How to Leave a Job on Good Terms (Yes, It’s Totally Possible)

July 24th, 2018 at 5:00am
Leaving a Job on Good Terms

At some point in your life, you will probably have a job that makes you want to throw up a peace sign, walk out the door without a word, and never look back. As tempting as that sounds and as cool as it looks in the movies, that behavior won’t exactly fly in the real world if you want to leave with your reputation intact. The thing is, your boss most likely has a large network of connections, and even if you think you never want to speak to them again, you might actually need their help down the line.

On the other hand, you may not hate your job at all. In fact, there are tons of reasons for moving on to new opportunities, many of which have nothing to do with disliking your role or your boss. And while it may seem like that would make it less complicated, the truth is that it’s never easy to leave a job—especially if it’s your first. There is an art to bowing out gracefully that can easily get mucked up, especially if you’ve never done it before.

So what does leaving a job on good terms even look like? Is it possible to move on without hurting your standing with your current company and manager? The answer is a resounding yes, and we’re here to tell you how with the help of a few professionals. If you’re ready to quit but not quite sure what to do, scroll down to read their advice on how to successfully leave a job on good terms.

Let the Appropriate People Know You’re Leaving

Once you’re sure of your decision to leave, set up a sync with your manager to let them know you’re giving your notice (aka quitting). To do this, Meg Gegler, a partnerships coordinator at TheSkimm, says you should “schedule an in-person meeting to give your notice and then follow up over email. But never give your initial notice over email!” If an in-person meeting is not an option, be sure to at least hop on the phone so that you’re not explaining your decision in an email.

Not sure how to approach the topic once you have a meeting set up? Meg’s advice is to “stay positive and emphasize your want to keep in touch and finish out your time in a strong, professional manner.” Be sure to also tell them when your last day will be so that they’re aware of your timeline and can take the appropriate next steps to prepare.

Try to Give Two Weeks’ Notice

Nope, that’s not just something you heard—it’s the standard and a respectful amount of time to give before you bounce. If possible, you might consider allowing even more time—especially if you have a really good relationship with your boss and you want to maintain it. Cassandra Neely, a social media coordinator at BaubleBar, says, “Two weeks is pretty standard and reasonable, but I have typically given three weeks’ to a month’s notice before leaving a company. This gives them ample time to hire someone new and, in my experience, also gives you some time to help train the replacement, which companies always appreciate.”

On the flip side, two weeks may not be an option for you, in which case you should give your notice as early as you can. Melissa Epifano, an editorial and e-commerce assistant at Bauer Xcel Media, says, “I know sometimes [giving two weeks’] isn’t possible, and if your dream job needs you sooner, it’s worth considering taking some flack from your current employer in order to get the position you really want.” You may hurt some work relationships if you take this route, though, so be prepared to come up with a plan on how to finish your outstanding projects to help make up for your early departure.

Finish Any Outstanding Projects

When leaving a job, it’s not just your boss’s time and workload you need to be respectful of. In fact, your co-workers are often the ones who are the most impacted by a new absence on the team. To maintain a great, long-lasting relationship with them (and to make sure no one’s life gets way harder after you leave), Trina Cardamone, a copywriter at Urban Outfitters, says, “Create a guide for everything you do and how you handle your responsibilities so there are no questions or loose threads once you leave. Your team will need your help to get ready for your exit so they can transition with ease, so make sure you’re getting them everything they need. They’ll appreciate it and be able to vouch for you in the future.” You never know when you’ll need someone’s help down the line, so don’t ruin your relationship with anyone on your team by leaving them to deal with a mess. Instead, finish any outstanding projects you’re working on for your team, and write down the information or instructions that the person taking your place will need to get started.

Stay Focused on Your Work

With your sights set on new experiences, it’s tempting to slack on remaining work at your current job. However, Cardamome says it’s important not to treat the end of your term with a company as a reason to fade out. “Keep your standards as high as ever. Maintain your work ethic, and never use an exit as a good excuse to become lax.” Being lazy and goofing off your last days on the job will inevitably have a negative effect on your reputation within the company, so stay focused, continue to work hard, and project a positive attitude up until the moment you walk out the door.

Write a Thank-You Note

Yes, it seems obvious, but this simple gesture is one that’s often forgotten. According to Epifano, “Thank-you cards go a long way in being able to help you express your gratitude and all that they taught you.” By writing a thank-you note, you’ll not only show your manager and your co-workers how much you appreciated your time with them, but you’ll also end on a much more positive note.

Check In From Time to Time

Just because you’re free from your past job doesn’t mean you should sever all ties and never speak to anyone again. In fact, according to Epifano, keeping in touch with your previous managers and co-workers is an essential part of being successful in the long run. “Maintaining connections tends to always help you down the road. You never know who you’ll work with or for again, so it’s important to try and keep those relationships healthy and leave them on a good note. Always be kind and show gratitude,” she says.

Gegler echoes that sentiment and says that you should also plan how you’re going to keep in touch prior to actually leaving. “Before heading out, give out your personal email and phone number,” she explains. “Set dates to get coffee with some of your old colleagues (if local!) or plan to hop on calls every so often. Always keep a conversation going, even if it’s as simple as adding them on LinkedIn.” By exchanging contact information and setting concrete dates, you’ll be less likely to let those connections fall through the cracks down the line.

What are your tips for leaving a job on good terms? Let us know in the comments below!

Opening image by Geordon Wollner.