President’s Perspective: Exit Interview

Apr 4, 2023

In 2020 we started a podcast at Story Construction called Exit Interview. The primary purpose is to capture some company history from Story retirees and pass down some knowledge to the younger generations, but we’ve also done several with our industry partners and contributors to the Iowa construction industry. You can find all of the ones we’ve done (so far) here, or just look us up on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Without exception, these are fun to do, and we inevitably bring about new nuggets of information that I didn’t know or that had not been thought of or shared by the participant in a very long time. Many times, these discussions move through a range of emotions like joy, pride, laughter or sadness. While the goal is not to get raw during the podcast, sometimes it happens.

Once we conclude the session, I ask the participants if it was what they expected and if they enjoyed it. Few know what to expect anyway, so the response to that question is typically one of relief that it’s over. Universally, the participants enjoy it. It is a time of deep reflection and appreciation for many parts of their personal and professional lives that we don’t often take time to recall and share.

On Feb. 1 of this year, I had an exit interview with my dad. We did not record it, but we had it. He lived 12 years with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It was a rare form of pancreatic cancer that was not as aggressive as the normal type. Nonetheless, it is miraculous that we had 12 really good years of memories and quality of life. The day was inevitably going to come when the treatments would run their course and there would be no more options. That day was Jan. 31 during an appointment with his oncologist.

A couple years ago, my dad authored his own obituary. I read it then, written in first person. What I did not know is that he authored a memoir of his life, too. He asked me if I wanted to read it. Of course I did. It wasn’t long, yet there were many nuggets in it that I did not know or had not heard in a long time and had forgotten. We sat together for several hours as I read and asked questions about things that he would expand on. It led to more memories and storytelling from both of us. We had several laughs and some moments of preparing for what was coming. I will never forget it. It may have been my best exit interview yet – heard only by its participants. My dad told me how much he enjoyed our one-on-one time as I departed the next day. Me too, dad. Me too. He passed on Feb. 9, 2023.

I don’t often give a charge coming out of these perspectives, but if I was going to, it would be this: find someone you love and do your version of an exit interview with them. Long before either of you are up against a deadline. You will likely find that you will both enjoy it. You will learn some new things and recall what you had forgotten, and it will likely prompt another level of discussion you didn’t know you needed to have. I hope it is as meaningful for you as it was for me.

Mike Espeset