How to quit a job professionally – 9 steps to remember

By Robert Half 21 September 2018

Most jobs don’t last an entire career, and the decision to quit your job can come about for any number of reasons: a better job opportunity, a move to another city or your spouse’s transfer, an unreasonable boss, a need for growth or a better salary than what you can get at your current company.

The most important takeaway for how to quit a job? Go gracefully.

Whether you resign from a job or you’re asked to leave, you’ll have forms to complete, exit interviews, a workspace to pack up and farewells to colleagues.

The manner in which you handle your last two weeks and very last day at work may have an impact on your future career prospects.

Here are nine recommendations for making your exit with courtesy and respect, beginning at least two weeks before you want to leave:

1. Give adequate notice

It’s extremely unprofessional to quit your job without warning. Perhaps because they are afraid of confrontation, some employees leave their employers by never going back after lunch. Give your boss ample time to make plans, shift the workload and look for a replacement.

A notice period is standard when submitting your resignation, and be sure to consult your employment contract or HR department for clarification on the how long your notice period is. If you have key responsibilities or highly specialised skills, your employer will appreciate even more of a buffer for the transition. You might offer to stay on longer to complete any major projects or train a replacement.

2. Inform your boss before other employees

While it’s beneficial to work with friendly accounting and finance colleagues, they are not the first people to tell that you’re leaving a job. Nor should you broadcast your decision via social media.

Your supervisor should be the first person at your workplace to receive the news. And even then, it’s best to wait until you’ve submitted your resignation letter and know your final day before telling coworkers.

3. Don’t be dramatic

Spectacular displays of resignations are familiar throughout pop culture. Respondents to a Robert Half survey cited some over-the-top resignations they’ve heard of, such as baking an “I quit” cake, throwing a brick through the window and creating a send-off music video.

While these tactics seem cathartic, especially if the reason for them is that you dislike your job or boss, consider the long-term consequences and resist the temptation. The general rule of thumb when quitting a job: no malice, no pranks and no stunts.

4. Avoid counteroffers

As you hand in your resignation, your boss may try to get you to stay by offering you a promotion, more money or better perks. Don’t give in. There are many reasons to say no to a counteroffer, especially if you have good reasons to leave or you’ve landed the job of your dreams.

If you stay, the issues that led you to seek another employer will still be there. Also, it’s unprofessional to accept a new position and then change your mind two weeks before you’re supposed to start.

5. Drop the negativity

Even if you’re departing because you’ve grown to dislike your job or boss, express to your manager, both verbally and in your resignation letter, your appreciation for the opportunity to work at the company. While getting things off your chest might feel good in the short term, there’s absolutely no upside to burning bridges.

Participate in an exit interview with human resources if you’re given the opportunity. If such a meeting isn’t scheduled, ask for a one-on-one with your supervisor. Give more positive than negative feedback. Use tact and diplomacy, knowing that your constructive criticism could help to improve the workplace.

6. Be helpful during the transition period

• Resist the urge to slack off and mentally check out — During the two-week “lame duck” period leading up to the last day, use this time to cement your reputation as a responsible accounting and finance professional.

• Make sure your accounting colleagues have what they need — Give them all the tools, access and instructions necessary to complete any work you won’t be able to wrap up. In short, be a diligent, dedicated and highly productive contributor to the end. Leaving behind any messes can tarnish the good professional reputation you worked so hard to establish.

• Complete any outstanding assignments — Finish reconciling sub-ledger to general ledger account balances or developing an internal audit plan. For projects that are ongoing, such as analysing production costs, do what you can to prepare them for handoff to colleagues or a temporary employee.

• Offer to help with a communication plan — Some managers prefer to handle this themselves, but if it’s appropriate, work with your manager to alert vendors, clients or customers of your upcoming departure.

• Help train your replacement — If the person replacing you won’t begin until after you leave, write out detailed instructions, including where to find key files.

• Don't get a load off your chest — The transition period is not the time to badmouth senior management or write an article that disparages your company. You never know what the future holds for your life. One day you might come back to the same company or work with your former boss.

• Don’t just disappear — Let coworkers organise a going-away party or an after-hours get-together. If none is forthcoming, invite close colleagues for a goodbye lunch. Leave on a high note.

7. Lock down an inside contact or two

During your final week on the job, do some internal networking. Make the rounds to say goodbye to colleagues — even those with whom you didn’t work closely.

Say something positive about your experience working with each person, offer to connect on LinkedIn, and share your contact information with those coworkers you’d like to stay in touch with most. Remember: You never know whose help or recommendation you might need down the line.

8. Clean up and pack up

Tie up loose ends and finish projects. Stay focused on the work at hand.

Take home all your personal belongings except what you need through your last day. On your computer, collect your contacts and move any personal documents into a cloud drive or send them to your personal email. Clear your browser history.

9. Have a full last day

Unless you’re asked to leave early, stay the full day and try to be productive. Schedule time for the final hour to hand off security badges, computers and other equipment.

Email a final goodbye message to colleagues. Keep it positive, and include your personal email address if you want colleagues to keep in touch.

Record an outgoing voicemail message letting callers know you’ve left the company, and give them an alternative contact at your organisation. Draft a similar auto-response for incoming email messages.

Make sure your physical desk is spotless, and leave all the office supplies and company property behind.

Why you should know how to quit a job

Transitioning from one job to another is a normal part of today’s careers. It’s important to know how to quit your job without burning bridges.

An even better approach is to leave with your relationships and your reputation intact.

Keep it classy, because you never know whether you will cross paths with your employer, boss or colleagues again.

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