5 Things You Need to Remember to Do When You Leave Your Job

A little awareness of the etiquette can help you not to burn your bridges.
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A little awareness of the etiquette can help you not to burn your bridges.

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Unlike our parents' generation, the comings and goings of colleagues have become a more ordinary occurrence in the workplace. In fact, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median amount of time a worker has been with their current employer is 4.6 years.

Eventually—whether complex circumstances arise or it's simply time to move on—you may need to leave your job.

But when you think about the words "I quit," do dramatic scenes in a boardroom or an angry boss come to mind? Quitting your current role for any reason actually calls for a great deal of planning and sensitivity, especially if you hope to leave on the best terms possible. If you hate your job or you're just looking for career growth, these tips will help guide you along the process to ensure no bridges are burned.

01. Ask yourself why you are leaving.

Be able to clearly articulate why you are leaving, as you will have to give an explanation to a boss, co-worker, or future employer. When identifying your reason, remember to keep it positive. You may be leaving because you're moving, or you may be looking for new opportunities at other companies to further your personal growth.

Create a one- or two-sentence line to tell people when they ask why you are leaving or why you left your last role. “I left my position at X company to pursue my goal to become a representative for Z company.” Stick to one story. Keep it clear and concise; no one needs to know every detail of your goals and dreams. Having a firm grasp on your ability to communicate your decision to others allows you to set the tone instead of leaving others guessing or, worse, gossiping.

 02. Include your boss in your plans.

Prepare your boss for your absence. You may unknowingly be preparing your co-workers for your absence by hinting or letting them know you are looking for a job in another area. But the one person that most needs to know, the head honcho, won't be getting these hints. And you don't want your boss to hear the news from anyone but you.

Ask to meet with your boss one-on-one to tell her you plan on leaving. While it may be difficult to approach your boss, keep in mind that they likely have your best interests in mind and have probably experienced these types of transitions before. Leave it up to your boss to make decisions around your departure, but be sure to establish how your resignation will be communicated to the rest of your company up front.

 03. Be strategic about your time.

Many think "at-will" means you can quit any time. While this is technically true, it is unprofessional. While two weeks' notice is customary, it's good form to offer to work longer if you don't have an urgent start date, especially if it will take time to find and train your replacement.

Give your boss and your colleagues some time to look at the schedule and plan for the company’s transition. This way, you will never be viewed as someone who walked out, leaving the team with unfinished projects and broken responsibilities. On the other hand, if you say you will leave by a certain date, you needn't be persuaded to stay beyond that date. Be strong and stick to your initial agreement.

04. Write a letter of resignation.

After speaking with your boss, write an official letter of resignation even if you were not asked to do so. Keep a copy for your records. This is a good habit to practice. It should be typed, printed, and turned in to your boss in a sealed envelope.

Dear [your boss' name],

Please accept this letter as notification that I am leaving my position with [X company] on [date].

Thank you for the opportunities you have provided me during my time with the company. If I can be of any assistance during this transition, please let me know.

Sincerely,

[full name and contact information]

05. Leave on a high note.

What kind of employee would you recommend to other companies? The nature and timing of your departure reflects on your personal self. So it is important to recognize and maintain the image you want the company to have of you long after you are gone. Avoid the "I'm leaving anyway" mentality. As you work the week leading up to your last day, put your heart and soul into your job and continue to do your best work possible.

You are an integral part of your team until the day you leave. Every job is an experience for your personal growth and ending one on a superior note gives you the extra confidence you need to know your true value as a loyal and responsible member of the team.