How to Leave your Job without Hurting your Career
Quitting a job, like any other separation, is a time for diplomacy. Leaving a job is especially tricky because it is hard to predict when, how, or if your past bosses and co-workers will intersect your life again so it is prudent to maintain positive relationships as you depart. To this end, there are several practices that can be beneficial to your both during and after your last day, but there are also actions that can leave a very negative impression which may haunt you in the future.
One action that will be seen as a big red flag by future employers is an abrupt departure. Don’t wait until the last moment to alert your employer of your intention to leave. Give at least two weeks’ notice and be willing to work with your employer to negotiate an appropriate time frame that works well with your plans but that also doesn’t leave your co-workers high and dry. Write a brief and respectful letter of resignation and present it to your direct supervisor. It is both a common and professional courtesy to allow your ex-employer time to identify a successor to fill your position after you’ve gone.
On a related note, do your best not to leave projects half finished. Remain active during your final days with your team, contribute to any ongoing projects, and ensure that your successor has a means of easily understanding what needs to be completed once you leave. Furthermore, make sure your work space is left organized and ready to accommodate a new worker; this includes leaving all company-assets (i.e. staplers, pens, and the like) behind.
Any organization will appreciate the services of departing employees in training their replacements. If scheduling allows, offer to stay and help transition the new employee into his or her new job and over your services as a temporary resource in case your replacement has any additional questions you can best answer.
One way of guaranteeing a smooth departure from a job is to avoid badmouthing both the company and co-workers. Meeting people you don’t get along with is generally unavoidable and happens to most people at some point in their lives. But don’t use your waning tenure at a company to air your sour feelings or otherwise express your discontent. Odds are that after you leave you will never see your co-workers again so simply avoid unnecessary contact and keep things professional.
Similarly, do not use your exit interview to verbally bash your bosses, company policy, co-workers, parking, or any other running complaint not expressed previously. Voicing professional concern is one thing and repeating them as constructive criticism is fine but remain within the bounds of the exit interview’s purpose. Use the interview to leave on the best possible terms. The better the impression left with your past employers, the better reflection of your work ethic future employers will receive when considering you for a job.
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