thankful- This is the goodbye email that gets you bonus points. An email that none of your co-workers will ever forget.

Let’s start with the first template.

Short and Sweet:

All,
If you haven’t heard already, tomorrow is my last day at Acme Corporation. I’ve had a wonderful time here and I’m happy to be part of a great organization.

Just because I’m leaving, doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch.

<personal email> is my personal email address. Feel free to send me a message at any time and we can connect over coffee. You can also add me on LinkedIn <link to linkedin profile>

This is a bittersweet email for me, and I really want to say thank you again for everything. I have the pleasure of working with some great people here, and I wish everyone the best of luck

Thank you again!

Robbie

Personal email: <personal email>

I recommend sending this email if you had an average experience with the company.

Long, Personalized & Thankful – The absolute best way to leave:

If you want to quit your job on the best note possible, then is is the resignation goodbye email that you send. This is the format I used that the CEO of Deloitte Consulting loved so much, he sent it to the entire company.

Not only will you leave on a great note, you will be more loved on your way out then while working at your company. This email is that good.

Here we go.

Resignation Letter Template (Goodbye Email):

The biggest problem I have with resignation letters is they all say “Thanks for nothing, see you never.” Nobody ever says Thank You and means it.

So, that’s what you’re going to do differently.

Instead of saying “It’s been fun,” you’re going to say: “Here are the individuals that made an impact on my career.” See the difference?

Then, you’re going to list everyone that made an impact on your career. List their full name, and tell them how they made a difference in your time at the company.

That’s it!

Who do I send this to?

This actually has a two step process:

Step 1: Send to the people you’ve worked with as you normally would. Always use BCC. You should CC your personal email address, so that when someone replies they can reply directly to your personal email.
Step 2: Forward the email to a few executives and / or CEO and say the following:

“Don – I’m leaving the company this Friday and below is my resignation email. I thought it would be great for you to see who I recognized on my way out. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m grateful to be part of an amazing organization.”

This is a great way to send a personal thank you to them even if you haven’t worked with them before. I always do this to keep my relationships healthy, remember that your goal here is to not burn any bridges. In fact, your goal here is to reinforce bridges and make them stronger on your leaving than they ever were on your staying there. Odd, I know, but it works.

Also use BCC.

PRO-TIPS

  1. The more personal you are, the better.
  2. Only Thank You’s. No advice or constructive criticism. Did I mention this one already? It sounds really familiar.
  3. At least 5 people should be mentioned. I’ve seen someone list up to 40 in one email. He was an absolute legend leaving the company.
  4. Be funny, if you know how!
  5. You don’t need to tell them what you’re doing next. If they want to know, they will email you.
  6. If you do tell them, make sure 100% you are not leaving for a competitor or even another company remotely close to being a competitor.
    1. The reason for this is because it will make you look bad in front of your bosses who don’t want their employees to start getting ideas.
    2. It could come off as “look at how successful I am, and you’re stuck here at this crappy place, ha ha ha!”
  7. Don’t offer any advice even if it is constructive, positive advice. I can’t emphasize this enough.
    1. Don’t be a hero on the way out. If you wanted to fix things, you should have done it before you quit. Shut your mouth. Follow this rubric, and you too will be a legend upon leaving your company.
    2. Remember, you are going on to bigger and better things. You’re going after the opportunities that this class taught you to create for yourself, and that is something that the bosses and colleagues you’re leaving will be inherently jealous of. You’re getting out of that job you hate, you’re accomplishing the act of quitting gracefully and going on to work on your own terms as you never have before. There’s a lot for you to be exhilarated about that you shouldn’t need to rub how right you are in people’s face as you leave. #Realtalk.

APPENDIX: THE FAMOUS RESIGNATION LETTER.

(From CEO <name redacted>)

Colleagues,

I recently received a message from Robbie Abed, a practitioner in the Technology practice who is leaving to pursue an opportunity in industry. I was struck by how he captured in his own words our core belief about taking care of our people – especially our focus on mentorship and colleagues for life.

With his permission, I am forwarding this wonderful illustration of how we actively mentor. Robbie has our best and my thanks go to the colleagues below (and the multitude of others) who brought mentorship and apprenticeship to life. So in Robbie’s own words the reason why this company is special.

Best,

P.S. I made a few small deletions for wider distribution.

From: Abed, Robbie (US – Chicago)
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 5:06 PM
To:<redacted>
Cc: <redacted>
Subject: I won the lottery, bought a million dollar condo in Miami, and I am retiring at the very early age of 28. This is why I decided to leave the firm.

Well, not exactly. It is true that I am leaving. Tomorrow (Friday) being my last day.

I hate good bye messages. Well, let me rephrase. I hate the majority of other people’s good bye messages. How could you summarize a great experience with a great company with amazing people in 2-3 sentences? I couldn’t do that. I think we all deserve more than a “hey, it’s been fun – see you never!”

Through my time here, I have come across some amazing people, many who have directly affected the work I do, who I work for, where I work & when I work. Here are a few people that I can’t thank enough (in no particular order):

<name redacted> – Thank You. You helped staff someone you barely knew, on an amazing project even when I threw a staffing curveball at you last second. You listened and I appreciate that.

<name redacted> – You were my first career counselor, and along with <name redacted> you directly affected where I was staffed, and it was always for my benefit. Even when you knew you were going to lose me as a counselee you still went out of your way to help me. Thank you.

<name redacted> – Career Counselor #2. You tell it how it is, and that’s an amazing thing. You guided me through many difficult situations, spoke the truth and let me make the best decision for myself and <company name> (I’m starting to think I was a difficult counselee!). Thank You.

<multiple names redacted> – I had a great time there, and you guys were the reason I dealt with the delayed flights every week. <name redacted>, sorry I had to beat you so many times in billiards. Some things I just don’t lose in, no matter who I’m playing.

<name redacted> – Thank you for everything. I never knew how bad my writing skills were, until you pointed them out to me! Sorry for recommending the worst restaurants possible in Chicago. I am slowly improving in my recommendation skills. Thank You!

<name redacted> – OK, forget what I said. I’m a horrible restaurant recommender and <name redacted> is always the first to point that out. Thanks for the laughs & putting up with me. I also apologize for you walking across Chicago to find the restaurant I made reservations at. Next time, read directions better I’ll provide clearer directions. Thank You!

<name redacted>– Thank You for everything. I will miss seeing you front & center in the telesuite calls. Regardless of what everyone else says, you’re the best looking one in the telesuite. Thank You!

<name redacted> – Thank you for everything. You were always able to guide our team in the right direction, and laugh when the project got stressful. It helps a lot. <name redacted> prepared me for all the writing I was going to do, so hopefully I wasn’t too bad!

<name redacted> –Thank You for everything, and I’m sure you will guide the <project name redacted> in the right direction. As with many, you were flexible in my role and let me shine with what I’m good at. I tried to get the new system named <system redacted>, but I guess that doesn’t fit in <company name> naming standards. Thank You!

<name redacted>– Career Counselor #3. You’re the man. Thanks for being honest with me, and thanks for all of the career advice. Thank You!

I have a local opportunity to do business development, sales for a much smaller company – and I have a feeling that this is what I will be really good at.

I might be back, you never know. I will take full advantage of the alumni program.