How to leave your job

Quitting your job is a life-changing decision. The first step? Be sure it’s what you really want to do. The second part? Make sure you can afford it. If you have those two down the rest is easy…

Do you have a new job? Even if you have another job offer with better hours, work environment, vacation, flexibility, mobility, benefits and a huge pay raise – are you 100% sure you won’t hate it? If you regret resigning, chances are your former job won’t be waiting for you. It’s not always possible, but if you can negotiate to “visit” your new job for a day (or even an hour), definitely do it.

Don’t have another job? The old adage is actually true. It IS easier to find a job when you have a job; it makes you look more “employable.” Realize it will take three to six months (maybe more) to find a job. You don’t normally qualify for unemployment if you quit, so make sure you have enough money to fund your job search.

Getting out of the rat race? If you’re leaving to freelance or start a business, the rules are the same as above. (1) Make absolutely sure it’s what you really want to do and (2) make sure you have enough money to fund it.

How much notice is appropriate? Meet your employer’s expectations. If you don’t have a contract that specifies otherwise, two weeks is customary. It’s nice to offer to answer questions by email or phone for a couple of weeks beyond that. Four weeks notice (or even eight) is often professionally requested, particularly if you are a manager or have another significant or unique role. Also, be prepared for them to ask you to leave immediately when you give notice – some company policies require it.

Tell your direct supervisor first. In person. Don’t tell your boss’s boss or co-workers until you’ve talked to your boss – go with the chain of command.

Resignation letter? In a word, YES. Even if you resign in person, write a resignation letter. Make it short and sweet. There are only three key items other than your name and signature (1) the date your resignation is effective, (2) the position you’re resigning from and (3) the date of your last working day. Don’t even think about using company letterhead for a resignation letter.

Emphasize the positive and offer to help with the transition. Maintain a friendly dialogue with the employer and pave the way for a great reference. Definitely don’t say anything negative (in your resignation letter or to your co-workers during the transition). The company may release your letter of resignation to future employers and your complaints are not going to age well. Save your constructive criticism for the exit interview or get over it entirely.

Be honest about why you’re leaving. Don’t leave people guessing about it (they’ll assume something worse). If they ask you to stay, you should have a real reason not to. Still, as much as possible, keep it positive. Explain it in terms of you and what you’re looking for at this point in your life, not what the company / job / boss isn’t doing for you.

Clean up your computer. Delete personal emails and files before you tell your boss you’re leaving. Write down or forward yourself any contact information you may want in the future. Add your boss and co-workers to your LinkedIn connections. You might think you’re giving a month notice only to be shown out the door immediately.

Ask for a letter of recommendation. I know, you already have a great new job but the ideal time for asking is now. This is a prime opportunity for a great reference letter, so don’t waste it. You could be laid off from your new job just as easily (if not easier) than the last. There’s nothing better for career insurance than convincing letters of recommendation.

Consulting. It can be very lucrative to continue to consult or freelance for your former employer, so if you’re interested in those options, ask! Even if you’re taking another full time position, consider giving up some evenings and weekends in exchange for extra income and the ability to maintain a valuable connection to your former employer.

What else? Your exit interview should include a discussion of any health insurance, 401k, pension, vacation, PTO and other benefit transitions and options. It’s inappropriate to ask about these when you give notice, but do find out before you leave.

Checking out. Resist the urge to “check out” from your job right after you give notice. It’s tough, but it’s an investment in your future. Be a good employee until you leave. Don’t brag about your great new job and don’t complain – it’s not worth it. Your comments or negative attitude could come back to haunt you years later. Do yourself and your soon-to-be former co-workers a favor and stay positive in the last stretch.

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 10, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Interesting article from the Huffington Post (June 4, 2010) about companies that refuse to consider unemployed applicants as part of their recruitment policy.

    Disturbing Job Ads: ‘The Unemployed Will Not Be Considered’

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