Don’t Burn Bridges: Learn to Quit the Right Way

You have a fantasy of how it will go: You’ll stand up on your desk, give a rousing speech about the incompetence of management and the uselessness of your soon-to-be-former coworkers, then you’ll drop the mic (you have a mic in this daydream for some reason) and storm out the door, maybe in slow motion, maybe with Queen’s “We Are The Champions” blasting in the background.

Best to avoid any version of that a fantasy. It might be satisfying to tell off your boss or insult your least favorite coworkers on your way out the door. But, it can have a negative impact on your future career.

The people you work with now will become your references in the future. You’ll need them to have a positive opinion of you, in order to get a positive recommendation when a prospective employer calls down the road.

Also, your soon-to-be-former co-workers and supervisors should become core parts of your professional network. You never know when one of them will tip you off to a good opportunity.

In short: don’t burn bridges. Beyond that, leaving the right way can help build bridges, can cement people’s positive opinion of you and can create the possibility for more opportunity in the future.

Make a Plan

Something goes wrong. It’s the last straw. You’re ready for your “take this job and shove it” moment. The speech you’ve been practicing every previous time you’ve gotten fed up is about to begin sputtering from your mouth.

But hold on a second. Takes some deep breaths. After work, you can start working on your resume and cruising job posting sites. But for now, don’t leave suddenly and don’t make any hasty decisions. Give yourself time to calm down and make a sensible plan.

Give Adequate Notice

Don’t leave your current employer in the lurch. The standard notice period is two weeks, but discuss with your supervisor what they need. You might not be able to accommodate their request (you probably have another job starting soon), but give them whatever time you can spare.

Giving notice may seem like an unnecessary courtesy – the polite thing to do, sure, but not something that will ever matter in your life. But that’s not true. You don’t want all the good you’ve done at the company wiped out on your last day.

Use Proper Language

Even if it isn’t strictly required, compose a formal resignation letter. Send it as an email and consider delivering a hard copy as well. Think of it as your farewell address – like a president reaching the end of their term, it’s your chance to set your legacy.

Be courteous and respectful. Thank your supervisors for the opportunities you received. Even if your time at the company included some contentious experiences, find the positives (even if you have to search really hard to find them) and point them out on your way out.

Maintain Relationships

As we said before, the people you work with today become your references in the future, plus they form the central strands of your networking web.

Make sure you have everyone’s email addresses (personal ones are best, in case they move on from the company in the future). Get phone numbers from the people you’re closest too.

Once you’ve moved on, make an effort to keep in touch. Let everyone know how you’re doing at your new job. Find out the gossip from the old place. Generally, maintain a relationship. Beyond a good opportunity to build and keep important friendships, it could lead to a career opportunity sometime down the road.

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