"Let’s hope we're moving up. Let’s hope that if we’re not moving up, we’re moving on to things that better suit our strengths and make us whistle while we pack our lunch for the next day."

How To… Quit Your Job (Without Burning Bridges)

Maybe you never ever want to leave your job. Maybe if your job could propose, you would take that promotion and marry it with the pure intention of a lifetime of happiness. But sometimes, a job is just a bump on the road to somewhere else; a necessary evil to pay off some student loans, an internship for some “experience,” a job that is Mr. Right Now but not exactly Mr. Right.

Yet somehow, even quitting a temporary gig can bring cold sweats. You didn’t think you’d care, but a part of you does. I can recall once recruiting my tallest and burliest friend to escort me in picking up my last cheque from a huge retail chain. I was just one of a million of quitters, but still, I was nervous to the point that I thought I needed backup to get a piece of paper (I didn’t).

And what if the job you’re leaving, though not the ideal position, does ultimately align with your industry of choice? Parting ways becomes an even bigger deal and is an even more delicate situation. But moving up and out doesn’t need to be awkward or something to fear. We don’t need backup! Here’s how to hit it and quit it, in a way that leaves no one with hurt feelings.

  1. Give notice. Once you’ve made a decision, tell who needs to be told—and get on it fast if you have a deadline, such as the start date of another job. Giving notice will make you look responsible and in control of your life. I’m also asking you to think about your bosses for a sec, because they’re the ones that have to replace you, and they look bad if they don’t do so in a timely fashion. So help them out! A poor exit could lead to negative associations towards you, and that’s not fair after your otherwise stellar performance. So don’t be that flaky girl. You may be itching to GTFO, but for your sake and theirs, don’t leave people in the lurch.
  2. Multiply your effort. Stay focused. Now that the line is drawn, work even harder than usual to leave on the very, very best foot. If you’re feeling sleepy, too bad. This type of 110 percent display is only temporary, so try toughing it out. Too many people start slipping when they see the light at the end of the tunnel. And for what gain? To throw away the months and/or years of time, energy, and early wakeups for a way too casual Friday? Don’t go misrepresenting yourself! Get what’s yours.
  3. Seek references. Yeah, you can stick something on your resume and pray that it never surfaces in an interview—but if you don’t have a solid reference to back you up, why even advertise? Somewhere down the line, the new peeps are going to want to talk to the old ones. So before you leave, set up a meeting and/or casually swing by your supervisor’s desk (or someone else who really appreciates whatever you do) and ask them if they would be your reference. Better to claim them now when everything is fresh and friendly, instead of later if you are scrounging or too much time has passed. Lock it down!
  4. Consider gifts. If you feel gratitude, show it! Who doesn’t like a gift? No one. Maybe it’s for your superior, your desk buddy, or that dandy lady in the mailroom. Do what feels right. A gift could just be a heartfelt thank you, but maybe it’s something original that they’ll never forget. I once gave a boss going-away Canadian maple syrup. Months later we bumped into each other a concert, and after some catching up, he shouted above the music, “I STILL USE THE MAPLE SYRUP!” Warmed my heart. Make your mark! If it’s appropriate for your office environment, consider showing some love to the people and establishment that have helped you become the business lady you are today.
  5. Have an exit interview. Maybe here is where you ask for a reference! An exit interview is sweet for hearing feedback, learning from some missteps, asking questions, and going home with a clear vision of your performance. A sit down interview doesn’t mesh with all work environments, but find a way to have a meaningful last connection with someone from above. In a sneaky way, by doing this you are also asking your superior to think long and hard about you. Assuming you were an unbeatable employee, this final meeting of the minds will boldly underline that fact when it matters the most. Prepare for an even better reference and an even better kinship to call upon later!

Let’s hope we’re moving up. Let’s hope that if we’re not moving up, we’re moving on to things that better suit our strengths and make us whistle while we pack our lunch for the next day. With every job you have the chance to meet new people, learn new skills, and even sharpen your most tried and true talents. The personal satisfaction of a job well done should be enough for you to choose to finish strong. But if it isn’t, think about how you never know where your career path is going and how you never know who you will run into (again). Make it so your past only affects your future positively! Like a band on tour, each venue matters. While you might not want to live in Little Rock, Arkansas forever, you definitely want the audience to go home with a song or two stuck in their head. You made an excellent first impression—now it’s time to leave a lasting one.

2 Comments

  1. DaFinestOne
    March 21, 2013

    They say quitters never win, but sometimes you have to! “shedoesthecity: How to quit a job without burning bridges. http://t.co/xtPs4nvkX4kX4”

  2. Nellie Ohn
    March 21, 2013

    Brilliant!

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