The other day at an event with small business owners, a woman was telling me how her employees just got up and quit without any notice or acknowledgment. She discovered, the person leaving had no idea that there was a right way to leave a job, and that it wasn’t as simple as saying goodbye and walking out the door.
It’s a situation nearly everyone encounters—and one that younger people are facing more often than their elders. In a recent Gallup survey, 21 percent of millennials said they’ve changed jobs within the past year—more than three times the number of nonmillennials.
Whatever your age, you’re likely to someday find yourself ready to quit a job—whether you’ve been offered a new opportunity, you’re relocating, or you’re escaping bad management or work you don’t enjoy. Whatever the reason, how you leave a job is just as important as how you start one. Think of it as your last opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and integrity.
With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to help you know what to do when the time comes:
1. Follow protocol.
Every organization has different processes and expectations for people who are leaving. Most require a formal letter of resignation to begin the process, followed by a combination of paperwork and meetings. Keep everything as brief, specific and positive as possible.
2. Give adequate notice.
Plan ahead—don’t spring any news without thoughtfully processing it yourself, and make sure you give at least two week’s notice. Make your notice long enough that you can finish up incomplete tasks and hand off your responsibilities to someone else, and to give your employer time to plan for your departure
3. on the way out.
Most organizations will conduct an exit interview, which gives you a chance to share feedback and thoughts with management or HR. No matter how frustrated with the company you may be, stay constructive with your feedback. When asked why you are leaving, be clear, informative and specific without unnecessary negativity.
4. Don’t burn bridges.
No matter how unhappy or dissatisfied you may have been, you never know when you’ll need a reference or even find yourself on the other side of a hiring desk from one of the people you’re dealing with now. As the old saying goes, leave nothing behind you but golden footprints.
5. Be helpful during the transition.
As you start counting down your last weeks and days, don’t make life harder for your co-workers by slacking off. Tie up any loose ends and leave your area well organized and ready for someone new to pick up. Be as helpful and supportive as possible during the transition. It’s the right thing to do—and it’s another way to make sure the last impression you leave is a great one.
6. Hold on to your ethics.
Don’t copy or email yourself a bunch of company documents before you leave. You never want to put yourself in an unethical situation where your employer might accuse you of stealing trade secrets or of violating a confidentiality agreement. Your integrity is the most important thing you can leave with.
7. Be ready for the unexpected.
What if your boss says they really want you to stay and makes a counter offer? It may not happen often, but you don’t want to get caught off guard. Know your reasons for leaving and what it would take to change your mind.
In short, be your best self. Whether you’re starting a job, leaving, or at any point in between, work to bring out the best of who you are every day.