“Boss, do you have a minute?”
My rear end found its way to the seat across him. He turned towards me and gave me a welcoming look. He looked particularly calm that day, for no apparent reason.
“Uhm… I have something for you“. I took out the white envelope which was tucked in my yellow note book and handed it to him.
He opened the envelope, unfolded the letter and read it. I took a deep breath while observing his response.
He placed the letter on his desk and looked up to me.
“Okay. Have you found a new place to go to?”
“So why would you want to leave - now?”
“I think I will be able to manage well. I would also like some time to just think through my plans, what I want to do and which direction I should be heading to.”
My boss, my ex-boss I mean, was very calm in accepting my resignation. Much calmer than I expected and to be honest, than I had wished. This was my first time resigning from a job and being a novice in this area, I thought things would be like how they are almost always being portrayed on TV. I was secretly hoping my boss would be frantic a teeny-weeny bit for 5 seconds. But that didn’t happen. He may already be thinking of ways to celebrate when he spewed out encouraging words to me.
After walking out of his room, my face almost instantaneously lit up – maybe at the fact that the last obstacle which could prevent me from leaving had been overcome. I went back to my room and told Ching that I did it!
“Congratulations!” replied Ching with a beaming grin. She always has been supportive of me and my decisions and I am glad to have her walking through the process with me.
“So what now?” I thought to myself.
I leaned back onto my chair and looked at my desk then my shelfs and drawers, and remember thinking there’s quite a bit of packing I’d have to do. I also thought I should tell the other team members and close colleagues about the news. When I did, lots of them were taken aback but they thought I made the right call. Some of them even threw some green-eyed stares at me though I wasn’t sure if they were being sincere about it or not.
Then, I decided I should go home at 6pm, sharp, that day as, well, I think I deserved it. As I drove out of the parking lot, I have to admit something started sinking in. When I started to realise that I will not be driving through this spiral exit anymore, that I will not be able to catch a movie at 8pm then go back to office and continue working, that I will not be able to grab a cup of flat white from 8 Ounce so conveniently anymore, the emptiness started sinking in.
At some point in time, when my boss sent out brilliant e-mails advising the clients on legal issues and I was floored at the disparity between the initial draft I drafted and the one he edited and eventually went out, or when I received e-mails or phone calls from clients thanking me, or when a transaction closed successfully, the feeling of emptiness resumed.
But you know what would give that feeling of emptiness a run for its money? Pain. The pain of having to defend your decision before your parents whilst knowing they that they are and will still be sceptical of your decision. Don’t get me wrong – my parents are nice folks but from their perspective, resigning means bringing your future to a halt, saying no to money, going back to zero, and ultimately, it means giving up. I know these are their thoughts but they just would not say it. Instead, they make passing remarks and try to subtly pressure you into doing things their way which made things even harder for me to deal with. See, our family is a typical Asian family (as much as I’d hate to stereotype) whereby we do not like to discuss serious stuff. We do not like to confront each other. We’d chat, joke, banter but we don’t express our feelings or tell each other what we really think about each other or each other’s affairs.
I remember telling them that I wanted to quit the year before, my father merely acknowledged my remark and said nothing. The next day my mom told me that my father told HER that he thinks I should not quit easily because maybe things are not as bad as it had seemed and that the economy was bad – If I stay a little longer, things might turn around for the better. For the record, I don’t ever remember being told that the economy is good by anyone in any point of my life.
When I went home on the day I tendered, each of us went about with our routines without mentioning my resignation. I know my parents were really anxious for me. I could feel it but none of us wanted to say anything that night.
On the very next day, I was in my boss’ room and while waiting to join a conference call, my boss asked if I am really sure about quitting as he understood I have commitments. I reassured him that I can manage and that there are a few interviews lined up already.
That was a lie. The truth is, my job hunting process had a rocky start. I blamed it on the timing. I had begun snooping around in the 4th quarter of the previous year. That time of the year also happened to be the time when undergrad students would have just graduated and pupils would have just been called to the Bar (Malaysian Bar, not the non-halal one). So needless to say, that quarter was the peak season for these youngsters to be joining me on the job hunting exercise. Can you imagine – HR going through piles of CVs with dashing or pretty faces on the cover pages and my face was slipped into those piles as well? What would be the odds that I would be picked for an interview? Having said that, I did manage to squeeze myself into a few slots and judging from some of the interviewers’ response when I told them I am still attached with a firm and I needed to give my employer 3 months’ notice, I figured I had with me, what was deemed to be a disadvantage – I am not ready to commit.
So, after some time of snooping around, I decided I needed to be readily available for my future employee even if it means facing the risk of having to use my savings to pay for bills after I have finished serving my notice. That was what prompted me to hand in the letter.
When the emptiness (and pain) sort of subsided, anxiety very quickly kicked in. I knew I have only 3 months to score a new job.
A senior heard about the news of my impending departure and took me out for dinner. During the dinner, he gave lots of advice, really practical ones.
“If you don’t know where to start, go to a recruitment agency. They tend to have opportunities which are not advertised in the public domain and if a company is rich enough to pay such agency to scout for talents, you bet they are rich enough to pay you higher than the rates outside.”
That stuck in my head and when I headed back home that night, I figured there is no harm trying. So I fired up my laptop and sent an email to this recruitment agency which topped the list of my Google search results.
I heard my phone beeping before 5 minutes was even up. A man named Sid replied me. He asked me out for lunch and we did. He asked me many questions, as I’d expected but above that, he threw in a barrage of compliments. He commended the qualities and professional skills that I seemingly possessed. He said he would pass my resume to their existing clients even if some of them are not looking because well according to him, companies would not pass up on people with great calibre like myself. Oh the stuff headhunters are capable of saying!
So I went to work while waiting. The atmosphere in the office changed – a lot. Whilst I was feeling insecure about my future, I also simultaneously felt very excited about the limitless possibilities. That, and knowing the fact that I will not be dealing with some of those not-so-friendly clients anymore or working through the night or the weekend to finalise transaction agreements so that we could get the clients’ directors to sign the papers before they fly off for their holiday.
And I surprisingly found myself being overwhelmed by the kindness, camaraderie and warmth from the people in the office. This sentiment was even noted by Ching who said she felt very warm (not to be taken literally) in the room because from time to time, people would drop by, check on me, give me little but very meaningful tokens and take me out for farewell meals.
There were several times my boss informed me of openings in his or some other Partners’ clients’ places. He even mentioned he can arrange for me to meet up with those clients. When I did well in something, he would suggest that I boast about them in my interviews. He highlighted my strengths and asked me not to feel small about myself. He was just sweet through and through after I tendered my resignation. Each time he was being sweet, the emptiness came back and lingered briefly.
My senior - the one whom I worked very closely with throughout my tenure with the firm – probably was the exception to all the niceness described above. When I told her I have handed in my resignation letter, she didn’t seem to be too concerned and appeared to have seen it coming. She was a nice person and an intelligent lawyer with a bright future. My boss adores her. But we both know us working together will do only more harm than good to me and my wellbeing. Until today, I still cannot quite decide if I should continue to loathe her or relinquish my grudges. I know she tried to turn things around for me without telling me but it may have been too little too late.
Sid finally called the week after our lunch. He told me there is this company looking for an in-house counsel but the office is in Shah Alam and they’d be happy to meet me. At that time, I had not heard of the name of that company and the office was quite a distance away from where I live. So I was seriously hesitant about it. He urged me to attend the interview and to take the opportunity to assess the environment rather than rejecting the opportunity so hastily. I heeded his advice. I was not left with much choice anyways.
On the day of the interview, I decided to drive to that place instead of hopping onto a Grab car despite my lack of navigation skills and instinct. I was glad I did because it was quite a pleasant drive to the office. A long stretch of the road leading to the office was lined with hundreds of tall, leafy trees. When I entered into the multiple storied building and ushered into a meeting room, I walked pass the staff work stations and to my surprise, there were no room or cubicles in there. Except for a few meeting rooms at the corner, the entire floor was just a large space filled with desks, chairs and white boards. I even saw someone cooking in the pantry. Like she was holding a frying pan and firing up the stove. What? The place was bustling, people were talking and laughing and suddenly, I had this tingling feeling that I might actually like this place.
I went through the interview and the General Counsel turned out to be my senior from my college. Hah! We did not know each other of course. She introduced the business of the company and one thing she said which struck me the most was the fact that one of the company’s values is caring. Throughout the interview, she did not mince her words and was absolutely frank with me in what I should be expecting from working in this company. She admitted that this can be an inconvenient place to work in as we’d have to drive out for lunch and we absolutely cannot park outside the allocated slots or else we risk receiving a summon from the police. But – I love this place already!
I did not receive any call from Sid for the next month or so. I was getting more anxious. I did in the meantime attend few more interviews and one of them came back with an offer! Yay! But deep down, I knew the company which Sid introduced is the place I want to be in.
In my final week with the firm, my team brought me to a restaurant serving Northern Indian cuisine for lunch. It was never officially declared that it was my farewell lunch but we all know what it was for. Coincidentally, my boss ran into his pupil master in that restaurant! They shook hands and greeted each other and my boss, quite naturally, pointed towards me and said to him, “This is your grand pupil.”
I gasped a little and may have let out a shy squeal.
On that very day, Sid called and told me I got the job.