When it's time to move on from a job, you follow your instincts. Occasionally, you quit to pursue career advancement that wasn't previously available; other times, you leave because of a toxic environment. Regardless of the motivation, it doesn't have to be a negative experience.
"Leaving your job is one of the most critical points in your career [as you're trying] to build a solid reputation. You will be remembered by your departure," said Nicole Williams, founder and CEO of WORKS, a company that helps young women throughout their careers.
Williams said the norm used to be that people held on to the jobs they had, afraid to make a change. In recent years, though, there has been more optimism, combined with an expectation that people are going to change jobs more frequently.
From deciding whether it's the right time for a departure to exiting professionally and crafting your resignation letter, here's everything you need to know if you're moving on from your job (or career).
In this article…
Assess the situation
Feeling ill-will toward a job doesn't necessarily mean your job is worth quitting; sometimes you just have bad days. But other times, you may need to take the time to determine whether you're getting what you need professionally.
"One big mistake I have seen people make is failing to ask their current employer for what they want," said Kara Ramlogan, head of public relations recruitment at Madison Black, a recruiting website for creative professionals. "Maybe you would like additional training in a certain area, the ability to work remotely one day per week to alleviate a long commute or a raise in line with the market value for your role."
It's difficult for people to ask for what they want at work, which may be due to their own perceptions of themselves, wrote executive coach Nozomi Morgan for The Huffington Post.
"We perceive ourselves as being that 'self-centered person who isn't behaving like a team player,'" she wrote. "Walking into the boss's office and asking to leave early seems to contradict all the values we believe in: that a nice person shouldn't be loud, shouldn't stir the pot and shouldn't make an unusual request."
She further noted that, oftentimes, people don't believe they've earned what they're asking for.
"Companies are often willing to make these adjustments to keep quality employees. If you have the conversation and it doesn't work out, you know for a fact that your company is unable to meet your needs, and [you] can feel secure in your decision to move on," Ramlogan said. "It will also help you avoid dealing with the complications of a counteroffer scenario."
If are ready to quit and move on, you should prepare for the next phase of your career. It's important to strike a balance between your current role and making time to find a new job, Ramlogan said.
"I'd advise having another position already lined up to transition into," Ramlogan said.Ramlogan suggested keeping your job search as quiet as possible. Telling co-workers you are on the job hunt might encourage office gossip, as would publicly posting your résumé on open jobs boards (not including your LinkedIn profile) or your social media accounts. She also reminded job seekers not to search or apply for other roles while at work or on a company laptop.
When you are contacted for interviews, Ramlogan advised scheduling them early in the day or during your lunch break (if location permits) to avoid disruptions to your work schedule.
"The caveat is that though your schedule is busy, so is the hiring team. Booking an interview at 8 a.m. or 7 p.m. just isn't realistic," Ramlogan wrote. "If you truly want the position, sometimes you need to sacrifice a half day or a late start or an early leave."
For more tips on looking for a job while you're still employed, check out this Business News Daily guide.
Now that you've assessed your situation, concluded that it's not going to work out and secured a new position, it's time to break up with your current employer.
"Ideally, resigning should be approached in the same professional manner you handle every other aspect of your career," Ramlogan said.
Initially, having that conversation with your boss can be nerve-wracking, but it is a necessary evil, Ramlogan said. She suggested letting your manager know you're moving on.
"I also recommend to candidates to let their boss know that resigning was a difficult decision that they did not come to lightly, but that they stand firm in their resolution to leave," Ramlogan said. "Sometimes, it helps to ask that the manager not make this any harder with counteroffers."
No matter what, keep it professional, Ramlogan said. You may come back to the company at some point, she said, or run into a former colleague at a job interview with another company.
"Keep your rationale for leaving as positive and gracious as possible," Williams said.
Though you want to keep your boss's feelings in mind, you should prepare yourself mentally for the experience, Williams said.
"Leaving your first job can bring up emotion for a lot of people. There is generally a reason why you are leaving, and you want to depart as professionally as possible," Williams said. "I have counseled many people who have ended up crying. Practice the conversation and have a very clear idea of what you want to say."
Your formal resignation letter
Resignations letters may feel outdated, but it's the professional thing to do, and many times, it's necessary Ramlogan said.
"Many HR departments like to have a formal letter on file," Ramlogan said. "That said, you should still have the resignation conversation in person with your manager [first]."
If you've never written a resignation letter, it's important to keep in mind that it's a formal communication "generally indicating your expected date of departure, not an essay on all the reasons why you're leaving," Williams said.
If you're unsure of what to write, seek out templates online and from a career center, or check out our guide How to Write a Job Resignation Letter.
"If you'd like to create something more personal, a handwritten thank-you note [delivered] to your boss on your last day is a nice touch," Ramlogan added.
After you've had a conversation and formally resigned, there is generally a transition period of about two weeks.
Leave on a high note to keep bridges intact. It's essential that you help find a replacement and ensure that all of your job duties are covered so there isn't a lapse in the delivery of your tasks, Williams said.
"Beyond ensuring that all of your work is up-to-date and that you have paved the way for a smooth transition, you want to depart on the best terms possible, and that means not airing your dirty laundry," Williams said. "Your departure may make others feel like they can talk to you about their grievances."
Williams suggested keeping it as positive as possible, noting that you should tell others you are excited for a new challenge, for example.
See these other Business News Daily articles for more information on how to quit your job: