7 mistakes to avoid when leaving a job
Follow these tips to leave on good terms with your boss and co-workers.
If you’re thinking of leaving a job, you should also be planning how you’re going to make a clean exit. It’s important you leave on good terms with your boss and co-workers, as these people can serve as references for you in the future. Damaging any professional relationships on your way out the door could hurt you down the road.
Don’t want that to happen? Make sure to avoid these mistakes when quitting your job.
Leaving without a notice of resignation
It's customary to give two weeks' notice before leaving a job. Giving shorter notice can leave a bad taste in your boss’ mouth, warns Los Angeles executive coach Libby Gill. “Unless your work environment is so toxic that you feel you have to get out of there to save your sanity,” she says, “you should give two weeks’ notice.” Not sure how to do that? Check out this sample resignation letter.
Offering no help to your successor
One of the best things you can do for your boss before leaving a job is to offer to train your replacement—or, if your successor hasn’t been named yet, at least putting together a welcome package that outlines the different projects that you’re working on. “Any work that you have in progress should be documented clearly,” says Mikaela Kiner, CEO at Uniquely HR, a career coaching and HR consulting firm.
In addition, “make sure all of your work files are updated and readily accessible on the company’s intranet,” recommends Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet, a professional coaching firm. If your successor has already been appointed, offer to introduce the person to the clients she’ll be taking over from you, as well as any colleagues she’ll be working with when you’re gone. Also, give your boss a status update on the projects that you’re passing along.
Staying too long after quitting your job
Though you want to make this transition as easy as possible for your boss, you don’t want to overstay your welcome. Your continued presence could even be a drain on an employer if you’re no longer being useful.
On the flip side, if your employer asks you stay on for a while—say, an extra month because it’s busy season for your company—“you don’t have to feel obligated to stay longer,” says Gill, especially if your next employer wants you to start soon. “Unless there’s a legal or contractual reason that you have to stay longer, two weeks should be sufficient,” Gill says.
Telling co-workers that you’re leaving before telling your boss
Pro tip: Tell your boss that you’re quitting your job before you tell your co-workers. If you tell peers first and your boss hears that you’re leaving from someone else, “your boss is going to feel sidelined and disrespected, which could undermine your ability to get a good reference,” says Yeager.
Saying too much at your exit interview
Whatever your reasons are for leaving a job, don’t treat an exit interview with HR as a time to slam your boss or talk trash about a co-worker. That being said, “you can still be honest and constructive in an exit interview,” Kiner says. Take a balanced approach by sharing things that you love about the company, in addition to some constructive feedback.
Leaving personal files on your work computer
“Your company owns whatever is on your work email and work computer,” says Gill, “so you may want to wipe those clean before you leave.” Scrub any documents that contain sensitive information, like your social security number, that someone could use to steal your identity; you don’t want that kind of information falling into the hands of a hacker.
Leaving without another job lined up
“You don’t want a gap on your resume,” says Gill. Having one could make prospective employers skeptical about why you left (e.g., was it because of performance issues?) and hurt your job search. Even if you loathe your job, try to stick it out long enough to line up another job.
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