Leaving a job at some point is nearly inevitable. People quit their jobs for all sorts of reasons: going back to school, career change, motherhood, fatherhood, cross-country move, hopeful wanderer, etc. Why you quit your job is an important determination towards discovering a better fit, but it need not dictate How you quit your job. Departing your workplace with truth & tact, dignity & class, style & grace will help you ease out of your current role and secure a more suitable position elsewhere. This may be more important than ever. According to LinkedIn, Millennials are changing jobs more frequently than previous generations. So it’s good to know how to quit your job…beyond just dropping the mic and dipping out.
Tip #1 – Give At Least Two Weeks Notice
Submitting your Two Weeks Notice – or the standard amount of notice time for your company – gives your soon-to-be former employer enough time to begin searching for your replacement. Try not to leave sooner than that, unless extenuating circumstances require that you do so. Sometimes life happens, but do your best to respect your employer by adhering to company policy. By doing so, your employer will appreciate your professionalism and be more willing to help you with your next steps. Leaving on good terms is the best way to go. Scream for joy once you’ve officially left the office (just make sure you’re out of earshot…).
Tip #2 – Be a Human, not a Robot
You just received a mass e-mail from a beloved colleague who informed the team that she will be moving onto greener pastures. Your coworker provided a standard ‘thank you’ with all of the generic acknowledgements about how much she learned and grew over the past few years (or months….or weeks). “Most of all, I will miss each and every one of you dearly. You have all played an integral role in my professional development and I do hope to stay in touch going forward.”
Not much of a tear-jerker, is it? In fact, it’s eerily similar to the last seven resignation e-mails you’ve read. You start to wonder: is there a resignation e-mail template that everyone has been using? Have employees become so robotic in the day-to-day monotony of the job that they can’t even sign off with a hint of humanity? Don’t become a part of the machine world. Step 1: Tell your colleagues in person that you are leaving the company. Step 2: Send a personal farewell address (e-mail) that is uniquely yours and doesn’t resemble the lame resignation e-mail template. Be a human.
Tip #3 – Beware of the Cynics
Word travels quickly and loudly across cubicle barriers, so I suggest you choose your conversations wisely. “Keep your friends close, and your (cubicle) enemies closer.” There are folks out there who don’t want you to escape your cubicle. If they suspect the rise of a cubicle defector, they’ll do their best to sabotage your getaway plan. The naysayers might try to conjure self-doubt and discourage you from making a career-damning decision. “What will you do next? How do you think future employers will view this decision? Have you considered the repercussions?” This is especially true if your departure plans are unconventional. Perhaps you’re escaping your cubicle to travel for a while. Maybe you’re joining the Peace Corps. Or maybe you feel called to revitalize inner city public schools by serving as a teacher and mentor for troubled youth. Any decision that veers from the expected path makes cynics uncomfortable, defensive, and confused.
There’s a simple remedy: don’t listen to them. Cynics are simply voicing their own insecurities in an attempt to bring you down to their level. Respond as patiently and honestly as you can and you’ll heap coals on their head. Courageous decisions threaten the fabric of convention. Cynics are uncomfortable with rebels who ruffle the status quo. Stay strong and keep ruffling.
Tip #4 – Be Honest About Why You’re Breaking Up
Striking a balance between truth and tact is often difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, it doesn’t excuse you from making an effort to do so. Don’t forget to explain the real reasons why you’re leaving the company. Perhaps your answer is as simple as wanting to move to another city. Or maybe you’re heading off to grad school. These are routine and impersonal reasons for leaving a job. But let’s say you were consistently dissatisfied in your position. Conveying that truth is a little more difficult and doing so can even be a bit awkward. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to communicate this to your employer and explain why. Chances are, they’ll appreciate your honest feedback and constructive criticism. Keyword: constructive. This is not an angry, unfiltered rant and tell-all about how miserable you were in your cubicle and how close you were to chucking your monitor out of the window on the 34th floor. That wouldn’t be very tactful, or appropriate. Respect tact, be truthful, and don’t be afraid to get real with your employer.
Tip #5 – Ask for a Reference Letter
Nearly every job requires at least one reference letter from a professional source. Your prospective employer wants assurance that you are a professional, responsible, ethical, and hard-working employee. These are intangible, transferable skills that speak to your character. Trust and respect aren’t automatically awarded and need to be earned. We need people to vouch for us. Hiring decisions are always a bit of a gamble, and reference letters are merely companies performing their due diligence. With reference letters, resumes, and interviews, employers gather data points to make an informed hiring decision.
Asking for a reference letter is yet another reason to leave your job on good terms. Assuming you’re departing on solid ground and had been a consummate professional during your tenure at the company, your boss should be more than happy to write a reference letter for you. It’s a good idea to ask for a reference letter before you leave your job. Just try not to ask on the same day that you drop the Two Weeks Notice bomb. Let that one breathe for a few days, and then ask away.