Leaving an old job to go to a new job can be tricky, even if it is exciting to move on and great to leave that current employer.
No matter how abused you feel you were in the old job, resist the urge to tell people off. For a few moments of satisfaction, you may pay a very high price in your long-term career and your next job search (yes, there will be another one some day).
Corporate alumni groups are excellent networks for your long-term career. I’m still in contact, and in business, with people I worked at in my last corporate job (18 years ago!). So, leaving on the best terms you can will help you retain that network and retain a good reputation.
Before You Give Your Notice
Some important things to do before you give your notice:
1. Look for HR or other official policies or guidelines on how to give notice, and then follow them as closely as you can (if you find any).
2. See if you can get access to your personnel/HR folder to get copies of your reviews, if you don’t already have them, and any other important relevant material.
3. Add a personal email address (even a Gmail or Yahoo account) as your contact email account for your LinkedIn Profile, if you have been using your employer’s email address for LinkedIn.
4. Write up your letter of resignation and print it out at home on your own paper – definitely not on your employer’s letterhead stock.
In the letter, stick to the facts:
- You have accepted another opportunity and will be leaving their employment.
- The date that will be your last day of work (hopefully more than 2 weeks from the date of your letter).
- Your mailing address for that last paycheck if they still use paper and don’t do an automatic deposit.
- Thank them for the opportunity to work for them.
- Say that you enjoyed working there and look forward to staying in touch with many of the people.
About.com has an impressive collection of sample resignation letters for you to read. That will help you get started.
Give Sufficient Notice
One thing that will help a lot is giving an appropriate amount of notice before you leave. Walking in on Wednesday and telling them that Friday will be your last day is a bad idea, and even illegal in some places.
The former coworkers and bosses are people who will hopefully be in your network for a long time, and you may help them find other jobs some day as they may help you. This is why burning bridges is not a good idea.
In the USA, many states have regulations requiring 2 weeks notice. Leaving in less than 2 weeks is usually considered unfriendly. In other countries, the notice required may be as long as 4 weeks, possibly longer.
Depending on your job, employers would often like more than just a couple of weeks notice that you are leaving.
But, Be Prepared to Leave Immediately
While many employers will want you to stay as long as possible, other employers will show you to the door the day you give your notice. It’s probably because they have had departing employees take important things with them, like customer lists, internal reports, even patent applications and other highly-sensitive information.
As soon as you have indicated that you are leaving, some employers want you OUT immediately.
- Understand that you may never get back to your office once you have turned in your notice, or perhaps security will accompany you to pick up your coat, purse, briefcase, etc. on your way out the door.
- Expect that your access to your employer’s email system and computer network will be terminated immediately.
Consequently, before you turn in your notice, you need to do some cleaning up and clearing out:
- Clear all your personal information off your employer’s computer system, network, cell phone, etc.
- Remove everything personal from the computer you’ve been using, like your resume and cover letters (which shouldn’t be there anyway!), perhaps an App you have paid for, and also contact information for your personal friends.
- Collect your old performance reviews and other personnel records, if you have them in “hard copy,” and take them home.
- Go through the desk, bookcase, files, etc. to see if you have any personal items stored there you might have forgotten – personal books, personal photos, an umbrella, your old iPod, or an employee-of-the-month award.
If you have other personal items visible in your work area, remove them as subtly as possible. Or collect them all in one place where you (or someone else) can put them in a box. If you can, take them to your car or your locker, before you give your notice.
Handing in Your Notice
When you tell your boss you are leaving, have a letter of resignation ready, and try very hard not to smile as you tell him or her you are leaving – I was too happy leaving a job once, and it was a big mistake!
Make an appointment to see your boss, and when you go to the appointment, hand your boss a printed – and signed (!) – copy of your resignation letter. You can follow up (after the meeting) with an email version, but the printed version is more formal and official. Ask your boss if an emailed version is needed.
© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.