How to Quit a Job Gracefully
We’ve all been there. You’re stuck working for a boss who doesn’t “get you” or doesn’t really care about helping you reach your true potential. Perhaps you don’t feel valued in a “dead-end” job that has no future or keeps you from making a real contribution. There’s nothing worse than being in a position where you feel what you do just doesn’t matter.
But before you fire off that nasty email to tell your company what you want them to do with this job, stop . . . take a deep breath . . . and think about how you can put this frustration to work FOR you. Remember, in your career, it’s not about what happens TO you in each job but about HOW you handle those situations that defines you and prepares you for even greater opportunities.
This is why it’s important to have a plan when leaving a job for a better one. Here are a few key principles that will help you burn fewer bridges and strengthen your professional credibility with each job you seek.
First, Make Sure You’re Covered
The absolute worst thing you can do is leave a job without having a plan. It may take several trips to your personal “quiet place” to calm down, but do NOT act rashly. Having a plan will not only ensure you don’t have a gap in income, but it will also give you much-needed peace of mind as you begin a new venture. Here are a few key components of an effective plan:
1. Make sure your next opportunity is securely in place.
The biggest mistakes most desperate “job upgraders” make is to quit before they have another place to go. Make sure you have a firm understanding with your new employer before “giving notice” to the job you’re leaving. And if you’re leaving to start your own business, be sure you have enough money set aside to tide you over until your new venture fully takes root.
2. Have a well-thought-out exit strategy.
Give yourself enough time to make an effective transition. The traditional two-week notice is a good rule of thumb, but be prepared . . . your employer may ask you to leave right then and there. Either way, be sure you’ve prepared a comprehensive “procedural guide” documenting the details of your job so the person taking over for you isn’t left in the lurch. (One side benefit: this outlines for your former boss everything you DID do for them, whether they knew it or not.)
In the event that you are asked to leave on the spot, be sure you have identified personal items you need to take with you so there’s no confusion about what is personal vs. company property.
3. Plan to stay in touch.
Regardless of how bad a job is, there are always contacts and resources there that can benefit you in the future. Get names, numbers, and personal email addresses of these key contacts so you can continue to network after you leave. You may want to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook, requesting recommendations from coworkers to help build your portfolio.
4. Ask for a letter of recommendation.
This is an outstanding tactic to use even if you get laid off. Always ask your former supervisor for a reference letter or some sort of recommendation (on LinkedIn, for example). Their response to this request will be very telling. Sometimes the most hardened bosses actually WILL write you a glowing recommendation that you can use when applying for future jobs.
Next, Make Sure Your Soon-to-Be Former Employer Is Covered
Remember, you gain nothing by leaving any job without offering the support they need to allow someone to take over your position. Leaving on bad terms in order to “get back” at an employer is never a good move, no matter how fast you want to get out of there. Here are a few ideas to help:
1. Address your resignation to your direct supervisor.
Going over your boss’s head to his or her supervisor never ends well. Having a boss be surprised by learning that you’re leaving from some other source can cause untold future heartache and make the transition unnecessarily difficult. Show them the courtesy regardless of whether you think they deserve it.
2. Put it in writing.
Nothing protects you in the future more than writing a respectful resignation letter. Avoid the temptation to vent any bitter feelings, but instead be gracious in thanking them for the opportunity to be of service and wish them well in the future. Nothing more needs to be said than, “For personal reasons, I respectfully submit this letter of resignation” and provide the last date you plan to work for them and contact information they might need if they need to ask any questions once you leave.
3. Offer your help.
Be sure to offer any assistance you can in making the transition, but be careful to keep it within reason. Make it clear that the traditional 2-week notice is the optimal time to make this transition. Providing the “procedural guide” or detailed job description as mentioned previously is a great start here.
4. Watch what you say.
As you leave the company, always remember that what you say about your experience there will reveal more about you than it will about the former employer. Avoid the temptation to “bad mouth” anyone since this can come off like you are the difficult one to work with.
Having a plan, watching your tongue, and making sure you’re prepared for a smooth transition on both sides will not only ensure you leave on good terms, but help you develop and keep great contacts for future use, no matter how difficult your previous job was.
And don’t forget, the best way to expand your ability to take a step up in your career is to have the necessary education and training. Additional resources are available to help you craft just the right courses to prepare you for the perfect “next step” in your career.