[Note: For the next few week’s I’ll be going over the when, why and how of leaving a job. If at any time you have a question that doesn’t get answered shoot me an email.]
Every few months, you’ll see an example in the news media of someone who left their job in dramatic fashion. Examples include the JetBlue flight attendant who famously deployed the emergency chute on the runway, or the Goldman Sachs executive who wrote a “Why I Am Leaving” article in the New York Times.
These stories catch our attention because they showcase an over-the-top way to exit a company — but they are also cautionary tales for jobseekers. When at all possible, don’t burn bridges at your current employer. You never know when you’ll run across your co-workers — or current supervisors — in the future.
When you’re thinking of leaving your job, there are things to consider in three phases of the separation — things to think about before you even begin to apply for a new job, considerations to keep in mind as you look for a new job while you’re still employed, and how to leave your current job gracefully.
Before You Start Your Job Search
When you decide to start looking for another position, take the time to review your old files and make a list of your accomplishments in the position. If you haven’t been collecting accomplishments all along, now is the time to start. This information will be useful in developing your résumé as well as in interviews. Make copies of documents that support your accomplishments (unless company policy prohibits it). You may not have access to this information once you submit your resignation — especially if you are asked to leave immediately.
The first thing to consider when you’re ready to resign is whether your company has a policy or guideline about how much notice you should provide. You should also check your employee handbook and any employment agreement you have with the company. If you’ve worked at the company for any length of time, you should have some idea of how resignations are handled. Does your boss ask the resigning employee to leave immediately, or do they generally ask him or her to stay on until a replacement is found? How much time is it customary to offer to stay? You should always offer to stay two weeks, but have a contingency plan in place if you’re asked to leave immediately.
Before you notify your supervisor of your resignation, make sure you are prepared to leave. You don’t want to tip anyone off that you’re leaving — things like taking your photos off your desk or boxing up personal items on your bookshelf are noticeable — but you can quietly clean out your desk and files.
This includes cleaning off your work computer. If you have personal documents on your computer, save them to a flash drive, and then delete the originals from your computer. You can forward any personal email messages you want to save to your non-work email address, and then delete the originals. (Be sure to delete messages in your “sent mail” folder too.) If you have online accounts that use your business email address for the log-in, change the accounts over to your personal email. If you downloaded software to your computer that isn’t related to your job, be sure to uninstall it. And, finally, learn how to delete your computer’s browsing history, cookies, and saved passwords from your Internet browser.
When cleaning out your desk and files, shred or trash old files that won’t be needed by your successor.
If you bring home a few personal items at a time, it won’t be as noticeable. The goal is to be able to easily bring home all of your personal belongings in one or two boxes — and, to be able to leave your job without leaving behind any personal information.
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