Q: I have been looking for a job for several months now. I am expecting a written job offer within the next week or so after the new company checks my references. I realize that I am not sure how to quit in a professional way. Any tips for that?
A: You are smart to be thoughtful in your upcoming departure. How you leave a job speaks volumes about your professionalism. A few tips:
1. Give appropriate notice. Most employers expect at least two weeks notice. There may be extenuating circumstances where three or more weeks might be appreciated. Examples where more than two weeks notice might be helpful to your former employer: a vacant position within your department, a colleague on a leave of absence or vacation or an important deadline or launch.
2. When communicating your intent to leave the company, inform your direct supervisor first in a private way. Hopefully this information can be communicated in person. Or if your supervisor works in a different location or is traveling, a phone call may be the best alternative to an in-person meeting. No supervisor likes to hear about one of their team members leaving through the grapevine.
3. Put some thought into a transition plan. Who can pick up some of your responsibilities after you leave? How can the work still get completed? The plan may not be perfect but you have given it some thought so your supervisor can think proactively so work does not fall through the cracks.
4. Don’t burn bridges. Don’t sabotage your former employer. Be gracious and helpful about responding to questions even after you have left.
5. If given the opportunity to participate in an exit interview (i.e., a final meeting about your reasons for leaving, details about benefits, pay, etc.), try to present your feedback in a helpful way. There may be negatives about your former company, former boss or former role, but try to weave in some positive comments too.
Finally, it is a small world. You want to depart on professional terms because you may be working with some of your former co-workers in a future life. One of them may be a future client, manager or colleague!