One of the biggest professional changes you can make is to change jobs. While it can be exciting to start something new, you may also feel sad (and possibly scared) to leave behind familiar environments and colleagues who may have become friends. So if it is time to go, how do you go about leaving in a professional way?
Determine your terms. Whether you are thinking of going to a new position, or spending more time at home, be honest about your reasons for the change. You don’t want to present any requests as a threat (“Give me this or I’m leaving”), but a good manager will appreciate knowing your reasons. Is there a way your current responsibilities, working conditions, or compensation could be changed that would allow you to stay? Once you have announced your intention to leave, it is usually not a good idea to accept a counteroffer, especially if you have already committed to another organization.
Be clear and direct. Once you have decided to leave, notify your direct supervisor in writing—and in person if possible. Include information about when your last day will be—ideally give at least 2 weeks’ notice. Some companies prefer up to 4 weeks. Consider not only what is best for you and your new employer, but also how long it will take to finish or transition any current projects. Find out when your transition can be shared (most likely after your supervisor notifies HR), and meet with or call people who will be impacted to tell them personally. Make sure they are not surprised by a general announcement. You will also want to determine with your supervisor which of your reasons for leaving will be shared, both inside and outside the company.
Transition your projects. Think about each of your current projects and determine which will end when you leave and which will need to be reassigned. Decide with your supervisor who will take over and work with them to transition all data, files, reports, and contact information. You’ll also need to transition any employees you manage to another supervisor.
Maintain professional relationships. If possible, make sure you connect to key people on LinkedIn, share your personal email address or phone number, and make sure you have theirs. Make it clear whether you are willing to be contacted with questions about projects after you are officially gone. If you are staying in the same town, set up a time to meet for coffee or lunch with some of your key contacts to keep the lines of communication open. Alternatively, make a note on your calendar to connect virtually.
While it may be fun to dream about quitting in a grand public gesture, it should probably stay a dream. Leaving professionally and making sure you have not burned any bridges is the best way to ensure new professional opportunities will continue to come your way.
Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first issue of every month in C&EN. Send your comments and ideas for topics for future columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.