If you’re planning on making a major career move, take a cue from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal resignation.
They left an institution with its established culture, responsibilities and expectations to embark upon the unknown.
As speculation builds around their new ventures, charities and passion projects, lessons can be gleaned from their experiences about exiting stage left to start a new chapter, even when it seems difficult — and foolhardy — to leave a lucrative position.
Kenny Rosenzweig of Prospect Heights can relate to their decision. He didn’t feel satisfied practicing corporate law. “I knew my passion laid elsewhere,” he says. “I had more life to give. I wanted to create a difference in the world that felt right to me.”
So, in 2017, he took a leave of absence, explaining to the law firm that he wanted to research a venture. He teamed up with a former colleague, Nadav Ben-Chanoch of Chelsea, with whom he bonded during morning CrossFit workouts near the law firm. The result was a boutique fitness studio boot camp, Rowgatta, which they opened in Union Square last year.
“The partnership was incredibly supportive of my decision to pursue an entrepreneurial path,” says Rosenzweig. “It’s very important to not burn bridges, and I tried to avoid that by being honest. I approached my mentors and let them know how I was truly feeling and what I wanted to attempt.”
Rosenzweig says that although his old path was lucrative, it’s passion and happiness that trump the steady paycheck. “The thought of waking up in 10 years — albeit quite rich — in the same situation was pretty dreadful and that actually scared me much more than the risk of leaving.”
Ben-Chanoch says he hasn’t looked back in pursuit of his best life.
“Change is always scary, but I’d rather roll the dice on something that may make me happy than continue to do something that I know never will.”
Roy Cohen, a Midtown-based career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide” (FT Press) says while there’s always a risk involved when making a bold decision, “a career that is navigated by always taking the familiar and safest path may ultimately lead to disappointment and frustration.”
As long as you’re aware of risks of departing and have a safety net, he says, you’ll be better equipped to deal with setbacks. “Go for it, but don’t be reckless,” he says. “Your goal and why it makes sense both from your perspective and the market’s, should always be fleshed out and vetted before you jump into the deep end.”
Communication is key to a successful departure says Gail Golden, author of “Curating Your Life: Ending the Struggle for Work-Life Balance” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, out April 8).
“Choose the right communication channel, which is in person, if possible, almost never on e-mail or text,” she says. “I think it’s very unfortunate that Harry and Meghan announced their decision on social media before discussing it with their family.”
You may need references someday, so leave on good terms. “Your digital DNA has a long shelf life,” says Cohen. “No matter how you feel about the separation, you may also find yourself needing an ex-boss or colleague as a reference.”
Positive exits also mean giving at least two weeks’ notice rather than leaving abruptly. Also, ensure there aren’t any conflicts of interest. Review your employment contract for non-compete agreements. Typically, they will list companies and restrict you from working there for a specific amount of time after departure.
“Despite the belief that non-compete agreements are largely unenforceable, rich companies have deep pockets,” says Cohen. “They can make life miserable for you and for the company that hires you by drawing you into an extended and costly legal battle.”
Alina Vandenberghe also walked away from a high-flying job, having climbed the corporate ladder of product management from intern to senior vice president in just six years. Yet, despite exceeding $300,000 a year plus bonus, the role demanded too much in exchange for her happiness, right down to the dress code.
“I felt pressure to dress a certain way to match the office dress code and parties,” says Vandenberghe, a Fort Greene resident originally from Romania. “Prada and Dolce & Gabbana boxes from Gilt were on my doorstep weekly. I was always wearing high heels.”
Vandenberghe became increasingly frustrated, dreading going to work every morning. Eventually, she reached out to a psychiatrist.
“Because of my upbringing, I had a very hard time saying what other people wanted to hear me say. Every time I had to embellish something just because I needed to win votes for a new budget, it killed a little bit of me inside. I found myself face-to-face with a fake self that I didn’t recognize anymore,” she says.
So, in 2015, she resigned. “The tipping point was when I had to beg for a vacation just to get married. I received a full week for both my wedding and honeymoon with a lot of pushback.”
Vandenberghe went on to co-found Chili Piper, an online platform that offers solutions for companies’ Web sites, and she now cherishes the ability to carve her own path. She even rewarded her employees with a trip to Ibiza in October to celebrate meeting revenue targets. “Now I have the luxury of only attending parties if I want to, not because I have to,” she says.
For people to be engaged with their work, they need to understand why their work matters and how they as individuals contribute to that impact, says Golden. “If your workplace doesn’t provide that clarity, then chances are you’re going to be just putting in time at work, rather than pursuing your greatness there.”