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The Most Professional Way to Leave Your Job in 5 Steps

Unsure of the appropriate way to pack up and leave your job? Here’s what you need to know. [TWEET]

You got the job offer! Congratulations. You made it through rounds of interviews and now have an exciting new opportunity in front of you.

According to the data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 3 million employees voluntarily left their jobs in February 2016. That may be a reflection of the improving economy, as well as the increasing level of employee dissatisfaction. A recent study by Mercer showed that 2 out of 5 private sector employees are considering leaving their jobs.

Excitement aside, your next step may be tricky. You have to tell your managers and co-workers that you have accepted an offer elsewhere, and that can be nerve-wracking. When do you tell them? How do you prepare for the conversation? What if they get upset you are quitting your job?

Don’t you wish there was a checklist for resugbubg from a job?

Actually, you don’t have to wish it. Here is what you need to do.

1. Make sure the offer is finalized and official – before you make your move.

That means a signed offer letter or an employment agreement, finalized details on benefits, any additional steps you may have to take before you start (certain positions require tests and vaccinations), and your start date. Get your ducks in a row, and be 100% certain that you have a place to land after quitting your job.

2. Think through the transition plan.

Consider your timing. Two weeks’ notice is the business norm, and common courtesy to your employer. Even though you may not be technically required to give more notice than that (check your contract), in some situations you may consider doing so anyway. If your position is specialized, complex, or mission-critical to the company, you may think about staying longer to give your employer time to find your successor. If your industry has a busy season, you may time your departure in a way that does not leave your team in a lurch.

When I was transitioning out of a Controller role to move across the country, I gave what amounted to 6 months’ notice. It may seem extreme, but I had a great relationship with my boss (who remains a mentor to this day), and knew that he would be supportive of my decision. I wanted to leave him in a good place, with a strong team led by a Controller who had the benefit of an extended on-boarding process. I helped my boss hire my successor, and trained her before I left. I also timed my departure to happen after key annual deliverables were completed. My boss has been appreciative ever since.

Create a transition plan. Think of it as a care packet for your successor. List key deadlines, status on the projects you won’t be able to complete, and critical bits of information that you would want to know if you were in their shoes.

Skeptics may argue that your successor won’t read this document, and you are wasting your time. That is always a possibility. The way I see it, it does not matter whether your successor uses the document or ignores it. For the rest of your professional life, you get the benefit of knowing that you have done your best to leave your area in a good, easy-to-pick-up condition. That is worth something.

3. Communicate.

This may be difficult for some of you, particularly if you did not enjoy a smooth relationship with your boss or co-workers. If you would rather resign by text and never see the office again, resist the temptation to do so. This is not the road to take when determining how to quit a job.

Remember that your communications plan must start with your direct manager. Regardless of his personality and relationship with you, he deserves to know first – before you tell co-workers or his superiors. Get clarity on how he or she wants to handle the communication to the rest of the office.

Give some thought to how you tell your story – think strategically about how you explain your decision to pursue another opportunity, and do your best to stay positive. Saying that you hate it there, and wish you had never taken the job, may not be the most constructive path. Be honest, but consider framing the departure in a positive light.

Stay professional. Even if your manager becomes upset. Be clear that you are available and willing to help create a transition plan for your successor. Express your intent to leave your projects in good shape, with open items and deadlines defined, to minimize loss of momentum.

Have a plan in case your manager comes back with a counter-offer. Have personal clarity on what it would take for your old company to keep you. If the answer is “nothing,” thank your manager and stick to your guns.

Lastly, be prepared to be escorted out after giving your notice. If by quitting your job you are taking a position with a competitor, your manager may have security staff watch you as you pack up your personal belonging, and walk you out of the building. Remember that this is not personal – your manager is simply following corporate policy.

4. Keep your focus.

I know that you are excited about what’s next for you, but don’t let it fool you into thinking that what you do during your final weeks at your old job doesn’t matter. Show up, and work diligently until your very last hour. Even if you won’t be able to see your projects through to completion, try to make progress, and leave detailed status notes and next steps for the person who will take over.

5. Exit with grace.

This is easiest done if you liked your co-workers and your boss, but do try to leave on a positive note no matter what. Thank people for the experience, the opportunities, and the learnings that you are taking with you. Have a private conversation with your mentor or sponsor, and other people who have been supportive and helpful. And, if you choose to, stay connected. Whether you use Facebook, LinkedIn, e-mail, or meeting up for coffee, stay in touch with the people who matter to you.

In conclusion, the best way to leave you job is better than you have found it. Whether or not your old boss and co-workers deserve that is not as important as being able to uphold your personal and professional standards. That way, when resigning from a job you get to close the door with your head held high, knowing that you have done your part.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!