Quitting a job can feel like leaving a marriage. So much of your identity has been tied up in that job, so leaving it is like making a new start. When people quit their job, it’s usually for a variety of reasons. They can be bored and not feel stretched enough, they might be clashing with their manager, they might have had a better offer or they might be relocating elsewhere. People do it all the time.
Unfortunately, many don’t do it that gracefully and end up burning bridges in the process. Never a smart move, because you never know. You might have to come back, or your paths may cross again.
Quitting a job needs to be done strategically.
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself why you want to quit. Is it the right time to quit? If the issue is a personality clash, can it be resolved by transferring to another department?
When quitting, give your boss the news in private. Set aside a time for a chat. It is important to stay positive. Talk about the reasons why you’re looking for a new opportunity; joining a new company or setting out on a new venture. Explain why you’re excited about the change but express gratitude for all he and the company have done for you.
It is important here to acknowledge the personal learning or growth that your role has provided. If you do have any criticism or feedback that you think will make a difference, you need to have a separate conversation with your manager after you’ve given notice. Don’t save it for the exit interview because you never know what black hole that will disappear into.
As a courtesy, you need to send an email as a follow up, confirming the conversation and copy in any managers who need to be informed of your decision. The email should be brief and to the point – and its tone gracious.
To keep the bridges of communication open, offer to find and train your replacement. In today’s uber connected world, it is easy to find colleagues, acquaintances and LinkedIn connections who you think might be a good match. Exiting the organisation while simultaneously leaving your team in new hands will be remembered long after you’ve gone, and it will maintain good will for years to come, something you never know might come in handy later on. As an added bonus, it will help to relieve your conscience if you feel bad about leaving.
During the notice period, you should be handing over your projects to your colleagues or training new staff. At the same time, you should be letting your contacts and clients know you will be leaving and advise them who is taking over your position. Have lunch with your favourite workmates, swap email addresses and phone numbers.
It is important to stay in touch with people after you have left. You are building a network which might come in handy for the all sorts of unseen opportunities likely to present themselves over the next 10, 20, or even 30 years. Remember, the workforce today is mobile, so it is important to keep that network of trusted colleagues warm.
On your last day, go out on a high note. Bring in some cake or food and share it around. People will remember that long after you have gone. Then comes the administrative work. Return any company property, such as mobile phones or laptops. Spend the morning clearing your desk and give HR your contact details for your group certificates and superannuation information and send an email from your work email address to your contact list, advising that you can no longer be contacted at this address. Leave a similar message on your work voicemail.
Leaving with dignity and self-respect is important. And in a world of fluid careers, it is always better to leave those doors open.