Quitting one job for a better one happens all the time; but promoting that better job with the employer you’re leaving?  What’s that?

That’s exactly what Chris Holmes, 31, an aspiring baker who resigned from his job as Border Agency official at London’s Stanstead Airport did: He wrote his resignation letter in frosting on one of his cakes (note: image of his cake is shown at the link)—a letter that included an invitation to order more cakes from him, if the first was a hit.

Written in delicate swirls, the letter declared,

“Today is my 31st birthday, and having recently become a father I now realize how precious life is and how important it is to spend my time doing something that makes me, and other people, happy. For that reason I hereby give notice of my resignation in order that I may devote my time and energy to my family and to my cake businesses which has grown steadily over the past few years.

I wish the organisation and my colleagues the best for the future and I remind you that if you enjoy this cake, you can order more at www.mrcake.co.uk.”

Beneath the sweet surface of that resignation cake and whimsical story is a savvy employment-segue strategy—indeed, a smart resignation strategy:  Find some way to strengthen your new job by promoting it with your soon-to-be ex-employer (without necessarily being “cute”).

Two Kinds of Great Parting Shots

In attempting this, it is important to distinguish two kinds of self-promoting parting shots:

1. Those, like Holmes’ resignation format, that not only offer some value to the current employer (e.g., in the form of a free quitting-day cake), while generating social and economic value for the departing employee (e.g., as a nice gesture and as potential future cake sales), but that are also designed to elicit that employer’s validation of the reason for quitting to take that new job (e.g., if the cake is a hit in the office, quitting to get rich and/or have fun making more of them will be validated as the smart thing to do).

Psychologically, this will put the current employer in a “double bind”: the valued-employee resignation (a bad thing) takes the form of a free, fantastic cake (a good thing).

This means, as a minimum, a certain level of employer ambivalence about the resignation (as well as about supporting the budding cake business that has pirated one of his valued employees). In some instances, this may prompt pleas to not quit and an employer offer of revised, improved working conditions.

2. Resignations that promote the resigning employee, rather than that employee’s next job. Here, too, a cake can be used with good effect, as it ritualistically was at China Daily, Hong Kong (where I worked as an editor and writer a few years ago).

Virtually all resigning Chinese staff in my department followed the tradition of providing a big box of choice cakes to mark their own departure, irrespective of what their next job was to be.

In the case of an employee who is being let go, the farewell cake may have the effect or serve the intention of triggering some employer guilt, gratitude or ambivalence (even if only as evidence of employee self-redemption, atonement or self-validation).

Common to both of these forms of parting shots is the intended or merely resulting employer gratitude or ambivalence, plus some form of self-promotion (of one’s character or one’s next job).

If Holmes had himself been at all ambivalent about quitting or about his new job, the cake might have become a catalyst for a “counter-offer” from his employer, to make the job he was resigning from more attractive.

The first form is unique and different from the second, inasmuch as it also provides a justification for resigning. To the extent that “Mr. Cake” Holmes’ baked resignation letter has gone viral on the Net, the justification for quitting and doing it in the manner that he did has and will become even stronger.

This latter point suggests another variation of the self-promotional resignation: Consider resigning in some spectacular fashion that will make you an Internet sensation and inundate you with job offers.

This tactic approximates the cake model very closely, since the unusual form or circumstances of such a resignation, like Holmes’ cake, enhances the prospects for success with the next job.

The key difference, however, is that a dramatic, off-beat resignation, such as lowering yourself on a rope or with suction cups outside a window on the 23rd floor to dangle both your body and resignation in view of your boss, will only enhance your chances of getting your next job, not of succeeding at a job you are leaving to take. (Of course, if you try this kind of Spider Man stunt, you may only enhance your odds of proving you are odd.)

Following the Way of the Cake

I offer the following as suggestions of ways in which to emulate Mr. Cake:

  • Policeman leaving to work for the federal government: Write your resignation on a photo of an armored personnel carrier (APC) and mention that once you are working for Homeland Security, you’ll try to get your town police department a great deal on at least one new or refurbished DHS- subsidized Bear Cat APC.
  • Accountant quitting to go to work for the IRS: Use the back of an IRS audit authorization form and suggest that your current boss file his return in a timely, more accurate and complete way.
  • Used Ford car lot sales manager moving on to a Mercedes dealership: Tell the Ford manager that, since he knows the difference between a Ford and a Mercedes, he may be interested in a “manager’s discount” that may be arranged on a Mercedes lease.
  • University staffer or instructor switching schools: Suggest to your current department chairperson that a program affiliation between the two schools is something worth exploring, e.g., student exchange, technology sharing, which you could help facilitate. (I’ve done that, more than once.)

Some such ideas may be too whimsical or hard to pull off, e.g., the APC deal; others, such as the university affiliation plan, provide sober, feasible resignation options that can simultaneously promote one’s next job and oneself.

As a minimum, even if a resignation doesn’t promote a next job, it should be designed to be as self-promoting as possible

…especially when it’s a piece of cake.


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