December 31st 2015 was my last day at work. The next day, I began working full time on MyKitaab Podcast and my writing. While the transition was quite smooth, the last month at work was a sort of an antithesis of smooth.
I can summarize that period in 3 words: ignored, bored, focused. Everytime I reflect on these three words, I realize how important it was for me to undergo the experiences mentioned below. My last month at work was a training ground for the future.
Getting Cold Shouldered is a Natural Response
My most recent Corporate job was not my first job straight out of college, and it was not for an entry level position. But the reaction of my co-workers made me feel like that.
In the Corporate hierarchy, I was probably reached the summit of middle management and knocking on the doors for upper management. But during the last month, practically everybody at my peer level and above simply stopped talking to me. And there was a sudden cutting of the cord, so to speak. No more invites to meetings, no company for lunch, not even a smile or a hello during the workdays. It was as if an unwritten memo had been floated around that I was no longer one of them and I was to be ignored. On the last day at work, my manager did not even say goodbye before I left. At 2 PM, I walked out of the office, and nobody even raised an eyebrow.
Three other persons from my department had quit in the preceding weeks. Two of them got a send-off dinner. The third person’s manager had brought a cake on that person’s last day at work. Somehow, amazon thought that when it came to me, these things didn’t matter. Even HR chose not to conduct an exit interview. After all, I had forced my way into the system by writing to Jeff Bezos directly. That’s a story for another day.
In hindsight, this was the best exit process that I had ever experienced. I hate send off parties, cake cutting or lunches. In any case, a majority of your co-workers forget you the moment you walk out of the door. And then there’s the great thing that happened. In India, there is this silly thing called Full and Final Settlement. It’s a mix of last month’s paycheck and other cash benefits that the employer pays you. Typically, this process takes up several months in some cases. As a huge thumbs up, my last month’s paycheck came within a month of my departure. I got the one thing that mattered the most at that point in time: money. Money that I needed to invest into my venture, Kamakshi Media.
Boredom is Imminent, But So is Focus
My last four weeks at work were spent in staring at a computer screen for hours, drinking several cups of coffee, writing notes into my diary, and waiting for 5 PM. Day after day, this pattern got repeated. I also learnt that it is very difficult to spend nearly 100 hours sitting at your desk when you have nothing to do. All the frustrations and work pressures seem so frivolous when one is faced with boredom.
One of the downsides of organizing all documents, memos, and reports on the company’s shared network drive is that the handover process takes less than 10 seconds. As a result, there was there was literally nothing to do in the last three weeks. But this d0wntime also gave me time to think about how I should run my venture. I ran a lot of if and then scenarios in my head, talked to a lot of people over the phone, and took a lot of notes. The upside was that the plans for the first quarter of 2016 were finalized by mid-December. This also gave me the focus that I needed. As I start planning for the next three to six months, a lot of those if and then scenarios are coming into play. More on that in a separate post.
To sum it up, my last month at work was the best thing to have happened to me. December 2015 in a way prepared me for what was to come in early 2016. And maybe beyond.
How It All Ties Together
In the past, when someone wanted to buy product X or get registered as a seller for item Y, all they had to do was to call me or send me an email. But over the past few weeks, I have been cold shouldered by many folks in my professional network, LinkedIn contacts, and even friends and family. You see, I was no longer useful to them. Such behavior would have typically bothered me, no, hurt and angered me. But now, I have stopped taking this lack of response personally. To me, it is a natural reaction of people.
There was an interesting learning from this experience: I sent out over 500 emails to the above groups of people, and every single one of them was personalized. My message informed the recipients that I was starting out on my own, what I planned to do next, and so on. Out of 500 plus email recipients, only six of them replied. All six are entrepreneurs, and they all offered to help me in whatever way they could. I found my six people who really care about me.
The downtime and boredom continues. I have sent several proposals to prospective clients, but there has been absolute silence from their end. There is more downtime than I had imagined, and this can very quickly lead to boredom. But that’s where the notes I took down back in December come to my rescue. Some of these notes are To Do lists, but they also highlight what my priorities are. For example, hiring, marketing and my first book launch are the immediate priorities, something that will keep me occupied as I wait for the phone to ring. Or maybe my mailbox will show the one email I am waiting for.