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This story originally appeared on DollarSprout.
A few months ago I decided to leave my 14-year-old job to work full-time as a freelance writer. But when it was time to let me know, I was overcome by fear. I've seen other people leave the company over the years and it rarely ended well.
Although I did my best, I wish I had handled the process more professionally. It is always better to leave doors open than to slam them on the way out.
According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, 3.5 million people quit their jobs in January 2020, and it is reasonable to assume that not all of these people left their jobs amicably. While it would be nice if it were that easy, quitting a job is more than just telling your boss to go, pack your desk, and walk out the door.
Follow these 10 steps to ensure you leave your job professionally and stay on good terms with your previous employer.
1. Get a job or other source of income.
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If you are planning to quit a job, it is a good idea to plan another job beforehand to ensure that income is less disrupted. Since there is no guarantee that a job search will be done quickly, you don't need to worry about this type of uncertainty when you have a job, emergency fund, or other source of income. It also means you can take the time to find a job that suits you well.
Once you've found a new job or career path, you can work towards an end date in your current position and a start date with a new company. Find out how flexible your new boss is with your start date in case things don't go according to plan when you leave your current job.
2. Avoid chatting in the workplace.
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Once you know it's time to quit your job, it's best to play your cards near your chest. Knowing you're leaving creates a false sense of security and makes it easier for you to tell how you feel about the job, the company, and your employees.
This is not always a smart move. “Employees often dream of finally asserting themselves against bosses or employees who have abused them,” says Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful. “While this may be a satisfying fantasy, never stop like this. It's immature, hostile, and severing any solid relationships or connections you've built with someone in the company. "
If you have legitimate problems or complaints about your job or your treatment by the company, Steiner recommends using your exit interview with HR to express these.
3. Schedule a meeting with your manager.
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In addition to not making complaints about the company, you should speak to your line manager before reporting this to your employees. It is a professional courtesy and will help you control the situation. Telling your co-workers about it can lead to your boss learning secondhand, which can lead to unnecessary problems or hostility.
Make it a goal to schedule a meeting with your boss. A personal meeting is preferable. However, if an in-person meeting doesn't work, schedule a conference call or phone call instead.
You don't have to do this once you know you want to quit your job. However, once you've set a timeframe and goal on the final day, your boss needs to know.
4. Prepare for your meeting.
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After the scheduled meeting, take some time to prepare for it. Get an idea of what to say and what not to say, and take notes on these topics of conversation. In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say things that you didn't mean to or that could damage your reputation.
Be prepared for questions your boss may ask and how you could answer them, but don't feel compelled to explain yourself or your reason for leaving. You can share these feelings during your exit interview.
Write your resignation letter ahead of time to give to your boss at the meeting. A resignation letter is your chance to leave for business, set a schedule for your departure, and share your appreciation for the time spent with the company.
5. Ask for a reference.
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If you plan to use your manager as a job reference during your job search, try to save this now while the news is up to date.
It might be awkward to ask for reference right after the notice of resignation, but it's worth it, especially if you have a solid relationship. Good references, especially from a former employer, will help you land future jobs.
If your manager denies your reference request, ask someone else at the company you worked for or with who can confirm the quality of your work.
6. Show gratitude for your job.
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In all of your communications, make it known that you are grateful for your job. Gratitude can take many forms. You can write thank you notes to supervisors and employees who helped you with this. Buy a small gift or lunch for coworkers to say one last thank you.
It is usually possible to find things you are grateful for and lessons you have learned to help you in the future.
7. Let us know at least two weeks in advance.
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When quitting your job, make sure you give the company at least two weeks notice or whatever company policies require. This allows them to prepare internally for your departure and makes you look respectful, professional, and polite.
Steiner says: “So many employees will quit their jobs without informing their employers. This is one of the worst things you can do when you quit a job. No matter how much success you've had in this position or how many solid relationships you've built, you will always be viewed as the employee who left without notice. "
Once you've notified them, stick to that timeframe. Do not try to leave earlier than planned and do not stay beyond if prompted.
8. Ask what they need from you.
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Quitting your job means a significant change for you, but also for your employer.
Writer and freelance coach Laura Gariepy worked in HR for a decade and saw it firsthand.
"Your departure from the company likely throws a wrench into your manager's plans," she said. "You have to mix resources and change your strategy to achieve the business goals." You can reduce the burden by being proactive and asking what you can do to help during the transition. It's a professional gesture that both your boss and co-workers will appreciate.
As you help the company, you can train your replacement or leave resources or notes to help the next person in your position. You may also want to do ongoing projects or paperwork, inform clients or clients of your departure, or return devices issued by the company.
9. Leave a positive note.
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Make up your mind to go well. Even if your experience with the company was less than desirable, try to find some good aspects beyond receiving a paycheck. Perhaps you have received an education you otherwise could not have afforded or developed a skill that you can transfer to a new career. Or maybe you have expanded your professional network or made close friends.
Gariepy thinks this is an important step in quitting a job. Regardless of poor pay, micromanagement supervisors, or an overall toxic work environment, she advises staying positive.
"Keep showing yourself and performing well until your last day," says Gariepy. “The professional world can be small and you may come across people from this job later in your career. So don't burn bridges if you can help. "
10. Understand that your employer is entitled to respond.
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When you announce your departure, your employer will inevitably have a reaction and it may not be the reaction you expect or want. They may be angry or confused and demand to leave immediately.
Even if you disagree, try to respect their feelings. This was likely an emotional decision for you, but it gave you time to process your feelings. This is the first time they have heard your messages and will take some time to work through theirs.
Offer some grace as they try to plan your departure.
Quitting a job on good terms is best for your future endeavors
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While it is difficult to know how the decisions you make now can affect your future career, there are a few steps you can take to protect your reputation and career prospects.
While it is tempting to let your boss know how you are feeling, some things are better left unsaid. Stick to company protocol, announce it, and tie up any loose ends before leaving. Talk to the HR department, get your references in writing and give your employer the space and time to process your message.
Even if you change your career, it helps to quit your job professionally and respectfully.
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