offering to consult after resigning

A reader writes:

Pending a job offer, I’m looking to leave my current organization, a non-profit, where I have been for over 5 years. During this time, there has been a tremendous amount of growth – when I started there were just over 30 full-timers, now there are well over 200. While there, I launched all web and e-business practices and I can solidly say I am currently the only one on staff that can maintain the current website. When I resign, I would like to offer my services as a “consultant” or at least continue the work they need on a part-time basis until they hire another full-timer, which I do not think will be a quick nor easy thing. While the option of taking a consultant hourly wage is extremely beneficial for me, my hope is to offer them the best financial option with the easiest transition because I certainly do still care about the organization and don’t want to see it struggle. I believe I could make double my current hourly salary doing this, as well as underbid any flat web consultant they could hire – who would not know the business or those things that are particularly difficult to accomplish in our industry.

So with all the being said, what is a proper and appealing way to approach this as I resign? I certainly don’t want to seem cocky or rude, but they are going to be a bit shocked, and even more so if they sever ties with me with no back-up plan.

This should be pretty straightforward. When you meet with your manager to give your resignation, say that you want to help however you can to ease the transition, including continuing to work on a consultant basis until they have a replacement trained. Your boss will likely not give you an answer then and there, and meanwhile you should also mention the other usual things you should offer when you want to leave an organization on good terms, such as working during your remaining time there to thoroughly document your areas of responsibility, leaving a detailed training manual for your replacement, etc.

If your manager doesn’t bring up your offer to work as a consultant on her own after that, it’s fine to directly inquire — “Sue, have you had a chance to think about whether you’d want me helping out as a consultant after I go?” If the organization is interested, they might have no idea what an appropriate rate of pay is — they may even think it’s appropriate to offer whatever your current salary breaks down to when calculated as an hourly rate. If so, you can explain that consultants typically charge more than salaried workers, because they aren’t getting benefits, etc. Tell them what rate you think would be fair, and explain that it’s lower than the market rate for this sort of work because you care about the organization (assuming that it is).

Do be prepared for the possibility that they won’t take you up on it, of course. I would actually be surprised if a 200-person organization wasn’t able to continue running their Web site in this situation since — unless the site is in some particularly rare programming language — a competent Web person should be able to step in and pick up where you left off. That doesn’t mean your offer won’t be hugely helpful — it very well may be, particularly while they’re searching for a replacement. But we all tend to think our offices would be in shambles without us, even though life goes on when someone resigns. I mean that in a nicer way than it probably sounds; it’s clear that you care about your nonprofit and I like that. Good luck, and write back and tell us what happens.

{ 2 comments… read them below }

  1. Rachel - Employment File*

    Make sure you note that you’ll do everything possible to ease the transition BEFORE you leave. You don’t want to make it look like you’re setting them up for failure to use it to your financial advantage.

    This is also why I recommend people keep notes on how to do their job and start quietly transitioning when they start looking rather than after they have an offer.

  2. almostgotit*

    I am sad to report having made the unfortunate discovery, myself, that very few organizations are as devastated by one’s departure as they ought to be.

    Chances are quite good that the organization will find a way to manage without you, especially if they have even the slightest tinge of hurt feelings, themselves, that you won’t be as devastated by living without THEM as you ought, either.

    I’ve now watched two former employers destroy my webpages along with many of the other good things I gave them, but neither organization disintegrated. It defied all logic. :) Naturally, they will never be the same without me, but they seem too stupid to have noticed.

    In short: the best thing? Don’t burn any bridges, but don’t expect your former employers to continue to provide income for you, either.

    Why did you resign? Hold on to that thought. It may well be time to move on!

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