Why Job Quitters Shouldn't Aim For Fame

Funny is good for the internet, not so much for the resume.

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Suzanne Lucas
Unless you've been living under a bridge, you've probably heard the two big "quitting" stories this week. The first involved quitting via white board and E-mail. This was, of course, absolutely hilarious, with cute pictures to go along. It's almost too bad that it turned out to be a hoax, because it made such a great story, what with FarmVille and sexual harassment accusations in one resignation. What more could you ask for?

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The second, which is absolutely true, is the much more dramatic exit of a Jet Blue flight attendant. After a run in with a rule-breaking passenger, police say the flight attendant grabbed some beer, opened the emergency exit, inflated the slide and slid away into the sunset. Well, not really the sunset because he was arrested a short time later at home. (Note: If you are going to break all sorts of laws in a dramatic fashion at work and run away, going to the same address that is on your personnel record is probably not so bright. But I digress.)

People are, of course, cheering him on. Why? Because we've all been on planes with obnoxious "the rules don't apply to me!" people. We all want to get off the plane as fast as possible. (Why this is, I don't know. So you can all stand together around the luggage carousel and wait for your luggage? Seriously, people, what's the hurry? Your bag will be the last one off anyway. And if I ran the airlines, I'd seat people who have connecting flights at the front of the plane so they can get off first,) Tons of Facebook pages have popped up in support of him.

Yet, when it comes right down to it, we all know both of these are the "wrong" way to quit jobs. Why is that?

1. You never want to burn bridges. Yes, the flight attendant is briefly a folk hero, but he'll never be employed by any airline again.

2. You don't want to be remembered for how you quit, but how you worked. Even though, had she been real, the whiteboard woman's coworkers would probably have agreed that the boss is a jerk, her quitting method would always outweigh her work experience. And so, when a potential future employer asks one of her coworkers about her, this is the story that will come up. Not her hard work or late hours or brilliant mind, but the whiteboard quitting. And that will make everyone question her judgment.

[View all of Suzanne Lucas's career advice.]

3. You don't know when you'll need these people again. Yes, you may never want to work in that industry or for that boss again. But, you don't get to choose whom a recruiter calls for a reference check. You don't get to choose who moves into your neighborhood and who is the president of your local professional group. Just keep in mind that you'll run into these people in the future.

4. Funny is good for the Internetnot so much for the resume. Unless you want to be a comedian, funny isn't the way to go when exiting. Sure, maybe you'll get a good book deal, but head on down to the local bookstore and check out the $1.99 table. It's not so easy to make a living as a one-hit wonder.

I write this not just as advice for you, but as advice for me. This is my last column here at U.S. News. I've loved it here, but it's time for me to move on. If I'm lucky, maybe my fabulous editor, Liz Wolgemuth, will let me do a guest post from time to time. So, you see, I'm trying to leave gracefully. No whiteboard messages and no emergency slides. Because when you're a writer, you know you'll run into your readers again, and when I do, I want you to remember me for what I wrote, and not for how I quit.

But sliding down an emergency slide would be cool.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.