Don't Burn Bridges Anymore: Quitting Your Job Gracefully

quit job gracefullyBy Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Ask anyone who has ever been involved in a play, and they'll tell you the importance of knowing which side of the stage to exit. Heading off in the wrong direction could have you coming face-to-face with actors trying to enter the stage or heading to a fictional location that-during the course of the play-was clearly noted as being in a different direction. The same attention should also be applied when preparing to exit your current employer. A bad exit can have long-range consequences and should always be avoided if possible. There are as many reasons to leave a job as there are jobs to leave. If you've found yourself in the throes of this transition, consider the following tips before you start packing your boxes:

1. Know your reasons.
Be clear with yourself about the reasons why you're leaving. Are you bored? Do you feel you've attained the highest level of success available to you? Is there a better offer on the table from another employer?

Before turning in your notice, have a clear understanding of whatever it is that is prompting you to look in another direction. This will help you state your case concisely when you're asked the inevitable question: "Why?"

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2. Provide appropriate notice.
While two-weeks notice seems to be the norm, consider your position before settling on an appropriate timeline. For example, if your position is difficult to fill, choose an amount of time that will allow your soon-to-be former employer an ample opportunity to replace you. If they rush to fill that position with a less-than-vetted person, the fall-out could very well have your name coming up negatively a little too often in meetings after you leave.

3. Offer to train your replacement.
If there is time, consider staying on long enough to make sure your replacement is trained properly to do your job. It's hard to criticize someone later who has been that generous.

4. Don't just walk out.
No matter how bad things may seem, walking out unannounced is rarely a good idea. The last thing you want is having that kind of reputation following you around. The bitterness created by this act will definitely come through when a prospective employer calls to verify your employment.

5. Refresh your resume.
In the event that you don't have an opportunity waiting, make certain to have your career portfolio current. This is much easier to accomplish while you're still earning a paycheck, versus scrambling to throw something together once you're down to your last box of mac 'n' cheese.

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6. Secure solid references.
Approach two or three people for references while your business relationships are fresh. Ask them to put their testimonials in writing. Be strategic while also cognizant of whose positive energy will best resonate through written or oral reference communications. If the timing isn't right to vet a reference from your current boss, consider reaching out to clients, colleagues, project leaders, vendors, and other managers in matrix roles who have either led or been led by you.

7. Guide your reference.
When requesting a testimonial, prepare to guide your reference to the type of comment that would be most useful to you. Not only will this help you achieve your career goals, but it will also simplify and provide focus for the reference writer. For example, if you are seeking a reference from a customer and that customer not only benefited from your consultative problem solving but also grew their own business as a result, you could ask them to write about your solution-building abilities in the context of your collaboration, as well as your long-range, measurable impact on their business. Think specificity in both metrics and soft skills.

8. Check your finances.
If you have 401(k) or other financial takeaways to consider, then check with your financial adviser or accountant for best methods to roll over the money or handle your account to best benefit your future.

9. Check your health benefits.
If your health care benefits are tied to the company you're leaving, initiate a conversation with your human resources professional to discuss options during the transition to your next company. There is often a 90-day or more waiting period before new benefits at your new company kick in; don't leave your current job uncovered.

10. Plan your next reputation move.
While taking the proper steps to leave a job is essential, also consider the next steps of your career and how you will aspire to propel your reputation forward. Keep in mind that you are starting with a blank slate in your new company and new role. Take advantage of the opportunity. Consider what image you want to present from day one and make a plan to present yourself through your behaviors in ways you prefer to be viewed.

In other words, if you felt you were a shrinking violet in your last role, then plan to be more assertive and communicative, articulating your ideas and value. Or if you earned a reputation for being whiny and inflexible at your last company, make a plan to be less of a drone and more of a cooperative team player.

Changing jobs doesn't have to be stressful. Take your time, keep your emotions out of the decision, and enjoy your next career adventure.

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog. Jacqui is a power Twitter user, listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers.

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Always remember ... jobs are a dime-a-dozen ... which is about what they're worth !

June 12 2012 at 3:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Employers are entitled to the same respect and consideration they show their employees! There ... ! That should put everyone's mind at ease ...

June 12 2012 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Two weeks is MORE THAN PLENTY. I got no notice when I was laid off, infact I was treated like a common criminal after 23 years at UBS. Screw them!

June 12 2012 at 12:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wrong! I have seen too many cases where other people and myself have given ample notice, offered to train a replacement, etc. Then the employer shows you the door the same day or a day or two later. They are afraid that you may do something negative or destructive in the last days of your employ, so they show you the door ASAP. I have also had to hound former employers for my final paycheck after leaving the job. Lastly, don't let them "bully" you into signing anything with the threat of witholding you final paycheck or money owed for unused vacation or sick time, it is illegal.

June 12 2012 at 12:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jon Silver

I never got 2 weeks notice that the company I was working for was going out of business. This has happened several times. I refuse to give them 2 weeks notice. They think they own you anyway. Why not show them that they don't.

June 12 2012 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While two weeks is polite, be prepared for the day you give notice to be your last. Employers don't show the employees the same respect as they expect.

June 12 2012 at 11:57 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Make sure you have met with your unemployment councilor and know the lenght of all the social programs you can suck up, for quiting your job in a recessed economy.. Make sure you can maximize you unenployment payments before quiting too..don't want to let that stone go unturned either.. Make sure all dependent now are ready to drain the welfare sysytems too.. don't wait.. be ready to go from the beginning!

June 12 2012 at 11:56 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Robert Stewart

I gave notice that was leaving "when my house sold" and would be moving because of brothers health. As I was training my replacement very thoroughly, documented procedures and configurations, doing my normal job, and commuting to check on brother, my Supervisor made my life a living hell. When you leaving, I need a date, are you going to be here tomorrow, etc. I will NEVER give a helpful notice over 2 weeks again.

June 12 2012 at 11:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This article may have applied five or six years ago, but in this day and age, I wouldn't recommend giving notice unless you are ready to be walked out the door right then and there. Over and over again, I've seen good people trying to do the right thing by giving "proper" notice and even offering to assist in training their replacements only to have it immediately backfire on them. It's been my experience that with all of the cutbacks, layoffs, etc. of the last few years, it has become expected that fewer people should have to do the work of many. And they'd better not complain about it either. It's practically standard operating practice nowadays to dramatically increase the workload of low to mid level employees whenever the company feels that a few bucks need to be saved, so to them it's no different. Unfortunately, the higher ups would rather dismiss some lowly working stiff with a family to support than give up flying first class on their redundant business trips and the like. You give notice, they figure that one foot is out the door anyway, so why not walk you now and save a few dollars? After all, they've likely got plenty of little worker bees just falling all over themselves fighting over the scraps from the bigwigs table who will just keep their heads down and absorb the workload...

June 12 2012 at 11:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

in most cases not all but in alot
when you give your two notice
your done!

June 12 2012 at 11:33 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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