Living your best life also means having the courage to leave a job or career that no longer serves you. And, once you do plan your exit, you should be equipped to negotiate on your own behalf a severance package that suits you. Powerful Penny founder Cheryl Grace wholeheartedly believes that a fabulous life doesn't just happen, we create it—from careers to love and everything in between.

Grace was one of the featured speakers during the Leading Women Defined Summit, that took place from March 16, 2023 to March 19, 2023. During her session, the corporate exec schooled attendees on how to move to the next level with confidence, while equipping them with the tools to part ways with a company.

EBONY chatted with Grace ahead to get a better understanding of what her company Powerful Penny is all about and how to be your biggest advocate when it comes to negotiating the "perfect" exit compensation package.

EBONY: Tell us about Powerful Penny and what it entails.

Cheryl Grace: Powerful Penny LLC is an executive coaching, consulting and lifestyle firm that specializes in helping women of color advance to their next level in three core areas of their lives: at work, in love and at home. We work with women of color and the companies who hire them to ensure employees have the confidence, skills and professional development necessary to achieve their career aspirations from entry-level to C-suite.

You spoke about exit strategies at LWD. At what point would an employee be able to seek a severance package? Are we always entitled to one?

Do your research prior to being called into a severance conversation. Don’t feel pressured to sign any documents until you’ve had an employment attorney review them. By law, companies do not have to offer a severance package and not all severance packages are created equally, even within the same company.

Could you share a few tips on how to properly negotiate the “perfect” severance package?

Don’t go into a severance conversation cold. Assume you will need to negotiate the best package for you.

  • Identify what your company offers individuals in similar positions.
  • Meet with your accountant, financial advisor and legal expert to ensure you are factoring in how much everything is going to cost you, including taxes and your reputation. Factor in everything that is important to you: being paid for unused sick or vacation days; keeping your laptop; keeping your phone and/or phone number; having them pay for your health insurance for a set period of time; and, of course, any bonuses, stocks and other perks you’ve been receiving.
  • Once you know what you want, then counter the original offer with your customized offer.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable negotiating on your own behalf, there are independent services you can hire to do it for you.
  • While you are negotiating, don’t share details with anyone, even those inside the company. You don’t know where leaks might spring up when you are on your way out; you might be unpleasantly surprised.

    Beyond severance packages, is there something else an employee should seek or prepare for when preparing to leave a company? 

    If an employee feels they have not been treated equitably, you may want to consider seeking legal recourse. You need to understand your rights and what can be done other than filing an Equal Employment Opportunity EEOC claim.