Leaving a job is a process that is always nerve-racking. You’ve built relationships with your boss and colleagues. In return, they’ve invested a lot of time and effort in your development. Their reaction to your decision can produce a lot of anxiety: how will they handle the news? What if your manager gets mad at you? Will you seem ungrateful for leaving the opportunity they gave you?
Despite all these scary thoughts, you must remember that you’re certainly not the first person who has left the company, and you won’t be the last. Quitting is a natural part of the working world. But sometimes it’s still easy to ruffle some feathers during the resignation process. You don’t want to burn any bridges, so leaving with grace is crucial for maintaining the health of your professional relationships and, ultimately, making your next career move.
Follow the steps below to ensure your exit is a smooth one.
Notify your employer in person. Do not resign via email, sent at 5:01 pm after you see your boss leave the office for the day. Schedule a meeting and let your immediate boss know in person that you will be leaving your position. It makes a good impression, shows respect and self-confidence and that you have strong interpersonal skills to face the conversation head on.
Respect the hierarchy. If you work with multiple senior-level colleagues, it is important to allow your supervisor time to determine how to communicate your departure to others.
Give two-weeks’ notice. This is generally the minimum of “required” time you need to give your current employer. However, two weeks isn’t always an appropriate amount of notice. Staying a little longer to fulfill your current responsibilities shouldn’t harm your relationship with your next employer.
Don’t leave your employer in a bind. Although we don’t recommend staying more than two weeks after resigning, we do recommend providing a summary of work outstanding and next steps. If you haven’t already done so, organize important documents so they can be located quickly. There may be a knowledge gap when you leave, but make it as easy as possible for your replacement to pick-up where you left off.
Write a resignation letter. Writing a resignation letter for human resources and your manager clarifies that you’re leaving the company. Your future employer may request your employment records to find out if you left on your own or got fired, so it’s important to put this information in writing. Keep the letter short. Include three main elements: the fact that you’re resigning, the specific date of your last day work, and a brief note of appreciation for the opportunity. Check out our tips for writing your resignation letter.
Offer training services. There may be an immediate opportunity for you to train your replacement. Do so graciously.
No need for explanation. You do not have to feel obligated to explain your reason for leaving. If your reason for leaving is based on a spouse being relocated, or an opportunity that allows more professional growth, it is okay to share that with your current employer.
If you have a mutually respectful relationship, there should not be any hard feelings. However, if you are leaving because you are unhappy in your current company, be cautious about offering constructive feedback. Negative comments could cause a backlash; it’s best to avoid specifics.
Don’t share a new job too soon. A new job opportunity is always exciting. But hold off on sharing the news on Facebook and LinkedIn until your new employment begins.
Keep colleagues in the loop. Co-workers you’ve known for years merit a heads up about your decision. In an announcement email, write about your positive experiences working for the company and avoid trashing it. Always take the high road and be positive.
Save the angst for outside-work friends. Leaving a job and people you love is hard, and it is one of the times in your life where you really can assess the quality of life in comparison to compensation. Don’t enlist your current colleagues in your process, deliberations, or agonies. You don’t want to make them question their own career choices, or just put them in an uncomfortable spot.
Avoid emotional outbursts. If you are leaving your job because you are unhappy or can’t work with certain fellow employees, keep the negative feelings to yourself. Launching into a tirade against your boss may provide some momentary bliss, but it can haunt you later. Their endorsement may be critical in helping you land future jobs.
Retain relationships. You want everyone you worked with to be a positive reference.
It’s important to leave a good impression behind with all those with whom you’ve interacted. Employers can use avenues like social media to find non-listed references because they expect that a supplied reference is always going to give them a positive endorsement.
Show gratitude toward the most influential. While you may have worked well with everyone, one or two individuals may have been instrumental in helping you achieve success. Verbally thank them or write a personal note describing how the working relationship positively benefited you.
Write a thank you note. Everyone will remember a handwritten note because they’re so few and far between. For those who mentored you or you worked with closely, write a thank you on some nice stationery. Include what you like about that person, a specific situation that left a lasting impression, and your personal contact information so you can stay in touch in the future. Either leave it on their desk or mail it to them after you go. They won’t forget it. If the relationship between you and your boss was strained, pen a note that finds the silver lining and show your appreciation.
Endings and transitions can be challenging, exciting, and a bit scary. These are times when you want to have as many friends and colleagues as possible on your side. Manage your exit well, and you will have a cheering section rooting for your success—and hoping to work with you again as soon as possible.
You never know what will happen in the future. You might be interviewing for another job in a few years and find your old coworker is the hiring manager. Or, you may realize this great opportunity isn’t so great after all. No matter what happens, leaving on a positive note is the best thing you can do. Keep those professional connections intact.
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