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There’s no denying this is a satisfying phrase, especially if you’re burned out on your job.
But there’s an art to quitting gracefully, and it’s an important one to master. That’s because the work world is smaller than you might think, and it’s a terrible idea to burn bridges; current colleagues could become future clients, or you may someday choose to return to your old employer.
With your career longevity in mind, here are five ways to leave on a high note.
1. Make an Announcement Plan
Your boss should be the first to know. “People often make the mistake of telling their co-workers, but even if you share your intentions in confidence, word spreads, and your boss will not appreciate being caught off guard by the news,” says Chris Chancey, founder of Amplio Recruiting. Ditto for changing your status on LinkedIn or making any other mention on social media before you've wrapped up loose ends with your manager.
Once you’ve definitively accepted a new offer, email your boss to ask for a short meeting, which is more courteous than sending a note announcing your departure, says Chancey. Rehearse a script along the lines of, "Thank you for the opportunity to work here. While I have enjoyed my time and have learned (X and Y), I have accepted a job elsewhere and so my last day here will be (Z)." Follow up with a formal resignation letter, which documents the talk you had with your boss, and send a copy to your boss’ boss if appropriate, as well as your HR department.
Your resignation may come as a shock, so if your manager’s initial reaction is unsettling, don’t worry that it’s a reflection on you. He or she is likely worried about who will cover your workload, how clients will respond and even how it might affect team morale.
Above all, don’t walk out without notice. “I've seen candidates struggle in future job searches because they destroyed important relationships and lost much-needed references by making a dramatic exit,” Chancey says. So no matter how excited you are about the new job or how fed up you are with the old one, avoid the temptation to just leave.
2. Do What You Can to Ease the Transition
Though a two-week notice is standard etiquette, consider how niche your role is and whether the new person might need extensive training, says Chancey. In that case, your boss will appreciate extra time for them to find your replacement and help with the transition.
If you do need to head to your next job before that process is complete, document your workflow and routines so someone else can pick up your tasks.
And find out from your boss how clients should be notified; ideally you’ll close the loop and offer the new point of contact, but your manager might want to be the one to make the introductions.
Volunteer to answer questions that arise once you’re gone. While it’s unlikely your team will contact you, offering leaves a good impression.
3. Don’t 'Leave' — Mentally or Physically — Before Your Last Day
You want to do your best work until the very end, says Marli Crowe, founder and CEO of Crowe Career Services. “Even though you may be experiencing ‘short-timer’s syndrome,’ this is not the time to slack off,” she says. “People will remember.”
That goes for even giving the impression that you have one foot out the door. “Sometimes people start removing things from their desk or cubicle as soon as they put in their notice,” she says. But in order to underscore that you’re still earning your paycheck, keep that desk plant or picture of your dog right where they are until a day or so before you leave.
4. Don’t Badmouth the Company, Your Manager or Colleagues
The goal is to leave without a story, says Rich Franklin, founder and president of KBC Staffing. “No matter how badly you want to tell your friends about how you left your job in a blaze of glory, don’t do it,” he cautions. Not only is it unprofessional, but the people watching often think you look desperate.
Even if you’re leaving because of a legitimate beef and feel that you’re just being honest, sharing the details in an exit interview rarely serves a purpose. “While it might feel good to inform the company that the real reason you’re leaving is because of your manager’s incompetency/ dismissiveness/ laziness/insert negative managerial quality, it often does more harm than good,” Franklin says. In the long run, it’s better to keep your references intact than to get something off your chest.
If you must vent, write all those negative rants in an email — and then delete it. (Put your own name in the “to” line just in case you reflexively hit “send.”)
And even if you truly liked the company and are just leaving because of a career pivot or new opportunity, downplay the bragging. Remember that everyone you’re leaving is staying, so they might not share your delight over the unlimited vacation or work-from-home option your new employer offers.
5. Keep In Touch
Remember those connections that are going to come back around? This is the time to nurture them. Set up a goodbye lunch with your team or acknowledge a co-worker or manager who made a special impact with a handwritten note or even a small present, suggests Crowe. For example, you could surprise your work BFF with a gift card to that coffee place where you two would escape to decompress. Or give your supervisors a book they would appreciate. Let them know that moving on for you isn’t about moving on from them.
And of course, this is the time to collect everyone’s personal emails and connect with them on LinkedIn. Some larger companies even have “alumni” networks where they keep in touch with former colleagues; it’s smart to join.