The Principle of Recency

The Principle of Recency

The most recent experience people have with you is what they remember best.

I recently came across this video about public speaking, and one of the most important points made is the Principle of Recency. Essentially, the Principle of Recency is that people remember best, what they hear last. That’s important for how you conclude your talk or presentation because that’s what people will remember! I think this principle also comes into play when you are leaving a job, or moving to another company.

How you leave a job can be as important as how you start it

I’ve coached a couple of clients through their exits in what could have been messy situations. In the first case, my client knew she had to make a move after her situation continued to worsen among her colleagues. She didn’t fit in, didn’t feel valued, and in spite of her quality work, couldn’t gain a promotion. What to do? Find a new job. So she did. And when it came time to leave, her old company offered her more money, and the promotion she wanted. Now she felt torn. But she values integrity, and she’d already told the new company she would take the job, so she decided to move forward with the new company.

In her exit interview, she answered HR questions truthfully, but in broad terms. She said she hoped she might be able to return to a particular department in the future. She felt good about her departure, the company realized it was losing a talented employee, and the door is now open to her return in the future if she wishes. She is being remembered for HOW she left the company, and the way in which she conducted herself: with class, and integrity.

Don’t burn bridges

Another client took a position at a new company after being recruited to a sales role with more responsibility and a higher salary. Right away, he knew he’d made a mistake. His sales philosophy didn’t match his new manager’s ideas, and he discovered that he didn’t connect with the new clientele. What to do? Stay, and be miserable, or have a difficult conversation with the new manager? He asked to speak to the manager.

He admitted that even though it was awkward and a difficult conversation – he explained how his sales strengths didn’t fit with the new company’s preferred style of selling. He didn’t believe it would be a good fit. He didn’t want to waste the company’s time, admitted he should have done more research, and gave his notice. The next day, the manager came into the store and told him how much he appreciated the honesty, and he respected my client for how he handled what could have been a tough situation. The client returned to his previous job, where he excelled in sales. And the reason he was able to do so – he’d left THAT job on great terms with his colleagues, as well as with the store manager, who never wanted him to leave in the first place.

Go out on a high note

I think the Principle of Recency counts. People remember their most recent experience with you. When you leave a job, an interview, or a presentation in a memorable manner that fits with your values, that’s how people will remember you. Go out on a high note!

What have been your experiences in leaving a post? Did you manage to leave a positive impression? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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