How to Quit Your Job with Bridges Intact

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2008-01-16

How to Quit Your Job with Bridges Intact

There are few more active job-hunting months of the year than January, when new years resolutes, brimming with hope that the new year will bring fresh career challenges, set off to find new employment. Should their search be met with success, what this also means is that the first few months of the year yield the greatest number of employee resignations.

For most workers -- stimulated to find a new job because of displeasure with their current one -- this is the greatest day of their year, and therein lies a notable temptation to go running up and down the cubicle aisles yelling "I quit! Finally! Woo hoo!"

But no matter how satisfying this may feel in the short term, no matter how much employees might hate their job or boss or can't wait to start their next dream job, and even if they are leaving two steps ahead of the axe, workplace experts sternly warn against celebrating at the office.

In short: You never know when you'll need a former colleague for a reference and in the sometimes small world of IT, you never know when this individual will become your co-worker again.

Like everything else in the professional realm, there are right ways and wrong ways to quit your job, and though the wrong ways may seem obvious to some, they are still practiced by many.

Below, career coaches, recruiters and workplace experts navigate the sometimes blurry line between burned bridges and leaving on a classy note.

Make Sure You're Making the Right Choice

So many employees leave their jobs each year for what seems like a dream job, get to the new place of employment and find that it falls well below their expectations and beg to come back to their old jobs that recruiters have a term for these people: Boomerang employees.

The best way to avoid this label is to think your decision through, again and again, before zooming out the door.

But the best way to assure you could get let back in the door if you still make a bad choice is to leave in good standing.

Get Your Story Straight

Even if you are leaving because you hate your job, because they treat you with no respect, because their IT systems are a joke to any self-respecting organization and because you're getting paid nearly twice as much in your new job to do half the work, you still may want to consider which of these bits of information -- if any -- you want to share with your soon-to-be former co-workers.

"It is important to consider why you are really leaving and how much detail you want to give," Tim Bosse, executive vice president of Hudson IT & Telecommunications, told eWEEK.

"Once you've set your story, your direct reports and leadership will want to know why. Are you going to be the new president of Microsoft? Tell them. But if your experience wasn't positive, do not let your emotions overwhelm you. You have to be prepared to not share all of the details."

Write Your Resignation Letter

Here is what a resignation letter should never be: "After 10 years at X company, I am leaving to go work at Y company even though it makes me terrifically sad, and I will miss everyone and am so grateful..." etc.

A resignation letter is a legal notification that will go on your permanent record and is no place for explanations, reasons and any more than the very essential information.

Tell Your Manager First

"Don't get into reasons in your resignation letter. Just tell them your effective date and sign off," Deborah Brown-Volkman, career coach and author of the upcoming book "Don't Blow It: The Right Words for the Right Job," told eWEEK.

Give Notice to the Right People First

As tempting as it will be to tell your buddy in the next cube that you're leaving for greener pastures the moment you get your offer letter, it is the wrong order of operations.

The right way is to tell your supervisor or immediate manager first because you cannot undo the damage wrought by them hearing it first from someone else.

Be Prepared for a Counter Offer

You're current employer may surprise you and offer you something extra if you stay, which is why it is especially important not to give them any reasons for leaving that may not be true.

"Every organization is different about this. Some have strong philosophies that if you resign, you've resigned. But others may try to negotiate you back in the door, which is why if you tell people you're leaving for more money, but it is really more than that, you could be stuck if they do offer you more," Bosse said.

Stay for Your Two Weeks Notice

Quite often, a new job will be gunning for you to start and will ask if you can do so before your proper notice period has expired (typically, however many vacation days you get per year), but the experts warn against this. In fact, they say giving very little or no notice is the absolutely worst thing exiting employees can do.

"You put someone in with your best clients, and they're in the middle of their project when they get a better deal and leave with one day's notice. Anyone can get a better offer. I'd be reluctant to hire someone who didn't give appropriate notice and left their project in a lurch. You put your next project at risk," Jack Harrington, co-founder and principal of AAI, a provider of IT staffing solutions, told eWEEK.

Work Out Your Transition Plan

After formally resigning, do what you can to ease the transition for your company between you and the person who will replace you, as your goal is to leave in good standing.

"This can be great for techies who are used to thinking about process. Make a list of everything you do and put it in a spreadsheet; be project-oriented," Brown-Volkman said.

This may even involve suggesting a replacement, if you know of someone who is interested.

"What's great about the tech world is that it's likely they know other people who might be good for the job," said Brown-Volkman. "If you can get a replacement for your job, someone you know and can make a recommendation and easier transition with, you'll help your employer out a lot, who is worried about finding and training someone new."

Leave in Good Standing

Finally, right through your last day of work, it is important to not start napping on the job, not be mentally "checked out" and not show any disdain for a job you won't have much longer.

"Say goodbye to everyone, whether you got along with them or not. This is your chance for closure. You don't know what will happen. You may want to make sure you can resolve what you can," said Brown-Volkman.

Others sum it up more concisely: "Never compromise your values when you leave," said Bosse.


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