Leaving a Job (No…not me!)

I know, I know, I just started a new job! But I think it’s never too soon to be prepared for this career eventuality (for the absolute majority of people). I don’t plan to stay in this job forever and it’s becoming more common for young professionals to change jobs frequently – According to a recent study, 55% of college graduates only expect to stay at their first jobs for 1-3 years. This statistic doesn’t surprise me at all given that my generation seems to be focused on getting the most broad range of experiences  possible (and the pay bumps that come from moving out instead of up)

But in the same way that applying to, interviewing for, and starting a new job is scary, so is leaving a job, especially if you’ve never done it before. Whether you’re thinking about changing your work up soon or not, these tips from Jessica Lawlor seem pretty useful –

1. Your immediate supervisor should always be the first to know. Out of respect, be sure to break the news to your immediate supervisor first, and preferably in person. Depending on the type of office environment you work in, you may need to request a meeting or simply ask if they have a moment to talk in private.

I’d recommend giving notice in the morning, to give your supervisor the chance to absorb the news and get the ball rolling on the resignation process. Also, have your resignation letter drafted and ready to submit.

2. Break the news to the rest of your colleagues in person, if possible. In person is always better. Avoid sharing the news of a new job in an email. You’ll find that most people will be happy and excited for you, and will appreciate the fact that you took the time to tell them personally.

3. Create a “how to be me” document. My first order of business once I gave two weeks notice was to create a master document of every single project I was working on, outlining point people, processes and deadlines. This document ended up being close to 10 pages long and extremely detailed, but it was worth spending the time; I wanted to offer a resource for whoever would take over my responsibilities. *I love this idea and have found my predecessors’ “how to be me” document VERY useful* 

4. Do what you can to make the transition as smooth as possible. After creating the “how to be me” document, I set up a meeting to review the document and allow my colleagues to ask questions and get clarification about all of my duties. I purposely scheduled the meeting mid-way through my final two weeks to ensure there was time to schedule a second transition meeting, if needed.

Additionally, if your supervisor is looking to fill your position quickly, do everything you can to help replace yourself. Spread the word on Twitter and LinkedIn, help review resumes, recommend people you think could be a good fit. After you leave the job, let your supervisor and colleagues know that you’re still happy to answer any lingering questions they may have about your responsibilities.

5. Show your gratitude.Buy a big box of thank you notes. And prepare to have your wrist hurt after handwriting multiple notes of appreciation for colleagues.

6. Keep in touch. This is perhaps the most difficult tip to follow, and one I’m still trying to figure out. We all know that staying in touch is key to creating a lasting connection and maintaining your network.

I have to admit, as a young professional in my first job, I wouldn’t know the first step to leaving a job. I would probably just run over to Big Sister and plead for advice which I know she would willingly give. [also…wouldn’t it be great if I could link to Big Sister’s blog when I mention her!? Tell her so in the poll on the left sidebar].

As an intern I’ve taken many of these steps before – it’s always a good idea to hand-write thank you cards and to make efforts to keep in touch. I’ve found these to be key parts of maintaining my network…but I was never in danger of burning bridges at the time because I was just moving on at some agreed upon time.

After reading this advice though, I still have some questions:

  • As a young professional in your first job, how soon is too soon to leave?
  • If you have a lot of a lag time between this job and the next, when should you notify your current employer?
  • Are resignation letters fairly uniform?
  • How can you repair a network relationship that may be damaged by your leaving?

Any advice readers? Perhaps some words of wisdom from a resignation gone awry?


4 thoughts on “Leaving a Job (No…not me!)

  1. Thanks so much for sharing my tips! 🙂 I really appreciate it!

    In regards to some of your questions, I can only speak from my own experience, but I left my first job after a year and a half. Most of my friends who are also in their first couple of years in their jobs are leaving around that same timeframe (2-3 years). I gave my former employer two weeks notice (which is standard) because I wanted to start my new job immediately, but if the new job didn’t need me for a couple of weeks, I might have given three weeks notice. I found though that two weeks was plenty of time to wrap up projects and transition my responsibilities smoothly.

  2. Great post and tips! I don’t think there are easy answers for the question on how soon is it okay to leave. I know a recent grad who was bored and frustrated at a new job and left, against my advice, after 2 to 3 months, yet quickly found something much more appropriate. I left two early positions after 9 months out of college, one for a new job, and one without. Neither had a long-term impact on my career. If you start to have too many gaps later on as a mid-career professional, this could become a problem.

    Resignation letters – yes, they are fairly standard and you can find samples online.

    One way to not burn bridges is to try to do what you can to make the transition as smooth as possible such as offering more than 2 weeks if that would help them. People leave positions all the time. If they are professionals, they will not hold it against you. It might be worth talking it through with a trusted advisor regardless.

    A variety of tips I have on deciding if a job offer is right for you also apply to deciding about leaving a job: http://lyjnow.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/how-to-decide-if-a-job-offer-is-right-for-you/. Good luck!

    • Suzanne, Thank you so much for your insightful comments. One of my big fears is trying to explain early gaps – I don’t want to tell future employers that I left a previous job because I was bored and frustrated. There are so many challenges already with interviewing that it seems like one more hurdle. On the other hand, I can absolutely see the benefit of leaving a job you’d call boring and frustrating!

      I’d love to learn more about this recent grad who left after 2-3 months. Why did you advise them against leaving?

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