As awkward as it is, when it comes time to quit your job, you need to look your boss in the face and tell them that you’re leaving. Leaving on good terms, with mutual respect, might not make for a stellar viral video, but it does happen to be a great strategy for your career, your reputation, and your wallet.
In fact, given how valuable your network is, there’s probably a delayed financial incentive to keep your boss on Team You during the transition. You never know when you’ll be in a position to work with them again or need them as a reference, so let’s make sure this whole quitting business goes off without a hitch – without leaving you broke.
First up, let’s talk timing
If you’re reading this, let’s assume that your current gig isn’t checking off every box on your career must-have list, and you’re preparing to call it quits. Maybe you’ve scored another job, maybe you’re venturing out on your own or maybe you just need out ASAP.
Your first step is going to be setting a timeline to pull the plug on your job. This will depend on factors including the current state of your job search and the current state of your emergency fund, so take a look at your life (and your bank balance) and give yourself a reasonable timeline. Then, once you’ve gathered up the nerve to leave, offer a standard two weeks’ notice.
“But what if I’m so indispensable that they absolutely can’t live without me and need four weeks’ notice?!”
Unless you’re under a contract that legally requires you to give more than two weeks’ notice, trust me when I say that the company will be OK. Two weeks is standard and appropriate, and more than enough time for you to pass off any key projects or clients to your remaining teammates.
Plus, remember that some companies will take your laptop and your keys as soon as you give notice, and escort you out of the building.
So … how’s that bank account situation going?
There are two money situations you’ll run into when you quit your job. One is when you’ve got another gig lined up, so at worst you’ll be out of a paycheck for a week or two. The other is when you’re quitting without your next move planned, or when your next move is something entrepreneurial without a clear path to revenue quite yet.
Basically, either you’re going to keep getting a regular paycheck, or you won’t. As you can imagine, figuring out the money stuff will be vastly different in those situations. If you’re getting a paycheck in the few weeks after you quit, feel free to pass go, collect that paycheck, and keep living your life – no major financial planning required.
If you’re planning to step out into the unknown and go paycheck-free for a little while, you’ll need to make sure you’re not going to go food-free at the same time. To prepare yourself, track your expenses for a month or two, and keep an eye on which expenses are necessities. That’s your baseline spending, and you should aim to have enough to cover a few months of that level of spending before breaking up with your paycheck.
Wrapping things up on good terms
There are some things you definitely owe your employer, including finishing up any work you agreed to finish, and remaining cordial in the work environment while you’re there. But here’s something you don’t owe them: the whole, unvarnished truth about exactly why you’re leaving.
Listen, this isn’t a breakup, and as much as it can feel like you need to get your frustrations off of your chest, my best advice is to keep it to yourself. There are very few situations in which your feedback will be actionable (aka make a difference and be implemented) so vent to your friends over celebratory beers, not to your exit interviewer.
Regardless of why you’re leaving, something along these lines will get you through almost any “So, why are you leaving?” conversation, whether it’s telling your boss or chatting with HR.
“I have really appreciated the opportunity to work at [COMPANY] and especially with my team and under [DIRECT MANAGER]. I’m choosing to pursue another opportunity that I believe is the right fit for my career and skills growth, and I’m committed to ensuring the transition goes smoothly.”
You look like a professional who cares about growth, and if that gets you a negative reaction, well, just thank your lucky stars you’re escaping an environment that hates career growth.
Connecting with coworkers after you’ve left
Some jobs will send you off in style, be totally transparent about why you’re leaving, and give you the opportunity to say goodbye to your coworkers ahead of time. Then, there are the Other Situations – like the ones where you get escorted out of the building – and in those cases, you’ve got some follow-up work to do with your coworkers.
And no, I don’t mean making sure they’re informed about the projects you left behind. I mean making sure they’re informed about how to get in touch with you because they’re now a part of your professional network – not just the team with which you gossip about the Bachelor.
So make sure to hop on LinkedIn and shoot them a note telling them you enjoyed working with them and would love to stay in touch. You can include your personal email address, so they have your new contact details.
Before you feel awkward about reaching out, remember: Your coworkers might not even know why you left, since HR departments and managers can’t discuss confidential details like that. The uncertainty can make them feel awkward about reaching out to you, so always be proactive. These are now people who know you well, probably like you and are working in your industry.
They’re the gold standard of networking contacts.
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