Leaving Your Job on the Right Note

Robert Half International

Starting a new position is an exciting moment in your career. But telling your old boss you're leaving can be unnerving. After all, how you end your tenure at the firm may have far-reaching implications for your career. That's because the work world is small: You never know when you'll have to ask a former supervisor for a reference, be paired again with a past colleague or find out that the person you just interviewed with knows an acquaintance from a previous job.

So how can you exit your job on the right note? The first step may seem obvious, but it's worth mentioning: Tell your boss before sharing the news with others. Though the conversation is difficult, it would be far worse if your supervisor heard about your departure through the grapevine. Also remember the following key points when speaking to your manager:

Timing -- If possible, avoid breaking the news to your boss when he or she is knee-deep in a crisis, preparing for a last-minute client presentation or about to leave for vacation. Catching your supervisor at the right time can make all the difference in how your announcement is received.

Tact -- Remember that no matter how eager you are to leave your job, you've likely gained something of value -- new skills or experience, for example -- from your time with the company. So, be polite and professional when explaining to your manager your desire to leave. Now is not the time to blow off steam.

Tenure remaining -- Two weeks has become standard notice, but many firms are unable to fill an open position in such a short period of time. If you have some leeway, offer to stay longer to help train a replacement. Of course, some companies may immediately terminate your employment for competitive reasons if you've taken another job. So, before speaking to your manager, collect any personal items and save your electronic records on a computer disk. Just be sure not to remove any physical or intellectual property that belongs to the company. If you're unsure if you are allowed to take something with you, it's best to leave it behind.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Be considerate of your co-workers. Realize that, even if you have been unhappy in your job, others may feel differently about the company. Don't bad-mouth supervisors or co-workers or publicly complain about how you have been treated. If you are still conducting a job search, do so outside of work; no one wants to stumble across the résumé you accidentally left in the office photocopier.

  • Tie up loose ends. Before you leave, ensure staff members have all the tools and information they need to perform their jobs without missing a beat. That means updating your manager about the status of key projects and leaving behind instructions that detail the ins and outs of your responsibilities.

  • Clean up before you leave. One important but often overlooked aspect of exiting a job in a professional manner: not leaving behind a disorganized mess of files that others will have to sift through in your absence. Take a day, or at least a few hours, to make sure that your desk is clean before you leave. Go through your files; throw away outdated records and clearly label those that will continue to be referenced.

You'll likely change jobs many times during the course of your career. Each time you do, remember: How you leave says a great deal about you, and exiting on a sour note can erase years' worth of goodwill.

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Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.

Copyright 2006 Robert Half International.

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