How to Gracefully Exit Your Current Job

photo credit: Rodion Kutsaev

photo credit: Rodion Kutsaev

Leaving a job is never simple, especially when you want to stay on good terms with your boss. Which… is always a good idea. Burning bridges over the course of your career will only burn you. 

And chances are, you will switch jobs. In September 2016 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years in January 2016, down from 4.6 years in January 2014. 

So we’re answering your big questions about how to gracefully exit, prima ballerina style. 

TII—II—II—IIIMMMMME, IS NOT ON YOUR SIDE. NO IT’S NOT. 

It’s not on your boss’ side either. The hiring process is long, arduous and complicated. Finding the right person to fit into a well-oiled machine is notably one of the hardest parts of running a company. And when a team member leaves, a major wrench is thrown into that machine, no matter how well executed it is. 

If you work at a corporate job, two weeks is a standard amount of time to give. However, if you work at a small startup, where your team members will be scrambling to cover your work and tasks, you should plan to give a month. That way, no one on the team is forced to work even longer hours than they already do.

Most employers admit that hiring into a small team takes a finer-toothed comb. And at startups there aren’t temp employees or people working beneath you who already know your job. 30 days may seem like a lot, but it shows your soon-to-be former boss and colleagues that you respect them. It also gives you enough time to potentially train your replacement. 

"Burning bridges over the course of your career will only burn you."

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You don't want to simply leave on good terms, you want to leave a good memory in the minds of your work peers. And what they are required to do post exit, will color that memory for better or worse. 

HOW TO LET CLIENTS KNOW YOU’RE LEAVING 

Often, especially at larger companies, it is upper-management’s responsibility to notify clients of your exit, as they are considered company property.  No matter what, you should ask before making contact of any kind and avoid looking a fool. 

That said, everything should be brief but positive. If you are resigning and already know your replacement, it is a good idea to introduce clients to the new team member. That way they know the transition is smooth, not messy, and they are still in good hands. The reality is: a client or work colleagues number one concern isn’t where you’re heading next, but how their account will be handled. 

If however, you resign without a replacement, sending a mass email to your client list looks bad and it makes the company look bad. It looks like balls are getting dropped. Even if you’re leaving on good terms, it’s a surefire way to make your boss question your motives. So, how do you handle leaving if you don’t have someone primed and ready to take over? 

  1. Make sure you have a conversation first. Every boss is different, but taking the time to ask them how they would like you to handle, is a professional courtesy that will be appreciated. 
  2. If you are unwilling to ask, you should wait two weeks to announce your departure. Hopefully in that time the company has found your replacement and assured a smooth transition.  
  3. Send the email from your personal, not work email. 
  4. Do not discuss the ‘why’ of your exit in depth. Bringing any kind of drama into a mass email is unprofessional and sloppy. It doesn't make the company look bad, it makes you look horrible. 

DEFINE YOUR DUTIES THOROUGHLY 

Beyond creating a document that outlines all of your duties, you should also create a document of what you’re currently working on and where those things stand. Your boss will thank you (because you’re saving them the massive headache of sorting through what’s falling through the cracks), but so will the person who follows you. And you never know where that person might end up.  

People tend to think of exiting as it applies to the team they already know. But the truth is, the person who fills your job knows EXACTLY what kind of worker you are/were. Use that to your benefit. They see previous correspondence, how you interface with clients and what you left hanging. If you want to make a good impression, make their transition smooth. You never know where they will end up either.

"The person who fills your job knows EXACTLY what kind of worker you are/were. Use that to your benefit."

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Have a good tip or an experience leaving a job that's made you wiser? Share in the comments below!

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