How to leave your job in the most professional way possible

Ah, the journey of leaving a job. First, we make the decision. We rant to our partner, parent or best friend with such an air of boss ass b**ch confidence about how horrible our boss is, how boring our employers are and how the work is so meaningless and we are meant for so much more. They nod in agreement, “you should quit! You’re so right!” Great, we have the support network we need.

We then journal about how we are so ready to leave and then prep exactly how to do it. Get advice from our parents or successful business-minded friends but then finding a date to truly book that meeting with your boss or HR feels so intimidating. All that boss confidence shrivels up into a ball at the pit of your stomach and the doubts start to creep in; what if I can’t find another job? I need stability especially at this stage in my life! Am I truly meant for more? 

Here are some tips on quitting your job and leaving it on a high.

If you have a lot of cushty savings and a thick CV then you can maybe afford to quit and job hunt for several months. However, for most of us, that is not the reality. In that case, it is best to interview for jobs while still at your current job.

The tricky bit with interviewing comes when the reference is asked for. Of course, you need a reference from your current employer which means they’ll know you’re looking elsewhere. If the company you’re interviewing with asks for references, you have a few options:

  • You can tell them you’ll provide references only if a provisional job offer is made.
  • You can provide your current manager’s details and clearly state that they should only be contacted once a job offer has been made and you’ve had the chance to share the news in advance.
  • You can provide references that do not include your current company. Your ability to do this will depend on how many other jobs you’ve had and if your previous roles will provide suitable references.

Now, once you receive a shining offer, communication with your current employer should be clear as day. Email your manager and ask if you can schedule a catch-up, but try to avoid telling them you’re leaving over email. Though you may think you’re preparing them for bad news, they could perceive an email as abrupt and even disrespectful — not putting them in the best frame of mind for writing your reference. So, wherever possible, book a chat. It will make things easier for your handover if you’ve had the initial conversation face to face.

You should also offer to help your manager communicate your decision to leave to the rest of the team. You moving on shouldn’t be cloaked in secrecy or doom and gloom. In smaller companies, you and your manager should tell the team together and keep the conversation positive. Only insecure managers will be afraid of sharing when members of their team are leaving. So, if your manager is acting nervously (without good reason), accept that it’s their hang-up, and remember you’ll soon be moving on.

When it comes to giving notice, as much as possible is usually the best option. Your contract might say you only have to give 4 weeks notice, but if you know it will take your boss a while to replace you as you’ve been in that job for a long time and are integral to your team then they will appreciate you giving them a bit more lead time. A few weeks before your official notice period is ideal, and shows you are thinking about them and the wider team.

Lastly, preparing a successful handover is a great way to leave a great reputation for yourself and therefore a shining reference for the future. Of course, this can be a stressful task. Time is running out; you may be anxious about starting your new role; and your current team may be treating you differently now they know you’re leaving. Try to maintain a sense of calm and courtesy. Set up handover meetings in the diaries of relevant team members and prepare a document where you can write down any key information that you need to pass on. This might include a mini status report on each project you’re working on and instructions for accessing files along with logins and passwords.

The final note to remember – and this is often the hardest hurdle when it comes to job and work place disillusionment – is that any place of work is a business first, and a social group second. So don’t get hung-up on feelings of guilt or betrayal. If you’ve been clear, honest and helpful throughout the leaving process, your manager will likely remember this about you in the future and the relationship you have built together will stay the course. 

1 comment
  1. Hi Rosa,
    Thanks for the article. I just bumped into it and I must say it’s helpful to me, especially at this time of my life in my current workplace. It’s awesome & timely!

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