How to Leave your Job Gracefully


Just as every story has an ending, so do jobs. Whether you leave your current job voluntarily or involuntarily, a proper good-bye will be in order.

If you are leaving under your own volition a proper notice of intent to terminate your employment is your first order of business. In most cases, a two week notice is still standard; however, depending upon the complexity of your position or role, greater notice might be necessary.

During the period in which you are “on notice” to leave, you should get a letter of recommendation before that period is up. Getting one after you’ve left the company can be difficult. This is also the time to ask how they prefer to be contacted for future employment references.

If you are being laid off or fired, the initial shock can be gripping. It often immobilizes people. The level of shock that you experience upon getting laid off or fired will be in direct proportion with how out of tune you were with your company. Getting the rug pulled from under your feet only happens when you don’t pay attention. If you are aware that it might be pulled, you can brace yourself for the fall, or jump off before it occurs.

Once you are able to pull yourself together emotionally, create a complete job description while you are still on the job. It’s amazing how much we forget that we do on a daily basis when we are removed from our work situations. In compiling your job description, think in terms of accomplishments. Merely listing job duties and requirements does not paint an accurate picture of what you are capable of.

As much as people will tell you that they will miss you and they’d like to stay in touch, they won’t and they don’t. At least, for the most part. Sure they will notice that you are gone, but the reality is, your absence, while obvious, only serves as a reminder to them that they too could suffer the same inexplicable fate if it stems from the unexpected.

Since most workers think that the grass is greener on the other side (i.e. any place of employment other than their current one), those who leave under their own terms are actually looked upon with envy. They did something that all of those who constantly complain about work, compensation, work conditions, etc. were not able or willing to do: They became accountable for the quality of their lives and took actions to improve it. They will take their new lease on life to their new job, and new group of co-workers who have the same complaints as the previous group.

Despite the superficial gestures such as pledging to “stay in touch” or “have lunch,” there needs to be a genuine effort put forth in orchestrating a conscientious PR campaign that will cast you in the best possible light, and leave a positive impression upon those who may serve as allies in the future.

To that end, thank all of your supervisors/managers for the work experience – regardless of the conditions that engender your departure. Offer to assist them in the transition if your departure will result in the creation of a vacancy. Also let them know that you’d be happy to conduct an exit interview.

Many employees are so anxious to close the chapter on their present employment that they fail to acknowledge loose ends in the process. An exit interview affords you that opportunity. Not only does it give you the chance to help tie up loose ends, you can position yourself as an employee who made a contribution to your company, even on your way out the door.

Exit interviews can also help the employee mentally unload (in a diplomatic way), and educate the employer on the finer nuances of the position which they may not be aware of. This will surely aid them in their efforts to find the right replacement.

Leaving a job gracefully is not easy, but it’s beneficial for you to do so. Hopefully this helps.

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