Leaving a Job Gracefully with a Box of Belongings

AUTHOR:
Reynolds Careers

DATE:
April 15, 2022

CATEGORIES:
Company Culture,
On the Job

READING TIME:
3 minutes

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How to Leave Your Job Gracefully – And Why It Matters

Leaving a Job Gracefully with a Box of Belongings

AUTHOR:
Reynolds Careers

DATE:
April 15, 2022

CATEGORIES:
Company Culture,
On the Job

READING TIME:
3 minutes

Whether you’re just starting out as a young professional or have been working for 30 years, everyone will experience changing jobs at some point. While people leave roles for a variety of reasons, how you leave a job matters.

In this age of candidates engineering bidding wars, recruiters ghosting interviewees, and managers withholding paid time off (PTO) for major life events, this might sound like outdated advice. In some ways, the professional world has never felt more cutthroat, and many workers feel they don’t owe anyone anything least of all advance notice of their upcoming departure.

But, there’s no getting around the fact that how you leave a job does matter, to future prospective employers if no one else. What kind of notice you give your management team, what state of affairs you leave your role in, to what extent you’re willing to help transition your responsibilities over to a new person — each of these says something about your character and how you operate.

And make no mistake, it’s very easy for future prospective employers to pick up the phone and get in touch with the job you’re leaving now, and many of them do. Why? Because past behavior is a great indicator of future behavior. They want to know what they’re getting into by taking you on.

Here are three steps to leaving your job gracefully:

Give notice commensurate to your role and responsibilities

When the time comes to leave your current job, the widely accepted standard is “always give two weeks’ notice before leaving.” The truth is, two weeks is only a good baseline or minimum amount of time to prepare your employer for your imminent departure. Realistically, two weeks isn’t enough time to do much more than start figuring out how your responsibilities are going to be reallocated or put in a requisition for your replacement. If your job is particularly complex and training-intensive, you hold a significant position of leadership, or you’ve been with the company for many years, you should probably be giving them more time to prepare. Obviously, this can be tricky since your new job, if you have one lined up, is probably eager to get your onboarding process started as soon as possible, but the good rule of thumb is your notice should be directly proportional to the impact your departure is going to have.

Don’t leave a mess for someone else to clean up and don’t burn bridges

Even if you’re leaving a job under hostile circumstances, the person stepping in to take on your work after you leave most likely had nothing to do with your negative relationship with your employer. Intentionally leaving work incomplete, or even deliberately sabotaging projects on your way out the door, won’t hurt your former employer nearly as much as it stresses out some innocent and overworked bystander who inherited your workload through no choice of their own. Burning bridges can feel emotionally satisfying in the very short term as you “get back” at an employer you perceive has wronged you, but this kind of behavior will damage your professional reputation, and if you indulge in it often enough, it will corrupt your character.

Remember that your departure could be another person’s opportunity to shine — help position them for success before you leave

It’s natural to focus on yourself when you’re in the middle of exiting a role, but it’s worth remembering that someone else will eventually be stepping into your old shoes, and they may view it as a great opportunity.

To the extent that you’re able, be an active participant in transitioning your role and responsibilities over to a colleague. Your final weeks at your current job could be where you get an opportunity to build someone else up and develop mentoring skills that serve you well down the road, such as in a leadership role.

Changing jobs is inherently stressful, and there’s often a temptation to take the easy or lazy way out once you’re officially counting down the days to your departure.

Just remember that by putting in the extra bit of effort to exit gracefully and leave on a positive note, you’ll set yourself up for continued success throughout your career.


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