A year ago, quitting your job was unthinkable. One, there were no other jobs available. Two, you were already unemployed.
Okay, maybe you were and maybe you weren’t. But even though too many people are still looking for work, last month the U.S. added 151,000 new jobs — and there have also been other signs that, slowly but surely, the economy is starting to get stronger. So whether you’re ready to take the next step in your career or merely want to get the hell out of a job you hate, you may soon find yourself with the opportunity to quit your job.
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Thing is, quitting your job the wrong way can not only burn bridges where you work, it can damage your professional reputation — especially in tight-knit industries. “When you leave a job you’re actually impacting yourself two jobs down the line,” says Andrew Rosen, founder of jobacle.com and author of How To Quit Your Job: The Ultimate Guide to Leaving a Job Gracefully ($3 @ Amazon.com). “Leaving on good terms and making an exit from a job properly is a necessary evil. You never know if or when you’ll need anyone from a former place of employment in a professional capacity again.”
Translation? Delete the email with the subject line, “I quit, suckers!” and follow these tips.
Have a Plan
Before giving notice, devise a schedule that budgets time to tie up loose ends like emailing contacts your new contact information and finishing up whatever projects you can.
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“Be as organized in your departure as you were when you started,” Rosen says. “Decide on exact dates for things like giving notice, clearing out your desk, and meeting with HR regarding compensation for unused sick or vacation days.”
Request a Meeting With the Boss
In a couple weeks, your boss will no longer be your boss; he or she will become another person in your professional network, and you want that person in your corner. Even if your boss is a total dick.
So request an in-person meeting. It’s important that the news comes from you and not a coworker or a Facebook post. Know what you want to say ahead of time, but don’t memorize it. You’re not delivering a monologue; you’re simply revealing that you’ve decided to pursue another job opportunity. (It’s not necessary to deliver details if you don’t feel comfortable.)
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Follow-up with a formal, well-written resignation letter that includes the date you will resign and that highlights how grateful you are for the opportunity to have been part of the team. Even if you hated every second, find something that didn’t completely suck. When you’re satisfied with what’s on paper, hand a copy to your boss and the human resources department.
Give At Least Two-Weeks Notice
The folks in HR probably gave you a guidebook when you started. And you probably never read it. Well, now is the perfect time to dust it off and see how much notice they require. Providing two weeks is usually the standard; sticking around any longer than what’s required is a judgment call, but not always recommended.
“Giving more than two weeks can be a trap,” Rosen says. “Voluntarily staying for more time can add to your frustrations if you’re surrounded by coworkers who are jealous you’re leaving, or who are angry they’re going to take on extra work once you go.”
Don’t Phone It In
Whether you’re leaving because you hate your boss, your boss hates you, or you’ve just gotten tired of filing TPS reports, make sure you keep putting in a reasonable amount of effort up until your last day. You can even go as far as offering to train the new guy in order to get him up to speed.
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You’ll come off as gracious — and chances are you won’t be taken up on your offer. It’s like asking a friend if you can do something for them when they’re down on their luck; they appreciate the gesture but usually decline. (If they’re real friends, that is.)
Ace the Exit Interview
There’s no need to head into this with guns blazing, Tex. Keep the interview upbeat and say positive things — if you can find positive things to say. If all you can think of is a vitriolic diatribe that spills every office secret and outs everyone you think is an idiot, shut the hell up. “Be conservative with your answers,” Rosen suggests. “People sometimes make the mistake of trying to play the hero and thinking they can clean the place up. You won’t get credit for cleaning the place up; you’ll just burn a bridge.”
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Expect these questions to pop up in one form or another: Why are you leaving? What did you like or dislike about working here? How was your relationship with your manager? What were the best and worst parts of the job? Be honest without being negative, and don’t exaggerate. (It’s doubtful that someone always interrupted you in meetings or never said good morning.) Lastly, end on a high note if possible. Let the last thing you say be a complimentary.