One of the few things more nerve-inducing than job hunting is quitting your job.
Whether you’re leaving due to a fabulous offer elsewhere, or because you can’t stand your boss, it is wise to maintain a high level of professionalism.
While you might wish to tell your current employer everything you hated about your job and your colleagues, the business environment suggests you take caution. Your old boss might become a new client, and your client might become your boss. Industry professionals talk and you don’t want your reputation soiled because you let your instincts and emotions overtake you.
Avoid the bridge-burning temptation and ensure a smooth transition and strong future professional reference:
Prepare your resignation in writing and deliver it in person. Nothing beats a face to face discussion. Your letter and notes will help you deliver honest, yet positive messages to your boss. Cite the positive things you learned from the company and from colleagues. Express your appreciation at the opportunities given.
When giving an exit interview you’ll likely be asked why you are leaving. Do not take this opportunity to bash the workplace or colleagues. HR professionals will try to solicit negative feedback. You can certainly say you were disappointed in your last raise, or you are seeking more responsibility and professional growth. Keep it professional, not personal. Explain the positive experiences you are hoping to get from your new employer. A savvy boss or HR professional will get the message, without it reflecting poorly on you.
Give ample notice. Unless you’ve been subjected to serious mismanagement or abuses (in which case you should hire a lawyer), you should give no less than two weeks’ notice. Offer to train colleagues and write up a comprehensive project status report to help in the transition. Ask your boss how he or she wishes to notify clients and staff, and respect his or her wishes.
Don’t goof off during your last days or hours. You are still getting paid until you leave the organization. As such, you should still be generating value and contributing regardless of your exit-focused mindset. Employers will remember and notice your lasting professionalism.
Remain tight lipped. When word spreads about your exit, you’ll likely be inundated with requests for gossip from colleagues and clients about your reasons for leaving. Don’t fall for this temptation to chat. Stick to your positive key messages about the new opportunity you’ve been given (don’t over share about the greatness of your new company—focus on your professional interests and goals). Be sure to express how much you will miss your current company and colleagues.
If you handle your departure with maturity, professionalism and poise, you will have a strong professional reference for life. The likelihood that you’ll again work with or for your former bosses, clients, and colleagues is high, especially if you were a star employee.
In fact, you might receive an immediate counter offer. While monetary temptations are hard to resist, it is better to respectfully decline the counter. Your new employer will likely come up in salary to avoid losing you. Money should never be the chief motivating factor for leaving or staying at an organization. Corporate culture, clients, and quality of life will have a much higher impact on your overall satisfaction and happiness.
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.