How to Quit a Job: Your Professional Exit Strategy
Quitting a job can be both sad and exciting.
To get through your next professional exit with your dignity and networking contacts intact, here’s our quick guide to crafting your best exit strategy for leaving a job.
1. Give Notice
The traditional two-week notice is still very much encouraged for anyone quitting their current job. If you can and want to give more than two weeks, that’s fantastic, but otherwise, two weeks is standard. Notify your immediate supervisor(s), and then you can tell your coworkers of your departure.
Who to Tell, and When
It’s important to make sure that your immediate supervisor finds out first, and through you, not through the grapevine.
Schedule a time to meet with your manager to give your resignation. If you’re a remote worker who regularly meets with your boss virtually, an online meeting is preferable to an email. Once you’ve given your supervisor notice, it’s generally acceptable to tell your coworkers. Follow up your meeting with an official resignation letter to both HR and your boss that details when your last day will be.
When you give your notice really depends on your relationship with your boss and the nature of your work. You’ll have to feel out your situation to determine what is best. Depending on your industry, you may want to tell them the day before you plan to start your two-week notice or, if you’ve been with your current company for a long time or have a lot of responsibilities to divvy up, you can give a longer notice.
Whether or not quitting your job will come as a surprise to your boss, it’s a good idea to be prepared for different scenarios. If you’ll be moving on to a competing company or your boss is particularly upset with your departure, don’t be surprised (or offended) if you’re asked to leave right away.
Don’t Tell Your Colleagues Before the Boss
Sometimes it feels like it’s impossible to plot your exit strategy without a bit of support from “the inside.” However, telling your coworkers you’re quitting before you tell your manager can have serious implications, especially if the information gets “leaked” and your manager finds out via the rumor mill. If you feel like you need advice, consider reaching out to family or friends who may be familiar with your work situation and company—without actually working there.
2. Offer Transitional Help
Before you leave, offering to help train your replacement or help your team transition to work-life without you is always appreciated, both by the new hire and your current boss. You don’t have to stay solely to train the new person, but if you have the time and inclination, this can be a great way to leave on a positive note and to set the tone for your connection with your boss after you’re gone. If your replacement isn’t hired by the time you leave, preparing documentation on processes and other important information will likely be appreciated.
3. Finish Your Projects
If you have overdue projects that should have been done already or assignments or tasks that you have a unique perspective on, then devote as much of your time as you’re comfortable with to tying up loose ends before you leave.
However, when your projects are proceeding on target and there are other people involved with them it’s not necessary to stay late or work weekends to wrap them up before you’re gone. Just make sure you update your teammates and boss on the status of your portion of the project and connect any of your contacts with the person they’ll be working with after you’ve exited.
4. Document Your Processes
After you quit your job, work on compiling a detailed list of everything you’re responsible for and all your current and ongoing projects so that you can be sure someone staying behind will take over, and nothing gets dropped or forgotten in your absence.
It’s also a good idea to document all your processes, particularly if you are the only one on your team who knows how to do a certain task. This is especially important if you’ll be gone before your replacement is hired and trained. A good rule of thumb is to list out everything you do on a daily basis. If anything on your list would leave your team scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do in your absence, take some time in your final two weeks to write out simple instructions for the task, and store the information in a place where everyone on your team can easily find it.
Once you’re officially off-the-job for good, should you offer to be reachable by your former boss or team if they have unexpected questions? While a very nice professional courtesy, it’s definitely not required. If you do decide to offer your contact information for future follow-up, the time frame should really be only for a few weeks at the most.
5. Don’t Gloat or Spread Gossip
Treat colleagues with the proper respect when you’re leaving. Of course, you want your colleagues to be excited for you, but nobody likes someone who brags about their great new gig, especially when the people listening will likely be stuck picking up all the slack. Keep your coworkers informed about your plans (after telling your boss), but also play it cool.
Regardless of your situation, hold off on spreading gossip, negativity, or rumors. Also, you don’t need to give people on your team all the details about why you’re leaving, especially if you have grievances—that’s between you, your manager, and HR.
6. Clarify Details With Human Resources
Part of leaving a job on a good note means making sure that all of the HR aspects of your job are settled. Be sure to talk with the human resources department about when you’ll end your tenure, as well as when to expect your final paycheck, in what form you’ll be paid (paper check or direct deposit), and how much you’ll be getting. Also, find out what will be the best way to return all company property and what you need to do (if anything) to close out your benefits.
7. Emphasize the Positive
In both your resignation letter and your exit interview, be sure to emphasize all the company has done for you and the ways that you have grown while working there. You don’t need to go on and on, but it’s always nice to show your appreciation and express gratitude, even as you’re heading out the door. Keep your exit professional and upbeat, and you’ll have lasting personal and professional relationships that can endure long after you’ve moved on.
8. Write a Goodbye Email
Writing a thoughtful goodbye email to your manager and colleagues is the perfect way to control the message of your leaving and to wish your team well. You can also use this opportunity to provide everyone with your contact information to stay in touch after you’re gone. You’ll likely receive their information in return, and your former coworkers can become valuable networking connections in the future—if not friends!
Quitting a Job Professionally
Leaving a job comes down to this: Everything you need to know about quitting a job you learned in kindergarten (that’s how the saying goes, right?). Be kind, be courteous, and be available. But don’t be a pushover.
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