Don’t Just “Shove” That Job: Be Smart When You Leave Print E-mail

by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

The decision to leave a job can be very emotional. You may recall the 1970s classic movie line, “I’m not going to take it anymore,” or the more recently publicized incident of the flight attendant who dramatically escaped his own job down the plane’s emergency chute. Just to be clear, these are NOT good ways to leave your job!

Even though the decision to leave can be emotional, take some time to plan a reasonable exit for the sake of your career. Remember that once you leave the job, everyone there becomes a part of your network and, regardless of your feelings about individuals, they may be helpful in getting a future position. Think of your departure in phases to help you slow down, be smart, and plan.

Phase 1: Before Giving Notice

Review Company Policy

Check policies to determine if a specific amount of time is required. The traditional amount of time is two weeks though that can vary with the position. Some industry standards are longer, usually in academia. Can you use any accrued time to shorten the time when you are in-house? In such cases, you often are required to return for a day or two at the very end of that time period. Checking company policy will help you leave under good terms.

Review Corporate History

How have others left the company? Others’ departure patterns and the response they received can provide a model for you as well. For example, if the policy states two weeks but you have observed some leaving under different circumstances without a negative outcome, you may have more options available to you beyond the stated policy.

No-Compete Clauses

In creative and independent fields, a no-compete clause is often included. There is controversy as to whether no-compete clauses can be enforced, and you should check with an attorney if you are unclear on your legal rights. Review all the details in the planning stages to prevent surprises later on.

Phase 2: Giving Notice

Tell the Boss First

It can be tempting to share your plans with close co-workers, especially if your relationship with the boss has been rocky, but don’t give in to temptation. Be professional and follow company policy and corporate expectations. Set up an appointment, and practice what you plan to say.

Document Your Departure

Type up a resignation letter and hand it to the boss during or after the personal meeting. Don’t leave the letter under the boss’s door or send it in an email. Be sure to include some positive statements regarding the position or working relationship.

Recognize the Company Goes On

Let the boss know you are aware of projects and responsibilities that will continue after your departure. Make the positive gesture of offering to train a replacement or provide detailed status reports regarding ongoing projects.

Phase 3: After Giving Notice

Tie Up Loose Ends

Make sure all projects are in good shape, handed off to the right people, and that everyone is on board with remaining responsibilities. Inform your boss of these follow-up plans. It may be helpful to write the plans out. Similarly, you may offer to create a “manual” for key projects or responsibilities. The manual can be even more valuable if you are unable to help train a replacement. This may seem like extra work for you, but it creates a positive legacy about you in the company. Good break-up rules apply to business relationships, too!

Clean Up Your Personal Space

Cleaning up personal belongings requires more than just bringing in a box for photos. Be certain to check your online presence as well. Clear out your inbox of any pending assignments and make certain you remove any personal email, passwords, or wallpaper installed on company computers.

Keep It Positive

Don’t ruin all your good efforts by complaining online or gloating to co-workers about how happy you are to be leaving. Be certain to leave everything that is company property. Taking a flash drive or reference manual from work isn’t worth the damage it could do to your reputation. Ask for a recommendation letter. Even if you have another position, it may be helpful to have in your portfolio.

Maintain your good reputation until the moment you leave and beyond. Be the professional you are and the network you leave behind may continue to serve you in the future. The world feels smaller and smaller as technology continues to advance. Plan a good departure and you will have bridges to opportunities in the future!