How to Explain What You're Doing Next—When You Don’t Really Know
“So, what do you do for work?” I asked.
The tall, lanky man had an impish gleam in his eye. But I wasn’t prepared for what came next.
“I have ‘work’ that pays the bills. And I have ‘work’ that lights up my heart. Which ‘work’ do you want to hear about?”
“Whoa. Well, when you put it that way—both!”
Turns out, this fella had a stable gig as a website designer—which he actually loved, quite a bit. But his passion was teaching yoga. And his big plan was to buy a van once his teenage daughter went off to college and travel the United States, bringing yoga to off-the-beaten-path communities, where it’s never been taught before. He didn’t know exactly how his plan was going to shake out. But he knew he had to try.
I’m so glad I asked.
Or rather—so glad he invited me to ask.
The heart-scorching story. Not just the sanitized version. Even if you’re not sure “exactly” how it’s all going to pan out.
Just like this yoga-nomad did.
Here’s how to do it:
Nice person: “So, I hear you’re quitting your job! What’s next for you?”
You: “Do you want to hear the sanitized, ‘professional’ version of what comes next—or the exciting, honest version?”
Nice person: “Um, both!”
You: “Well, OK then.
The ‘professional’ version is that: [Insert what you probably told your boss.]
For example: The ‘professional’ version is that I’m looking for a role with more leadership responsibility, especially when it comes to managing teams and creating a successful workplace culture.
And the exciting, honest version is that: [Insert your dream—what lights you up, what you’re really leaving to pursue, even if it doesn’t work out.]
For example: And the exciting, honest version is that I’m writing a book on what it takes to be happy—really, genuinely happy—at work. I’m pitching it to publishers next spring.
This book is the biggest, most challenging project of my entire life. And I’ve realized that in order to finish writing it, without feeling like a hypocrite, I need to practice what I preach. I need to create a career that makes me happier than I ever thought possible. Which means leaving my current position. And letting the journey begin.
I don’t know how all of the details are going to shake out, but I feel confident that I’ll figure it out.
Most of all, I feel proud for going after my dreams. I know that if I don’t, I’ll always regret it.”
Now, I know it takes courage to give people the “un-sanitized” version of what you’re doing with your life and career.
And there may be certain scenarios in which, for whatever reason, you choose not to tell the un-sanitized version of the story. And that’s OK. It’s a personal judgement call, for sure.
But it’s the un-sanitized version that stops people in their tracks. That’s the story that makes jaws drop and hearts ignite—even if you haven’t ironed out all the details yet.
When you tell the truth—the exciting, honest truth—people will be impressed, astonished, and quite frankly, in awe of you.
Most of the time, they’ll want to help you. Heck, they’ll want to be you.
So, why are you leaving your job?
Tell me the truth. Don’t hold back. Give me a reason to start rooting for you.
Photo of shoes on street courtesy of Shutterstock.
Alexandra Franzen is an author and communication expert who helps creative people become clear and confident writers.
Her specialty? Helping you find the right words to get noticed, get hired and get others excited about your ideas—immediately.
Her refreshing tips on productivity, creativity and everyday woes—like inbox-clearing—have been featured on Fast Company, Forbes, The Daily Love, The Huffington Post, and on radio programs from coast to coast.
Get free workbooks + scripts to unlock your inner wordsmith at: AlexandraFranzen.com.More from this Author