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Leave a Job Well

10 March 2022

There is a psychological idea called the peak-end rule.  This rule refers to a very cool little trick our minds play on us.  With the peak-end rule your remembered experience of something is dominated by two things - a peak time, and how the experience ends.

For example, lets take last weekend.  Looking back, if someone asks you how it was, according to peak-end you are likely to pull together the best moment from your weekend and combine it with what happened Sunday night to define what you say.  Similarly, remembering a holiday, your remembered experience of the holiday is largely made up of a highlight combined with what happened on the last day.

The thing is, your memory of something lasts longer than the actual experience.  This is important when it comes to your career as the remembered experience of a good role can be inadvertently damaged by the way the job ends.  That is, a job that has had lots of good experiences can get tarnished if it doesn't end well.

Someways to guard against this are:

  • Leave a role before you get fed up with it.  Don't get to the point where you have to drag yourself in, or pep talk yourself just to turn up.  Leave while you are still curious, have things to learn, still enjoy the people around you, and are still having fun.
  • Pre-plan how long you will stay in a role.  Put a date in your diary that is a end date for the role and use this date as a real assessment date to check in on the level of engagement you have.
  • Create high moments in a role.  Recognise periods that will be your peak moments and ensure that you savour and celebrate them.
  • Do regular 6monthly career maintenance to stay aware of the changes that may be impacting your experience of a role.

If you do find that a role is ending on a low note, for your memory sake, look for ways you can make the ending better.  For example, have a celebration, if needed repair relationships, leave great handover materials, have a final push on a project.  Because in addition to your remembered experience of a role, others remembered experience of you is also impacted by the peak-end rule and I am sure you want people to remember you well.

As always wishing you a flourishing career


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