There’s probably been once or twice when you’ve thought of saying, “I quit!” and walking out of work. Or, better yet — just not going back again tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could forget about your current job and just start over?
Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy. As much as you may hate to admit it, your current job will influence your next job and your job after that. Leaving a workplace is an art form.
In some cases, it may be fairly easy. But, in others, it can be very tricky. You’ll find that some of your coworkers treat your departure much like a breakup. There may be drama, and it’s possible there are people you’re close with now who you’ll never see again.
Keep it quiet
At times, looking for a job can feel like no big deal. You may think, “Everyone’s looking, right? What is there to hide?” But, think again. Telling your work buddy or cube-mate about your plans could get you into hot water. In many states, your employer can fire you for no reason. If your boss believes you’ve become disloyal to the company (because you’re searching for a new job), don’t expect to stay around for long. In fact, you could be fired the same day. Losing your job unexpectedly not only creates bad blood between you and your company — it takes away your power.
Tell your boss in person
When you have a new job offer, tell your boss about your new plans. But, wait until it’s in writing and signed. Keep in mind that this change could come as a surprise to your boss. Take the time to tell them first, and do it in person. Don’t let them hear rumors from other departments — and definitely don’t send an e-mail. Even if you don’t care for your boss, tell them in person.
Don’t give too much notice
This may sound counter-intuitive, but I don’t recommend giving an overly long period of notice. If you look closely, you’ll find that many top executives only give the required two weeks notice when they shift to a new company. Generally speaking, transitioning your work to someone new takes two to three weeks. Beyond that, you’ll find you will continue to work your normal job up to the two or three week mark. For example, if you give two months, chances are good that the transition won’t actually happen until the end. But, in that long period of notice, people will begin behaving differently. Knowing you’re leaving soon, they may act out toward you or try to take out their frustrations on you. It’s not a guaranteed outcome, but it’s definitely a possibility when you give more notice than what’s needed.
Do a great job — every single day
Your reputation is the most important thing you have career wise. The last few weeks of your employment with a company is not the time to slack off. Don’t leave your coworkers and old boss left to wonder if they really knew you or your work. Force yourself to show up on time, stay all day, and do your best work ever. Work hard to transition your projects to someone new. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.
Keep your negative thoughts to yourself
Often (or lets be honest — almost always), you leave a job because you’re not happy. If you were, you’d stay there. Makes sense, right? So, by the time you’ve found a new job, you may be ready to really tell it like it is. On top of that, once your coworkers know you’re leaving, a crazy thing starts to happen. Everyone starts to show up in your office. They want to know your gossip. They want to tell you their gossip. They want your help leaving their job. They want to tell you how unhappy they are. It’s amazing how much dirt you can learn in just the last few weeks with the company. But, be careful. Spreading rumors or talking trash about your employer is never helpful.
Think twice about exit interviews
Yep, you read that right. Exit interviews are often provided by Human Resources as an optional way to leave feedback about your experience. It’s presented as a positive thing, and many employees love participating. It gives them a chance to feel heard. But, beware of the potential trap. If you’re leaving because you dislike your boss, this is not the time to air your dirty laundry. First of all, your company probably already knows about your boss — and hey, the boss still works there. What good will your negative comments really do in the long run? What they may do however is burn a bridge between you and a former boss.
Don’t burn bridges
Even if you got your new job without the help of your current company, you will need them again at some point. Even if someone isn’t your favorite, keep the door open for future possibilities. Do your best not to write people off on your way out. And, realize that they may also be really unhappy at their jobs. Leaving the door open creates future opportunities you never even thought of.
Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.