Today we’re going to talk about something that I recently went through and was dreading doing for so long–formally quitting my job. The thought of giving notice was so stressful to me that I put it off for as long as I possibly could for fear of the unknown. I’d never left a job before, and had no idea what to expect. I actually searched the internet for some advice beforehand, and after going through the process, I feel there is SO much more to be said on the topic, particularly for young professionals. It seemed like a lot of posts were geared towards people leaving jobs they hated in pursuit of new opportunities, which was not the case at all for me.
I realize that most people don’t leave jobs they love (ok, I’m crazy for doing this… I get it!), but I also know that there are plenty of different reasons that people leave their jobs that don’t involve being super unhappy. If you’re considering giving notice in the near future, I hope this post is helpful to you–regardless of whether you’re leaving on good terms or bad. Ok, there’s a lot of good stuff in here, so let’s dive in. First up:
- DON’T tell anyone that you’re leaving before you meet with your boss. I’m serious–don’t do it. I don’t care how close you are with your work BFF, I promise that she can’t keep a secret like this to herself. BC and I told a few of our friends who also happened to be coworkers, and that was probably the biggest mistake we made throughout the entire process. All of a sudden I would be standing in the cafe and someone would approach me (that I didn’t know very well) asking about Colorado. Luckily I was able to give notice to my boss before word spread too quickly, but the smaller your workplace, the more important this will be. Keep the details to yourself until you have a chance to tell your manager–and here’s why.
- DO look in to whether your employment agreement is based on an at-will contract, and factor that into your decision of when you plan to give your notice. At-will employment means that either an employer or an employee has the right to terminate their business relationship at any time, regardless of cause–in fact, even in the absence of cause. It is true that two weeks is often the standard notice of courtesy, but if you turn in your notice and you have an at-will agreement at your company, they can dismiss you on the spot or when you come in the next morning if they so choose. It’s unlikely that your employer will do this, but it doesn’t discount the fact that you should be prepared in the small likelihood that it does occur. I would not recommend giving notice more than one month in advance before you plan to leave.
- DO prepare a letter of resignation that details your reason for leaving, your appreciation for the team and the opportunity, and the date that you plan on working as your last day with the organization. A lot of people think that this is an unnecessary or antiquated corporate tradition, but I disagree. Regardless of how casual your workplace, writing a letter gives you the chance to formally thank the company and emphasize your commitment to finishing out your final days. Realize that in the corporate world and out, a lot of things that don’t happen in writing just end up as hearsay. Leaving a job can be a highly emotional situation for both you and your employer, and you don’t want to rely on yourself to remember to say those things (or that your boss will even hear what you say, if they’re shocked). You can of course choose to submit this as an email to your boss after you meet with them, but I would encourage you to write the letter, print it out and sign it with your name. The formality and finality of doing so will give you courage if you need it… and boy, I sure did.
- DON’T plan a grand stunt where you’ll tell your least favorite coworker everything you always wanted to say and “drop the mic” on your way out. Don’t do it! If you don’t love your current situation it can be tempting when you cut ties to hit them with an exit they’ll never forget, but I can’t emphasize enough how damaging this is to your career. You want to be known for your level head, your worksmarts and your strong communication, not poor. Even if you already have a job lined up and think you don’t need a recommendation from anyone, be aware that the grapevine is a real thing. You’d be surprised how far negative information about you can spread in your industry—and you don’t really want that to follow you for the rest of your career.
- DO make it a point to schedule something or ask your manager for a moment of their time, rather than re-purposing an existing meeting. I made this mistake when I gave my notice, because I wanted to wait until my last day before I went to Denver to find housing. My boss had scheduled a quick chat to be on the same page before I left. Initially I thought it was the perfect opportunity, but some other meetings ran late that day which resulted in ours getting pushed back and eventually cancelled. I was on edge the entire day, panicking and sick to my stomach about when I would be able to speak to my boss, and finally had to interrupt her before she went to her last meeting and left for the day. Which leads me to my next point….
- DON’T panic if the conversation doesn’t go how you pictured it. By the time I was able to speak to my boss, I was a complete bundle of nerves. Both my boss and my skip supervisor were present when I gave notice, primarily because my heart was slamming in my chest like I had no choice and had to do it RIGHT THEN OR I NEVER WOULD. I had rehearsed multiple times in my head prior to the meeting and had all these things I wanted to say about how much I valued the team and my time there, but because the meeting was pushed back, I completely floundered when the time actually came. “I’m moving!”, I blurted out, and sort of shoved my letter of resignation into my boss’ hands. Needless to say, that wasn’t the scenario I’d planned in my head. I should have taken a deep breath and just returned to my original speech. Luckily, both of my bosses were highly understanding and supportive, which came in handy as you’ll see.
- DON’T feel embarrassed if you get emotional when you turn in your notice. I don’t know what happened while I was in that meeting with my bosses but all of a sudden I felt my chest get tight and my eyes start to sting—and I was crying! ME. I never cry. Really! Yet here I was, dabbing at my eyes with a tissue and trying to compose myself. The truth is, I put a lot of myself into this job. It was the first “real” job I had after college, and I learned so much and grew so much as a person with so many amazing colleagues working around me. Countless hours of hard work went into my position, so it was natural for me to feel upset that I was leaving, even if I was doing it of my own accord. A lot of people think that going to work means stripping yourself of all human emotion, but that’s neither true nor possible. Don’t be ashamed for caring–you’re a human being and are bound to act like one. If this happens to you, don’t feel embarrassed–it’s hard to leave a job that you truly value and your boss will likely respect you and empathize with you for caring about the position as much as you do, so don’t sweat it.
- DO let your boss know you’ll assist in the transition of replacing you, as needed. Whether this involves training your replacement or transitioning projects to existing team members, it’s possible your boss is panicking on their end imagining all of the extra work that might somehow be coming on to their plate. There may not be much you can do to help, but offering to do so in any way you can will certainly be appreciated.
- DON’T badmouth your boss, team, department, or company to your coworkers once you’ve turned in your notice. I personally had a great experience at my job, but once people heard I was leaving, there were a strange amount of assumptions that it was because I was unhappy. After my job was posted for a replacement, I had numerous people approach me and ask if there were any “negatives” about the role or what my experience was with leadership. First of all, this is highly unprofessional and if anyone approaches you with these types of questions, you should shut them down quickly and affirmatively. Workplace politics are not appropriate and you don’t want to be involved in them. Even if you did have a bad experience in your role, it’s not your job to “warn” anyone interested in the position because everyone is different, and something that wasn’t right for you might be the perfect fit for them. Save your comments for HR if you feel you have something warranted to say; otherwise, stay professional and positive until your last day. And finally…
- DO gather the contact information of coworkers and key connections before you leave to ensure you stay in touch. I’m talking real contact information–phone numbers, emails, and even addresses where applicable. As part of #TeamNOFacebook, I am a little more uniquely challenged when it comes to making sure I keep in touch with people–but that is not going to stop me. If you’ve spent time investing and growing connections with your colleagues, you should not rely on Facebook to help keep those connections alive in the future. On the flip side of that, make sure everyone has YOUR contact information as well. You never know when you’ll run into people or hear from someone in the future.
Wow! That was a much longer post than I anticipated… I had so much to say! Haha. But I think it’s all valuable information, some of which I wish I would have known before I went through the process myself. What do you guys think–did I miss anything? Have you ever quit your job before? What was the process like? Let me know in the comments!