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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

The Corporate Cleanse: 4 Ways to Detox From Your Old Job

Every year, I celebrate my Happy Canniversary. Yes, you read that right—February 22—the day I was let go from a job where I was unhappy and had still stayed in way too long. Best. Day. Ever.

Of course, I can say that now, but it did take me some time to truly feel liberated after my pink slip party. From my innermost thoughts right down to my nail polish (previously corporate-friendly pale pink, I now rock out to electric blue, thank you very much), I had to take a serious look at rediscovering who I was outside of that office.

Whether you leave on your own terms or someone else’s, sometimes the baggage of a old job, not unlike that from breaking up after a fizzling relationship, can remain with you. And unless you do a boyfriend bonfire—or in this case, a corporate cleanse—it’s difficult to move forward if you remain stuck in the past.

If you’re leaving a bad job—congrats. It’s breakup time. Here are four ideas to help you to let go.

1. Ditch the Corporate Costume

A friend of mine, a former administrator from a global consulting firm, “had a field day” about a year after leaving her old job. “I filled an entire garbage bag of Brooks Brothers clothes for Goodwill that I never wanted to wear again!” she says. And all those t-shirts with the company logo on them? She used them to polish her car and wash dirty apartment windows.

While I don’t necessarily recommend dumping your entire work wardrobe, the point is—find something that reminds you of your old job, and get rid of it. There’s nothing more cleansing that ridding yourself of an outfit or object that felt more like Big Brother watching than your good ol’ baddie self.

2. Delete Acronyms and Re-Boot

If you’ve been working somewhere for a long time, its vernacular (“Let’s run this one up the flagpole,” for starters) is probably ingrained in your head. As are those toxic co-workers, who you thought you’d never have to deal with again, but somehow seem to keep popping into your brain every time you’re trying catch some zzzz’s.

Unfortunately, you can’t do a literal data dump of your brain, but there are some ways you can clear out the old and make way for the new. There’s nothing quite like yoga or daily meditation to clear your head, and exercise helps, too. Surround yourself with new people, read a lot, do things your love, and let new thoughts and your own opinions come rushing in.

3. Be Kind to Yourself

“One of the biggest challenges I’m dealing with [after leaving my job] is a bout with depression,” a former accounting executive in fashion explains. “Though I'm done and gone, I’m amazed at how much that environment impacted me and all the residue that is just hanging around.”

And unfortunately, her experience is all too common. Keep this in mind and take care of yourself. Give yourself time to think through and recover from your old job, and don’t be afraid to vent to supportive friends, talk to an old boss or mentor, or even consult a therapist to navigate that murky residue.

4. Focus on the Positive

There have to be at least one or two good things about your old company, right? Try to remember and focus on something you learned and enjoyed—like honing skills for a specific computer program, forging friendships with one or two amazing people, or even just having a prestigious place to put on your resume. “The great swag that I would get from vendors—iPad, iPod, wine, flowers, chocolate,” says one former NYC ad exec, of her otherwise toxic environment. If you dig deep enough, I bet there’s something.

Finally, remember that there are no real rules. Any of these steps is a great place to start—but the key to truly getting the most out of your breakup is focusing on what you want and need. Most importantly, remember that it doesn’t happen overnight, but that you’ll get there, over time. Happy Canniversary!

How have you created your own corporate cleanse? Sound off below!

Photo courtesy of Victoria Henderson.