It’s easy to get fired, but quitting your job can be hard. No one wants to get fired, of course, but the process is laid out for you. All you need to do is follow it, happily or not. But when you decide to quit, for whatever reason, well, then things get a bit more complicated.
“Take this job and shove it!” is a great song, but not a recommended method for leaving your old work space. It might feel good, especially if your tenure there was problematic, but that’s short-term thinking. If you leave with a wake of negative feelings behind you, that experience might come back to haunt you. Whether your job was a great learning experience, or a black spot on your resume, leaving that position with class, grace and respect is the proper course of action.
Easier said than done, right? Even if you have the best intentions, it’s possible you’ll step on some toes on your way out the door. So, what can you do to exit without drama? Here are some pointers on how to quit your job professionally.
Find the Right Time
If timing is everything, then be cognizant of it, and don’t pull out of the job in the middle of a major assignment or project. It’s always best to leave with a clean desk, with all of your tasks completed. You don’t want people to resent you. Be respectful; you’d expect the same behavior from others if they were in your position.
Tell Your Boss First
The worst thing you can do is start to whisper over the watercooler to all you coworkers about how you landed a great new position, and then the word makes its way to your superior. No matter what else you do correctly as you quit that job, this will leave a sour taste in your boss’ mouth. Be honest and direct, and most importantly, have the common decency to tell your boss first.
No Trash Talk
You might love the place you’re leaving, or maybe you hate it. Either way, it shouldn’t affect your conduct. You’re leaving, so why make it a miserable experience for everyone by trash talking the place as you have one foot out the door? Again, it’s helpful to change the perspective and imagine that it’s not you, but a coworker, who is quitting. How would you feel it they said, “Boy, I’m glad to get out of this mess”? Not good, right? Even if you have criticisms about the place, if they’re not constructive, keep them to yourself.
Help Place Your Replacement
Spend the time you have left tying up all loose ends, such as paperwork and busywork, so you leave a clean slate for the person who’ll be filling your position. Then create a document that outlines your job responsibilities. Work on it with your boss, so they can use it for the job posting and also as a guide to help the new hire. Yes, it’s a bit more work, but it’s the right thing to do as a professional.
This might seem obvious, but often, especially if you’re moving from one job to another, it can be overlooked. Your new position might need you right away and, of course, you want to be enthusiastic about your new job, so you might be tempted to tell them you can start right away. But it’s a two-edged sword. First, you’ll be leaving your old company in the lurch. But if you instead tell your new organization that you need at least two weeks to properly transition to the new job, they’ll note your professionalism and trustworthiness.
Make Sure You’ve Got the Job
You can be as classy, graceful and respectful as a saint preparing to leave your job, only to discover that the new contract wasn’t signed. In the eyes of your supposedly new employer, you were still in the hiring process and competing against other qualified candidates. Whoops. Before you tell your boss or begin the process of leaving your job like a professional, please have that new job offer in hand, with all the I’s dotted and t’s crossed.
Write a Resignation Letter
Tell you boss first, as noted above, but don’t wing it. Even if you have a good relationship with management, it’s best to exit in a formal and structured manner. A letter of resignation is a good way to make the announcement. You can hand it over personally, and then talk with your boss. Crafting the letter also gives you an opportunity to create the right story to explain your departure. It’s not recommended that you lie, but saying you’re leaving because of a toxic work environment, personality issue or even money is considered impolitic.
Decide How to Tell Coworkers
Once you’ve written that resignation letter and have presented it to your boss, you should discuss the best way to inform everyone about your departure. Maybe the boss wants to control that conversation and make a general announcement. Maybe not, and it’s fine for you to speak freely. Or perhaps there’s another way the company prefers to deal with the situation. Let them take the lead.
Leave Your Desk Clean and Tidy
After you’ve spoken to the boss and have a plan to tell your coworkers that you’ll be leaving, it’s time to deal with your personal space. Over time an office, cubical or desk gets covered with the flotsam and jetsam of your person. Be they family photographs, silly work-related giveaways or even food stains from working though lunches, chances are your office space is a mess. Clean off your computer, remove all personal items and leave the space as you found it, clean and tidy, for the next person sitting there.
Whatever the reason for your departure, don’t slack off once you’ve given notice. You’re still getting paid for your work, so do the best you can, right until the minute you leave the job. Leave your former employer happier to have had you, not regretting the decision.
Stay in Touch
The more work experience you have, the larger your contacts. Don’t burn bridges because you might have to cross them again. Stay in contact with your old boss and coworkers. If you like them, that’s a plus, but even if you’re not friends that networking could help you later. Don’t forget to update your social media once you start the new job, so people can stay in touch with you. You might as well update your resume while you’re at it. You never know.
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