Millennials are considered a job-hopping generation; we seem to prioritize getting lots of different kinds of work experiences more than other age groups—91 percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to one Future Workforce survey. And a recent Deloitte survey showed that people aged 18 to 34 (who also make up the largest share of the workforce) were planning on quitting, looking for a new job, or doing ‘something different’ in the near future. Only 29 percent said they planned to stay at their current company for more than five years. As such, it seems that we’d do well to learn how to quit with class, without burning any bridges when we go.
It’s easy to get caught up in excitement over your new job and forget to pay attention to the details of wrapping up your current gig with thoroughness. And yet, after putting in the time and work it took to get and keep your job, the last thing you want to do—even if you’re beyond over it—is to ruin relationships by behaving carelessly and without grace or gratitude in your final days there.
First things first: You have to give your manager the news that you’re quitting properly. This sets the stage for a positive departure, and, when done right, lays the groundwork for you to keep in touch and get a good referral from him or her down the road, if needed. After that, there are a few other things you should (and shouldn’t) do to make sure you leave on great terms, with the best possible impression on your soon-to-be-former coworkers.
We talked to career and leadership experts and got their top do’s and don’t’s for quitting a job like the class-act you are.
DO give your boss the news face-to-face.
No matter what your dynamic is with your direct manager, it’s important to let them know you’re leaving (or let them know you have an opportunity and give them the chance to match it) in person—absolutely not over email. Get 15 to 20 minutes on their calendar, and tell them you’ve been offered another opportunity. If you’re open to staying at your current company, you can say, ‘I’d love to get your thoughts,’ and see if they seem interested in making a counter-offer, or, if you’re committed to moving on, you can focus on your next move.
“The key is to keep the conversation more about the opportunity you are leaving for, versus the one you are ‘fleeing,'” says Lisa Skeete Tatum, founder and CEO of Landit, a technology platform that aims to increase the success and engagement of women in the workforce. “Stay positive, fact-based, and concise, providing a clear reason as to why you’re resigning.” And if you’re at all worried that your manager might take the time before you leave to badmouth you to anyone, including your new boss, you don’t have to name the new company you’re leaving for—just say that it’s confidential until you start there, but you’ll be happy to let him or her know once you’ve settled in.
DON’T tell a coworker before your boss.
This is a common error—it can be tempting to spill the beans to your work wife, who you’ve trusted in the past with other sensitive work-related matters, but if the news gets out to anyone else, you could be screwed. “Telling anyone before you tell your boss is a major mistake,” says Skeete Tatum. “If your boss finds out before you can communicate the news yourself, you surrender your ability to leave on positive terms.” So not worth it.
DO give at least two weeks’ notice.
Although giving your manager a couple of weeks’ notice that you’re leaving the company is not legally required, it’s a common workplace convention, and is widely considered the ‘right way’ to depart a job—otherwise, you could really be leaving your company and coworkers high and dry. Some pros even recommend giving more notice. Leadership consultant and adviser Dana W. White, author of the new book, Leader Designed: Become the Leader You Were Made to Be, says: “Offer a month’s notice, then let your employer determine whether or not two weeks is sufficient. Two weeks’ notice is the minimum. If your absence is going to significantly disrupt normal operations, use your discretion to determine how much notice you should give.”
If your company requires a written statement confirming your resignation, keep yours simple (and do it only after you’ve notified your boss verbally). “Keep the letter short and sweet,” says Skeete Tatum. “This is my letter of resignation effective_____. Thank you for the opportunity”. All other details should be handled in your one-on-one conversations.”
Also, keep in mind that—if you’re headed to a direct competitor—some companies may ask you to leave on the spot. That’s common practice, not a giant eff you so don’t take it personally.
DON’T forget to make a solid transition plan.
It’s important to let your boss and coworkers know that you’re going to wrap up as many loose ends as possible during your remaining time, and pass on any continuing projects so that they can continue them as seamlessly as possible. “Make it easier on your boss or team and create a details transition plan that includes pending projects, recommendations for finishing them, and appropriate contacts,” says Skeete Tatum. It may not be required, but it’s the classy thing to do.
DO stay positive and appreciative—even if you’re not feeling that way.
Both Skeete Tatum and White emphasize the importance of remaining positive and grateful—a.k.a. taking the high road—regardless of how things unfolded or what spurred you to look for a new job. “No matter why you’re leaving a position, remember that every job is an investment of faith, time, and resources in you,” says White. “It’s OK to move on, but make sure you demonstrate your appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity right up to the last minute of your last day.”
DON’T completely check out.
Even if you’re putting on a smile and behaving graciously about your impending departure, the little details about your job performance shouldn’t be dropped just because you’re about to peace out. (Tempting as it may be.) “A better strategy is to maintain motivation and performance at the same level so you don’t negatively impact the reputation you took so much time to craft,” says Skeete Tatum. Adds White: “When you’re walking out the door, take satisfaction in the fact that you will be gone soon—so put in more effort. Eat lunch at your desk. Make an effort to get more work done before you leave.” Going above and beyond during your last days can leave a solid impression—and you never know when you’ll need a boss or a colleague in the future.
DO keep in touch with your former employer.
As you’ve probably heard before, your ‘network is your net worth.’ So don’t let those former relationships fall by the wayside after you’ve left. Reach out to former mentors and coworkers regularly for coffee and lunch, suggests Skeete Tatum, or plan to meet up at industry events.
“The best jobs are the ones that are never advertised,” says White—in other words, the ones that happen through connections and word of mouth. So be smart: “Don’t hold grudges. Don’t badmouth or gossip about past employers or bosses. Remember that they gave you an opportunity and paid your bills for awhile.”