Maybe it's because your boss or client is a jerk; maybe because you can not stand the people you're working with; maybe the commute is killing you; maybe the money is not enough; maybe it's a dead end; or maybe you just got a better offer. Whatever the reason, you want out of your job. Learn how to cut the ties without burning bridges.
Do not pass GO, do not collect $ 200
Once you've established that you really, really want to leave your job, go directly to your boss before you do anything else. Going straight to the top accomplishes three important objectives: 1) Your boss will know exactly where you stand rather than hearing about it at the water cooler; 2) You allow your supervisor to offer other options to you and potentially to effect changes that will make you want to stay; and 3) You learn exactly what you need to do to go about tying up loose ends, including completing projects, organizing your files, and notifying your business contacts.
Talking to your supervisor will also give you the opportunity to offer to help find and train your replacement. If you have a friend or associate who has expressed interest in your job, ask your boss if you should put that person in contact with him or her. You may also want to recommend a specially skilled coworker to follow in your footsteps – your boss will appreciate the suggestion, your pal will appreciate the support.
If your position has changed significantly since your hire, or if you have made major improvements or implemented new systems in your job, suggest that you and your boss sit down as soon as possible to re-evaluate your job description and summary of responsibilities so the person coming in after you will know what's going on.
Start spreading the news
After you've spoken to your supervisor and agreed upon a date for your last day, it's time to start letting others know of your plans. Even if your boss makes a department- or company-wide announcement, spend a few minutes with each of your coworkers and business contacts to tell them personally that you will be leaving. Let them know when your last day will be and how you'll be preparing for your departure.
If you work closely with a college or client on a regular basis, this is the time to work out a game plan for completing up any outstanding projects and passing your notes and files on to your successor. And do not forget to provide your new contact information so members of your professional network can reach you down the road.
As you prepare to share your news with your officemates, be sure to think carefully about what you're going to say. Letting folks know of your plans does not mean sharing every little detail of what you hate about your job. Be careful not to say negative things about your boss or coworkers or to play a comparison game and go on and on about how your next job will be soooo much better than your current one, even in your exit interview. Focus on the positive, and help others to be excited about your next step and to miss you when you leave.
Get your ducks in a row
Take home your personal items and begin purging your files immediately. Clearing your space and getting it ready for the next person is no small task, so it's essential that you leave plenty of time to take care of it amid finishing up ongoing projects and fulfilling your professional commitments.
Reply to outstanding e-mails, delete old files, print and file important e-mails and electronic documents, and put all electronic documents on your computer onto clearly labeled disks. Go through your file drawers to get rid of duplicates, personal materials, and stuff you're keeping for no good reason. Make sure your files are in a logical order and all your folders are neatly labeled.
Once you have finished organizing your electronic and hard-copy files, type a summary of what appears on each list and in each drawer and provide a cheat sheet with detailed instructions on where to find important or commonly used documents. Be sure to give a copy to your supervisor and any subordinates, and leave a copy on your desk.
Last but not least
Before you leave your job, ask your supervisor, colleges, and business associates for letters of recommendation, and offer to correspond with letters of your own. For your supervisor, you can ask for a general letter. When talking to coworkers, you may want to say something like, "We worked really close together on that financial presentation last spring, and I feel like you really know my planning style.
When you provide a specific example, you show a potential reference that he or she has solid knowledge of your abilities and give a jumping-off point for them to start your letter. Again, make sure these people have your contact information and that you have their own so you can be in touch for references later in your careers.
Quitting your job professionally not only ensures that you'll leave your former colleagues, clients, and supervisors with a pleasant memories of you, but it prepares you to start off you next position on the right foot. Stay positive and follow a classy exit plan at every job transition, and your climb up the career ladder will be smooth and successful.
* This article originally appeared in desper Los Angeles in April 2005.