Ever think about what your last day on the job will be like?

Will you let everyone know what you really thought? Or break down sobbing at the idea of the people you'll be leaving behind?

Maybe you'll write an op-ed like that guy who quit Goldman Sachs did a few years ago?

Set those ideas aside.

Take inspiration instead from Jeff Roland, an American Airlines captain who retired this week after 33 years in the air. His last flight was American's 8:42 a.m. departure Sunday from Los Angeles to Dallas.

Rather than simply say goodbye over the loudspeaker, he wrote a letter to his passengers, letting them know about the milestone--and thanking them.

Among the folks on the plane: reporter Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, who posted the letter on Twitter. He called the scene "touching." Roland's entire family was seated in first class for his final flight. 

Here's a sample of what Roland had to say in his letters to passengers. (The whole thing is embedded at the end of this article.)

Certainly, I'll miss flying this $200 million Boeing 787. ... But most of all, I will miss serving you, my precious passengers. Transporting you to destinations all over the world, while you graciously endured my lame PA's, critiqued every single landing, and thanked me for safe flying, provided purpose for this lifelong endeavor.

...

I'm not going to weep because it's over.
I'm going to smile because it happened!

It's charming and thoughtful. The whole thing is less than 250 words--an epilogue to an entire career on a single side of paper (in what I think is 12-point Times New Roman).

Far more people will likely read Roland's letter than ever flew with him (thanks to people like the L.A. Times reporter and, dare I say, articles like this one.)

But the folks on the plane this week, and perhaps you, will remember something positive about him.

To break it down, it's all because he did six things right. Keep them in mind the next time you have to say goodbye, especially in a business environment.

1. He put it in writing.

Yep, it's a letter. He celebrated his milestone. I'm sure he had hearty congratulations and hugs all around. And he did it in writing. 

2. He rattled off the numbers.

Here are some of them: "33 years, 10,000+ flights, over 2 million passengers, more than 30 million gallons of Jet-A fuel, 28,000 flight hours." 

3. He thanked the people he needed to thank.

First and foremost: the passengers, without whom there would be no airline. But Roland also thanked his coworkers, and also the corporate leadership behind American Airlines over the years. It all seems sincere. 

4. He added a little humor.

I don't know for sure if Roland has kids, but as a dad myself I can say: he's got "dad humor" down pat. ("AA only made one big mistake ... they paid me, and I would have done this for free!") It doesn't matter; the point of adding humor here isn't to make people laugh. It's to express joy.

5. He brought his family.

As Farmer of the L.A. Times pointed out, his family was along, sitting in first class. An airline pilot spends a lot of time away from his or her family. It's touching and important that he was able to include them in this milestone.

6. He said goodbye.

Actually, the last words on his letter to passengers were simply, "Thank you." If you can say that on the way out of whatever job you're leaving, you've probably done something right.

Published on: Jan 29, 2018