No matter where you work, or how much you enjoy what you do, chances are there will come a day when, for whatever reason, you realize it’s time for a job change.
Early in your career you may leave for career growth or because you realize your skills or personality don’t fit in the position or company you picked. Later in your career you may realize you are being stifled, stuck in a proverbial box, or simply in need of a new problem to really challenge you. Maybe you will feel you’ve been screwed by your boss, or maybe you will just want to get back involved in your community or have more time with family.
My dad taught me one rule early in my career: “When you no longer want to do what one man is paying you to do, stop taking his money. For when he is paying you, you do what he needs you to do.”
They are words that have made me successful over my career. When others around me have complained about the roles their bosses make them play outside of their job descriptions, I often share those words. And when I have realized I no longer want to “play the game” I am currently playing, I have looked for new challenges.
The second best career advice I was ever given was this, “The key to quitting your job is to do it with grace and class.”
Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially if your leaving comes as a surprise to those you have built strong relationships with in the past. I know first hand. I completely bombed a transition once that started out very professional and tanked a few days later. My next career change wouldn’t make those same mistakes.
5 Tips for Quitting Your Job with Grace
1. Take the High Road When Giving Your Notice
No matter the reason you are leaving, make sure to give notice. I have given as much as six week’s notice before and as little as two week’s notice. In hindsight, I truly believe two week’s is the better route. Assuming you have been on top of your role and organized, two weeks should be ample time to finish helping your company plan for the transition without dragging out your time at the company as it is growing on without you.
No matter what, never just quit or “no show” your job.
It’s a small world, and you never know when your path may cross with a bridge you burned by no-showing.
Additionally, rehearse the words you will use wisely when you tell your boss you are leaving, and keep it positive. Remember that while your decision to leave is “business, not personal”, the person you are talking to will still take it personal to some degree.
There is an age old adage that “people don’t leave companies, they leave people”. There may be truth to that in your situation, but now is not the time to laundry list all the reasons you’re leaving.
Ask to get on your boss’s calendar for 10-15 minutes on the day you’re giving notice.
When the meeting starts, you own it.
“I have been reflecting over the last ____ years I’ve had the opportunity to work here doing ______. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ve learned so much about ________. I wanted to thank you for guiding me and helping in my success. But I have realized it’s time for me to move on in my career. I’ve been given a new opportunity in the ____________ industry that I think is a better fit for where my professional career is headed. My last day here will be ____________, and I have already started preparing the transition plan. Once I leave, you can always contact me with any questions.”
That’s it. That’s all you need to say. If you are asked or pushed to answer other questions that make you want to go negative, just repeat one of the lines you have memorized. You are leaving because you have found a better fit for where your professional career is headed.
You do not have to tell your boss where you are going to work next if asked. That is purely a judgement call on your end. All you have to tell them is when the last day is that you’re available to work for them.
2. Develop a Transition Plan Document
Your first project after giving notice should be to sit down and develop a transition plan document. This document should be a brain dump of everything your replacement needs to know about the state of the role you played. It should include:
- A list of your non-recurring, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual responsibilities
- A summary of all outstanding projects, including links to files, deadlines, and names of colleagues who have assisted on the project
- A list of upcoming deadlines for the next year that you were responsible for meeting
- A description of any software you were responsible for managing and renewal deadlines for it
- A list of key contacts, including contact information and a description of the relationship
- A list of passwords, links, and descriptions to anything you utilized on the computer
3. Give Notice to Key Contacts & Colleagues
If you have external people you have been working with, call or email and notify them when your last day is at the company. Let them know who their new contact is during the transition and how your departure may affect timelines. Remember to keep it positive if asked why you are leaving.
Also let your colleagues know when your last day will be and let them know about any deadlines you may need them to change in order to complete a project before your departure.
Remember that while you are leaving the organization, they are not. Share only the happiness and joy from your time working together. “Keep it positive” should be your mantra throughout your conversations with anyone about why you are leaving.
4. Work Harder Now Than Ever Before
Most people expect for employees who give notice of their intent to leave to just be a drain on the payroll. For this reason alone, it is not uncommon for your boss to let you go immediately after you have given notice.
If you are given the opportunity to work out your notice, now is the time to put your best work ethic forward. You may be tempted to not want to continue doing things at full steam, but remember, these last few weeks are what your boss will remember most about your work ethic when the time comes that you may need a reference. Don’t blow your reputation because you got lazy at the end. Instead, work diligently to ensure the smoothest transition possible.
5. Write Handwritten Thank You Notes to Key People
Finally, develop a list of the people who have helped you most during your time at the company and write them a thank you note. In the note, recognize them for something specific they helped you achieve. Include your personal contact information so they can stay in touch.
On your last day, ask a trusted coworker or your HR department to hand out the cards after your departure, or pass them out during your lunch hour.
Good Luck On Your New Adventure
As you start the next journey, remember your mantra. “Keep it positive” if you are ever asked about why you left your last position.
Leaving one job for another one is not always easy, but it can always be done with grace and class.
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