What To Do When Leaving An Awful Company

The best part is that you’re outta there. The second best part? Read on.

What To Do When Leaving An Awful Company

Crap jobs yield quick exits, like rats on a sinking ship or goats upon a skateboard.


But as worklife advisor Penelope Trunk notes, you can make inroads for your career even while you’re on your way out.

1) Make the most awesome friend.

Every company has a most-connected person–and there’s a reason they tend to be on the most successful teams.

This will also probably be the person who can help you learn the most (even if they themselves are on the way out), Trunk says. So we should non-sleazily start getting to know them–as they could become your sponsor, mentor, or work BFF later on.

There is a wide range of steps you can take, usually in the how‑to‑get‑a‑mentor category. Even if you don’t want this person as a mentor, the best way to get someone to pay attention to you is to let her know that you admire her and want help from her. So act like you want a mentor, and your job will suddenly become meaningful because you might actually get a mentor.

2) Try and fix the orphaned parts of the company.

Terrible companies are managed terribly, Trunk says, so we should try and make those pain points less terrible. Maybe folks are still clueless on social, so you may need to socialize them; maybe they don’t know a lick about analytics, so you may need to get anal; maybe they are emotionally unintelligent, so you may need to help them emote.

But this ought not demote you, notes Trunk. It’ll be a promotion, a braggable slam dunk:


. . . in the terrible company, there are dumped projects everywhere. You should pick one up and start fixing it. Even if you can only fix it a tiny little bit, on your resume it’s going to look really good. It will say increased efficiency 20%, increased revenue 21%, decreased staffing costs 30%, because it’s really easy to have this type of achievement when you’re dealing with complete stupidity at the onset.

3) Tune your resume–and work to do so.

Why’s fixing the crap parts of the company a good idea, aside from feeling as though you scored a touchdown on an interception?

Because you throw that sucker on your resume and bring it up in your next interview. As we know, we humans are creatures of the signals we receive, and we need to be able to send the right signals to the next harried hiring manager that’ll fall in love with us.

So by zeroing in on an orphaned project and cultivating it mightily, we can then use it as a case study in how unstoppable and adaptable we are. Google head HR guy Laszlo Block has said that the only reliable signal for hiring is the stories people can provide about how they sculpted their successes. So think of a crap job as an opportunity to hone your sculpting skills.

[Image: Flickr user Sherpa_536]


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.