The Best Way to Quit Your Job

What to do before you give notice, when you give notice, and after you give notice.

By + More

TH_OV_Burns_90x90.jpg
Karen Burns
A majority of Americans are unhappy with their jobs, according to a recent Conference Board survey. What does this mean? For one thing, it’s a clue that as soon as this economy improves, an awful lot of people are going to be setting off for greener pastures.

[See the best careers for 2010.]

Now is a good time to talk about how to quit a job with class. (A lot of this also applies to how to leave a job classily under any circumstances, voluntary or not.)

It helps to break down the process into three phases: before you give notice, when you give notice, and after you give notice.

Before You Give Notice:

1. First and foremost, if you’re leaving for another job, have the offer for your new job in writing. Make sure everything is absolutely a “go.”

[See 10 tips for playing well with others.]

2. Get your work up to date, and organize it in a way others will be able to understand. Don’t leave messy, half-finished projects for your soon-to-be-former-coworkers to clean up. You wouldn’t want people to do it to you.

3. Erase your digital footprints. If you have any personal stuff on the company computer, now is the time to remove it. Clear your browser cache, remove passwords, and delete all personal email.

4. Check company guidelines. You’ll want to know your company’s policy for giving notice so you can do it right. Also check to see if you have any unused vacation or comp time coming to you, or if there are any other policies regarding resignation.

[See how to find a mentor.]

When You Give Notice:

1. Tell your boss before you tell anyone else, and do so in private and in person. Make an appointment. Know in advance what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.

2. Display some regret. If you hated the job or the boss you may be tempted to vent your feelings at this point. Please resist. The moment you leave a job your boss ceases to be your boss and begins to be part of your network. And you should always treat your network like gold.

3. Volunteer to train your replacement or otherwise help to make the transition easier. More often than not, your employer will not take you up on this, but it’s just good manners to offer.

4. You’ll be giving notice as per your company policy (if your employer has no policy, two weeks is still standard), but be prepared to be escorted out that very day. This is actually required practice at some companies. Try not to take it personally.

After You Give Notice:

1. Follow up your in-person meeting with a written letter of resignation, stating you’re resigning as of such and such a date. Try to say something positive about how much you enjoyed the job. If you didn’t enjoy the job, you can at least say you learned a lot working there. (You learned you never want to work there again!)

2. Do not brag to coworkers about how happy you are to be leaving, how great your next job is going to be, how much more money you’ll be making, etc. Do not make off with the company stapler (it’s tacky, and could easily get caught on a security camera).

3. Ask for a letter of recommendation. Do this even if you already have a new job lined up. You can add it to your portfolio.

4. Continue to do a good job, right up to the last day, even the last hour. This is the mark of true professionalism. It’s a small world. Someday you might find yourself back at this same company, or working for one of your former coworkers.

For a good example of a job sign-off, take a look at Conan O’Brien’s last words upon leaving The Tonight Show. Now that’s class.

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.