A How to Guide on Leaving Your Job Gracefully

Being the best quitter

Leaving a job is your last opportunity to make a good impression on your coworkers, so you better make it count. They’ll probably remember your last week more than the months or years you spent as their coworker.

Whether you’ve been counting down the days on your calendar until you leave the hole you call hell, or you’ll really miss your job but you have to go, moving on to a new company and a new position is a transition that can be uncomfortable to navigate.

Hopefully, you’re the one who’s made the choice to leave (because if not, it’s probably even more awkward). Regardless, you can do a few things to make it easier, not burn any bridges, and be the best quitter.

Don’t be smug

In some ways, if you’re leaving a bad job it’s like getting paroled while all the other inmates have more time to serve. Don’t lord your “I got out” attitude, or drone on about how good your new job is going to be.

Give and get RESPECTFUL feedback.

One of the most important things for you to know as you start a new job is how you come off to the people around you, and one of the best ways to figure that out is to ask.

Talk to key people — peers, bosses, and underlings — about what you did well, how you could’ve been better at your job and as a team player, advice they would give on how to best work with you, etc. People tend to be more candid when they know they might never see your face again, so this is a unique opportunity to gather this information.

Feel free to return the favor, but remember that respect is the keyword here. Just because you’re leaving, doesn’t give you free pass to be a jerk. That goes for your exit meeting with HR too. They don’t need to know all you think about the place or every small grievance you have stored in the hateful part of your heart.

You should frame what you want them to know in a way that is constructive and honest but does not burn to the ground all that they have built.

Don’t shirk your duties

This seems the most obvious but also seems to be the hardest to follow through on. There’s nothing worse than leaving coworkers in the lurch because you checked out as soon as you gave notice. People will be anxiously watching to see whether you deliver on your commitments, and they will remember if you exceed their expectations.

Other than finishing your projects, things will likely slow down for you. You probably won’t have anything to do with new projects, and the days may begin to drag. Make it look like you’re working, even if you don’t have anything to do. The perception that you’re doing nothing (even if you really have nothing to do) leaves co-workers with a bad taste in their mouth about you.

Focus on the positive.

Leaving a job is usually full of mixed feelings (at best), but this is a time to focus on the positive and not just to be well-remembered. Negativity can seep into your perspective and especially your habits. It can become too common for you to describe things negatively, and you can show up at your next job and sound like Debbie Downer. 

It’s imperative your negativity does not affect how you show up and build relationships at your next job. To avoid this black hole, concentrate on the wins, big and small, that happened while you were there.

Remember what you learned at this job — through good and bad experiences — and how helpful that will be as you move forward. Without those experiences, you may not even be moving to this new position, so while you’re patting yourself on the back, take a moment to be grateful too.

Say Thank You

Once that gratitude has filled your heart (or just gotten you a better perspective), say thank you to anyone and for everything. It will go such a long way in maintaining good relationships and leaving on a high note.

Foster great connections on your way OUT the door

How often does it happen as you’re saying goodbye that someone says they wish they had a chance to get to know you better or work with you?  Kick off the relationship in that moment by setting up a date for a coffee.

For the people who already matter to you, establish some sort of follow-up timeline. Schedule a phone call, coffee next month or drinks after the long weekend. Maintaining your relationships is important, but it’s really easy to let things fall through the cracks in the hubbub of a new job. Make it a priority.

Then, there are the small things that really suck if you forget them. Download all of your contacts before you’re cut off from the IT system; get your last doctor appointments in before you’re off benefits, and take a picture of your desk right before you leave so you can look back on it as motivation to leave a dead end job sooner next time (or fondly, if that’s your thing).

The salient point here is it’s much easier to start a new job on a high from your previous one rather than still wallowing in its misery, and it’s easy to set yourself up for that success. The impressions you make on your way out the door are just as important as the ones you make on your way in.

 

Do you have any tips on quitting? Share in the comments!

 

Nora Philbin

Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).

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2 responses to “A How to Guide on Leaving Your Job Gracefully

  1. Hey Nora

    thanks for the reminders!

    I’m about to keave my job of 5+ years as a CIO of a Fortune 200 company

    I’ll try to do it gracefully 😉

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