The Best (and Worst) Ways to Transition Out of a Job

There’s an old saying: for every door that closes, another one opens. When leaving one job for another, make sure that the door doesn’t hit you on the way out.

Everyone leaves jobs for different reasons, some personal and some employer-related. Whatever your specific reason, it is important to show respect for your current employer upon your exit.

Before making your decision to leave, think long and hard about it.  Make sure that it is the best decision for you and that there is nothing that could change (promotion, pay increase, flexible scheduling, etc.) that would alter your decision.

Once you have come to this conclusion, analyze your particular situation with your employer.  It is recommended that you start talking to your employer early, give the organization plenty of notice, and do as much as possible to ensure a smooth transition.

The following are some specific tips on what to do—and not do—in order to transition out of a position with integrity, grace, and style.  Most of these suggestions are intended to apply when it is you who is initiating a resignation process, though most of the following are also applicable if it is your employer who initiates a termination discussion.

Do take into consideration, when contemplating leaving, whether your decision to leave may harm your credibility within the sector or field in which you are employed.  Be aware that if you plan to continue to work in the same field, potential employers may question your decision to leave a similar organization.

Do have a clear conversation with your manager about your decision and try to time it so that your supervisor is able to absorb the news.  Think in advance about his/her possible reactions and be prepared for any possibility; don’t be shocked by your employer’s reaction, whether positive or negative.  Often, you can predict how your employer may react by honestly gauging your performance and by thinking about how much of an impact on the organization your departure might have.

Do give as much notice as possible; 30 days is standard, with a minimum of 2 weeks.  Be prepared for the possibility of your employer letting you go sooner, however, and plan your remaining time carefully for the smoothest transition.

Don’t try to use your paid vacation days at the end of your employment term.  Although you may be legally entitled to this compensation, employers will often view this as petty or insulting if you initiated the resignation process.  This practice is more commonly used as severance when an employer initiates a termination.

Do craft a professional explanation of your departure to share with peers, contacts, and others in the field.  Review any such notice with your employer before sending it out to any constituents whose opinion they might value.

Do allow your supervisor the opportunity to negotiate with you to stay, but only if you would actually consider staying.  Be realistic about the likelihood of any counter-offer coming to fruition and take this into consideration.  If you have made up your mind to leave, you should not consider any counter-offers; it will only lead to frustration on the part of your employer and will serve to make you look greedy.

Don’t look for a new job while on-site at your current place of employment, even if you have already decided to leave or you have informed your employer of your decision.  It is unprofessional and reflects poor character and judgment.

Do take into account the impact your departure will have on the organization. In most cases, your departure will require the organization to find a replacement, which can be a difficult and time-consuming process.  Be willing to help transfer your personal institutional knowledge to others.  You might offer to write a manual that outlines the position’s key tasks and projects, including important contacts and systems used.  It may also be that the position will be vacant for a period of time after your departure.  Ensure that all of your projects are left at a place where they can be put on hold temporarily or easily picked-up by someone not familiar with the project.

Do offer to help write and/or revise the job description for your position. Also, offer to participate in the process of finding and training your replacement, if desired by your employer.

Don’t forget to tie up any logistical loose ends (e.g. final pay, keys, passwords, health insurance and COBRA forms if needed).

Do request an exit interview to share and receive final feedback, if appropriate.

Do use this opportunity to build credibility with your employer. Even though you are leaving, be as available and present as possible in your final weeks on the job, exhibiting a positive attitude and performing at a high level.  This will leave your employer with a positive impression of you and your work.  As you continue down your career path, you will find that relationships with past employers are vital, so be sure leave the best impression along the way.


This article was written by Commongood Careers and is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

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