This article is for the quitters. If you’ve already decided it’s time for you to move on to the next chapter of your career, here are five steps that you can use to do so with class and to do it gracefully. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear plan of attack that you can use to start the next chapter of your career.
Step #1: Give notice to your manager
The first step you’re going to want to take is give notice to your manager. There are a ton of good ways to do this. But one way is to schedule a quick meeting with your manager. At this meeting, if you’re in a more traditional workplace, you might find it helpful to bring along a letter that you can hand to your manager, which gives official notice that you are quitting.
This meeting should only take a couple minutes. And the main purpose of this meeting is for you to communicate to your manager, that you are quitting and to give notice as to the timeline in which you are going to be quitting. The main purpose of this meeting is to cover three key things.
The first thing is to break the news that you are leaving this job. The second thing to break news of is your plan last day. And then the final thing to make notice of is what you plan to do in terms of making sure that next steps are taken care of before your last day.
If you’re looking for an example script, you might say something along the lines of this, “This is bittersweet, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided it’s time to move on from [company]. My last day will be on X date. I’d like to focus this meeting on next steps for offboarding and setting up the next person for success.”
It’s important to remember that this is not a time to vent or air your grievances. Instead, it’s simply a time to communicate the news. In case it’s a shock to your manager, you can always schedule a later time to discuss more on logistics. The main things you want to cover though, is what needs to be documented and on what timeline in order to make sure that your successor or success source are set up for success.
Typically you’re going to want to give at least two weeks of notice. That said, if you’ve been in your position for a long time, you might find it helpful to offer a little bit longer of a time period. For example, three to four weeks of notice. That’s for you and your manager to decide though. So figure out what works best for everybody involved.
Step #2: Update all relevant documentation
Step number two to quitting your job gracefully is to update all of the relevant documentation. Presumably you’ve done this job pretty well, which is why you are leaving it for another job. And so you want to ma,ke sure that your legacy is in place. What you leave behind in your documentation here is going to play a large role in the future success of the person that’s going to be replacing you. So it’s really important that you leave really good documentation at this point in time.
It’s super uncool to just check out in the final weeks of your employment or to leave your successor in a place where it’s really hard for them to figure out what exactly you did when you are managing this particular part of the company. Leave things as good as they can be along with any FYIs that might be relevant to key stakeholders.
You might also find it helpful to create some Loom videos, which document your process, or thoughts behind a particular SOP, just in case you think that this might be helpful for the next person that’s going to own your workflows. The bottom line is you want to leave behind anything that you think will increase the likelihood of success for whoever is going to succeed you in your role.
An additional tip that I’ll share here before we move into step number three is to think about everything that you possibly can behind the things that you’ve done in your role. For example, if you use particular websites to do certain things, you’re going to want to make sure that those account logins are shared in your company’s password manager before your last day. Similarly, if you charge certain things on your company card, you’ll want to make sure that that card information is updated to somebody else that’s still at the company. That way there aren’t any disruptions in overall SOPs related to your role.
Step #3: Break the news to your coworkers
After you’ve tackled all the documentation behind your role, you’re going to want to break the news to your coworkers. Because things will be in motion at this point in which your manager knows and you’re also starting to document everything, this will be the point in which you want to get ahead of the gossip train that might be happening in your company depending on how large your department or company is.
To do so, I recommend that you set aside some time to schedule individual meetings with the coworkers that you’d like to keep in touch with. These meetings are opportunities for you to break the news to your coworkers, share potential reasons that you feel comfortable sharing as to why you’re moving on, and then to exchange contact information so that you can stay in touch.
You’ll need to decide for yourself how much do you reveal to your coworkers as to the reasons why leaving. That said be aware that it’s more than natural for others to be curious whenever somebody is leaving or never some sort of changes happening in a department to ask these sorts of questions, when you pull them into these meetings.
At this point in time, you might also find it helpful to write some thank you notes or to exchange some messages with people that you wish to share with them before your last day. You want to do this with both your coworkers, as well as for boss. Once you’ve broken the news to your coworkers, as well as your manager, it’s time to break it to the overall company. This really depends on your situation, but I’ve seen it done one of two ways.
For larger organizations, I’ve seen it done through a company-wide email, whereas for smaller organizations, I’ve seen it done through company Slack messages. When it comes to the company message, the same core principles of apply that we used when sharing this news with our coworkers, as well as with our manager. You want to start by expressing gratitude for the opportunity that you’ve had. You want to share some potentially good memories that you’ve had with other people and with the organization, as well as share contact information if you hope to keep in touch with others in the organization.
Step #4: Work out logistics with HR
The fourth step to quitting your job gracefully is to work out logistics with your human resources department. This is a stage that will largely depend on the size of your organization, but typically there are some offboarding tasks that have to be done such as returning company equipment or returning key cards to the office that you might still have.
In some situations as well, there might be some confidentiality agreements that you’ve already agreed to sign when you first signed on with this employer. Whatever it is, just make sure that you reread everything to understand the conditions of everything, and that you are clear as to what you are allowed and not allowed to do after the point of employment with your employer.
The last thing that your HR department will usually do is schedule an exit interview with you. This is an opportunity for you to give some feedback to the organization as to things that they could have improved during your tenure here, as well as ways they could potentially have retained you.
At this point in time, there’s very little upside in you burning any bridges, especially if you have largely enjoyed your time with the company. You never know what the future might hold. For example, 10 years from now, you might be working with some of the same coworkers and they might have been left with a sour taste in their mouth because of certain things they heard about you from the exit interview, or just the way that you conducted yourself in those final weeks on the job.
Step #5: Give 100% to your last day
The final step when it comes to quitting your job gracefully is to give a hundred percent until your very last day. I know that it can be super easy for you to check out of your job once you give notice, because you know you’re already on your way out, but the classy thing to do, and the right thing to do is to give a hundred percent.
The reason why is because up until the point of your last day of employment, you are still employed by your company. And so it’s only right for you to give a hundred percent in your role. Ultimately, this is the difference between amateurs and professionals. Professionals will give a hundred percent through their very last day, whereas amateurs will start checking out the second that they give notice to their manager.
In my opinion, I don’t care if you’re in a startup or in a mega corporation. It’s really important for you to give a hundred percent because that’s who you are in terms of your character, what you want to stand for from a professional level.
There are two things I want you to remember from this article:
- The first takeaway is to always stay classy. Like I’ve mentioned at the point in which you break the news all the way through your last day, there’s really little upside in you burning bridges. So don’t do so and instead focus on leaving things in a bittersweet note and as good of a place as possible.
- Tie up loose ends in your communication. You should try to leave documentation in a place that is as clear as possible to set up your successor for success, because ultimately that is the professional thing to do and the best thing that you can do in the situation in which you are leaving your current role.
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