Maybe the feeling’s been brewing for a while. Maybe you realized that you can’t go on another vacation, and that the nagging feelings of fatigue and discontent are more than symptoms of curable burn out. Maybe you realized that you can’t grow any more or that you’re bored and need a challenge. Maybe one day, you just got fed up. Whatever the reasons for deciding to leave a job, you’ll need to find ways to do so gracefully, without burning professional bridges that you may need to cross later in your career.
Just don’t be like Greg Smith who after 12 years working with investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, submitted his resignation notice in the op-ed section of the New York Times, noting:
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look [interns] in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work…I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
Even if you’re ready to offer your best “take this job and shove it,” here are some tips on how to leave a job with grace and tact.
Be discreet about your search
During work hours, quell every urge to check the status of an application to a new position on your current employer’s computer. The same goes for updating your resume and trolling the job posting board of your dream company. Employers are able to track your Internet doings and whereabouts, and many have policies about using computer networks to search for new employment. Getting caught could mean leaving a job sooner than you plan — and not on your own accord.
Scheduling interviews with prospective employers before and after your own work day may be ideal, but it may not always be feasible. You might find yourself in your car one afternoon, contorting yourself to change out of your current company’s business casual look into a suit for a midday interview. Consider taking long lunches or taking a personal day off to attend interviews without the stress and pressure of having to hide your plans from your current boss and colleagues. And remember to stay mum about your plans. Keep every “I need to find me a new job” to yourself, not even uttering the thought of a departure to your most trusted work friend. There’s no telling how a should-be secret could become fodder for the water cooler and put you in a precarious position.
Give at least two weeks’ notice – or the required minimum
Doing so is not only in good taste, it also may ensure that you’re eligible for re-hire should you desire to work for the company again. Submitting proper notice could also possibly enable you to cash out the remainder of your sick days and vacation days. If you’re a middle or upper-level manager, submitting your resignation three weeks to one month ahead of time is good form, since you’ll likely be tying up the loose ends of not only your position, but of multiple projects or an entire department.
See the job through
Once your boss and colleagues are aware of your impending departure, don’t check out mentally until the job is complete. It’s likely that your final weeks will be your busiest, as you won’t only be finishing your work, but training your staff and co-workers on procedures so they can continue the job after you’ve left. You may also be assigned to train your replacement. Be sure to notify vendors, clients and others outside of your company with whom you may work closely. And remember, you didn’t put in years of work to establish a legacy of leaving everyone hanging.
Refrain from gloating and speaking ill of your past employer
Keep any negative opinions about your previous employer to yourself, regardless of how warranted they may be. When asked during interviews why you’re leaving your job, a simple “It’s a great company and while I’ve learned a lot, I’m looking for new opportunities to grow” should suffice. Refrain from offering the glee of leaving a job on social media sites, too.
Be mindful when considering a counteroffer
Let’s say you announce to your current supervisor that you’ve opted to take a position elsewhere. What should you do if he or she offers you more money and clout to stay put? There are a number of considerations at bay when weighing a counteroffer. Assess the reasons you wanted to leave in the first place. Will those issues be addressed? In an article from MSNBC, one expert noted that 85 percent of those who accept a counteroffer from their current employer were likely to leave the company in six months.
Everyone leaves a job at some point, but just as important as how you start is how you finish.