Would quitting your current job make you feel more relieved than anything else? If the answer is yes, it’s probably time to quit. Here’s how to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Before You Quit, Can You Work It Out?

Remember why you first took this job? You needed it for income, yes, but I’ll bet there were other reasons as well. Perhaps your job is in a field that you love, or it involves tasks that you are really, really good at. Perhaps you really like your coworkers or your boss or your clients, or you might even just dig that lunch hangout around the corner. If you quit your job, you’ll be leaving behind all of these good things as well as the bad, so it’s worth taking some time to figure out whether you can iron out the things that aren’t working for you before you take the plunge.

  • If your job is interfering with family responsibilities, or the commute is taking up too much of your time and energy, try exploring alternative work options like flextime, job sharing, or telecommuting.
  • If you aren’t getting along with a coworker or your boss, see if you can find a way to improve or avoid these relationships by, say, asking for a transfer or setting up some mediation.
  • If you didn’t do so hot on your performance review, put your foot on your emotional clutch for a moment and ask yourself honestly whether or not the review was accurate. If it was, do your best to improve the areas you need to improve. If it wasn’t, talk with the reviewer and try to clear up any misunderstandings.
  • If you don’t like the new policies your employer put into effect, first determine whether it’s your own resistance to change that’s to blame for your unhappiness. If you genuinely think that the new policies are bad for the company, come up with a clear rationale and some solutions, and bring these up to the appropriate people.
  • Finally, if you have tried everything you can think of, and you’re still not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, ask yourself again: Would leaving your current job make you feel more relieved than anything else? If the answer is still yes, it’s probably time to look for other work.

Give Notice After You Have Another Job

Don’t: Just quit your job without warning, that is unless: you are being physically abused or sexually harassed; you’re getting physically sick from stress-related insomnia, headaches, backaches, and the like; you haven’t been paid; your work environment is unsafe; or you are being asked to do something that is clearly unethical or illegal.

Do: Provide as much notice as possible if you decide to quit your job and the situation is not dire. Two weeks is standard, but be aware of your particular company’s policy.

Don’t: Tell anyone that you’ve decided to resign before you have a signed agreement and official start date from your new employer. At best, you’ll look pretty stupid if your new job falls through. At worst, you could motivate your boss to fire you before you have a chance to quit your job again.

Do: Tell your supervisor before you tell your coworkers.

Be Professional

Don’t: Burn bridges through negativity. People don’t see the company acting out; they see you acting out. As tempting as it might be, flaming your boss on social media or in the lunch room, trying to sabotage the company, stealing clients or proprietary information, writing a rant in your resignation letter, deleting important files, or engaging in other unprofessional behavior only reflects badly on you. Why would someone else want to hire you if they suspect you might talk smack about them on Facebook or steal their stuff? Your reputation is the most precious thing you own; take good care of it.

Do: Focus on the positive experiences you’ve had with the company. Think about and talk about your favorite coworkers and clients, and the tasks that you loved. These are good vibes that you can take with you heading in to your new job.

Don’t: Cause resentment by making your former employer or coworkers clean up after you or replace the things that you stole.

Do: Be nice to your future replacement; after all, they’re going to have to put up with what you’re leaving behind! Carefully organize all hard copy and electronic files so others can find important documents and information easily. Clean up your computer, and pay attention to details like e-mail and phone messages: who will handle them after you’re gone? Organize and write down the status of all projects and responsibilities that you are accountable for, including the appropriate contacts on each.

Don’t: Just mark time. Your boss and your coworkers will remember those late arrivals and early clock-offs, the extra-long lunch breaks, and an overall bad attitude.

Do: Take full advantage of this opportunity. The people you work with are going to be watching you like a hawk during your final days; how often in your life are you going to have such an attentive audience? Make your final “performance” one that will make you look good for years!

The Exit Interview

Do: Briefly explain your reason for leaving. Simply saying that you’ve accepted another job that is more in line with your career goals is enough.

Don’t: Offer too much detail about the new position or your decision to leave. The less you say, the less can be used as leverage against you.

Do: Think about what you’ll do if you receive a counter offer, but be gracious if you are going to decline it.

Don’t: Forget why you’ve decided to quit your job. Many who accept a counter offer wind up with a resignation letter in hand again a year later.

The Transition

Don’t: Offer to rewrite the whole procedures manual, take on new projects, or otherwise pave the way toward becoming an unlimited, free and future resource to your former employer. You’re going to be on a steep learning curve in your new job, and you’ll need your energy to focus on that. Two or three phone calls or emails should be enough to help your employer or replacement make the transition. If you’re getting the sense that your old employer is having trouble letting go of you, try slowing down your response time to their queries, which will force them to either wait for you or find their own solutions. Alternatively, you could offer your services as a paid consultant.

Do: Try your best to ensure that everyone succeeds after you’re gone. Let your employer or the new hire know they can contact you—within reason—if there are any lingering questions. Review your employee handbook; agree to help hire or train someone for the position in your remaining time on the job; follow through on any final agreements; answer questions and offer feedback to subordinates; and remember to acknowledge those you worked with before you leave.

Best of luck in your transition, and may your new job be everything that you’ve ever dreamed of!

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