There are plenty of reasons to quit your job: you’re no longer interested in your work and you’re exploring a pivot, the workplace culture doesn’t suit you, shifts in your personal life demand more of your time, the list goes on…
Leaving behind an org—even one that you aren’t particularly fond of—doesn’t have to be traumatic (for you or for them). Only you know what’s best for you, and you’re allowed to prioritize yourself in your career. In fact, you absolutely should put your interests first; nobody else will.
However, doing so does not have to be at the expense of your team or your professional reputation. Here are three pro-tips for quitting your job without burning bridges.
Communicate Openly with Your Manager
The moment you begin to feel unsatisfied, tell your manager why. Be open to the possibility of change and seek solutions before you start window shopping for new orgs. The last thing you want to do is blindside your manager by quitting without any previous mention of concerns or shifting interests.
Some things can’t be changed with individual input (at least in the time you would feel comfortable staying on board), but others can often be remedied simply by communicating what you need or want in order to excel with your work. You’ll never know if the latter is possible unless you give yourself the opportunity for remediation.
Regardless of any improvements that may or may not come, your manager will appreciate being in the loop about your experience and how it’s playing into your sense of fulfillment.
Especially if you do ultimately decide that a resignation is the best move for you, having record that you thought critically about the decision and sought support from management first is a much better look than sending a “two-weeks’ notice” email out-of-the-blue.
Plan an Exit Strategy
Speaking of two weeks’ notice…anyone in management can agree: that’s rarely enough time, no matter your role. Leaving only half a month to transition out of a team doesn’t do you any benefit, either. If you’re in a client-facing role, you’re likely to leave them shell-shocked, nevermind your team that will most definitely be working extra to cover your vacancy (the hiring process takes months, not weeks).
You never know when you might cross paths with someone again—colleague, customer, manager, etc.—and how much influence or opportunity they could hold over you down the line. Pay them the courtesy of time.
When you do decide to move on from an org, don’t wait for a new offer letter to share the news with your higher-ups. (Scary, we know…but worth it.) Figure out the savings you need on hand for the worst-case scenario (i.e., you don’t get an offer within three months of your resignation), have an open conversation with your manager, and then confirm an end date for at least a month out.
*Side note: the length of time you provide will also greatly depend on the amount of time you’ve been employed with the org. If you’ve only been working somewhere for a few months and enough red flags are raised to justify a swift exit, therein lies an exception to the rule. But again, do your best to document those red flags with your supervisor before you jump ship.
Bottom line: know where you want to go (and why), how you’re going to get there (is it just a matter of interviewing or do you need to build up new skills for a pivot?), and use your remaining time to tie up loose ends. A “gracious exit” is rarely ever a sprint.
Help to Fill Your Vacancy (If Possible)
One final best-practice when leaving a job is to make an effort to tie up the biggest loose end of all: who will fill your shoes?
If you’re in a senior or management position, consider who on your team you could sponsor for a promotion. This is the ideal situation, as you demonstrate your leadership through advocacy, and can leave knowing that the work you built is now in hands you trust.
Naturally, you should also reserve part of your month-long leeway to train your replacement, which is made much easier when you already know the candidate and how to embrace her strengths. If you don’t feel confident that your team members are ready to step up to the plate (or simply wouldn’t be interested in doing so), recruiting qualified acquaintances from your network is just as meaningful of a gesture.
Of course, if the reasons for quitting your job have to do with a hostile culture or unfair wages, you might not feel comfortable recommending anyone, and that’s okay. You should never put someone in a position you know to be unhealthy.
Trust is a huge part of building authentic relationships and a strong network, which can easily be compromised by schmoozing someone into a subpar role for the sheer sake of brownie points with your soon-to-be-ex-employer.
Acknowledge Your Network
Your network on the inside is also just as valuable. If you follow the above best-practices you’re likely to leave on good terms with your colleagues, and those connections don’t need to go out the window once you pack up your desk.
Wherever you end up next on your career journey, take time to check back in with peers and even management if you’ve developed a meaningful relationship. This tells others that your efforts to set them up for success in your wake were sincere, as were the exchanges you shared before your resignation.
Most of the reasons people leave their jobs fall on systematic or org-wide trends that they don’t jive with and have very little control over, i.e., wanting a higher pay for their work, having a values misalignment, or needing more flexibility for personal matters. Little to none of these have anything to do with your peers, so don’t let a personal decision to depart from an org ripple down negatively on other individuals.
Being self-motivated and cutting certain ties is understandable, but the last thing you want to do is leave behind a team that feels burned.
Bottom line: it’s hard to stick around at a job that you don’t enjoy or don’t find fulfilling, especially if you’ve already submitted your notice and have essentially “checked out” from your work. But: taking your time with your means of egress and minding others along the way will help maintain maximum opportunities for your career down the line.