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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

The Ultimate Guide to Quitting Your Job With Grace

It’s bittersweet to leave a job. You’re excited about the new faces, projects, and energy your new role and company will bring but also sad to leave behind the teams you work with day in and day out. Some colleagues you’ve become close friends with, others have impacted you in ways they aren’t even aware of. You have mentors, managers, teammates, almost teammates, and lunch buddies to say goodbye to.

How do you even begin to say goodbye? And when?

Last week, I started telling my boss, teammates, and colleagues that our time together was coming to an end. This week is my last at LinkedIn, and I’m grateful to everyone who has made my experience here so memorable. Before I go, I’ll share a final lesson: Here’s what I’ve learned about the art of giving notice this week.

1. Prepare What You Will Say

Though you don’t need to memorize your departure speech word by word, you should be sure to hit on a few core parts when you give formal two weeks notice:

  • Explain that you have received an offer from another company and have accepted.
  • Express gratitude for the opportunities given to you to date.
  • State when your final day at work will be.
  • Offer help for the transition process (more on that in step 4).

Extra pointers: Be swift but courteous. Contrary to alternate advice, I do not think you should cut out all niceties and small talk. (That’s like leading with a punch to the gut!) Be human and engage in authentic small talk, but don’t beat around the bush either. When it’s time, deliver your news. Know in advance whether you will consider a counter offer, as you very well may get one.

2. Tell People in the Right Order

Your boss should be the first to hear the news, and you should tell her in person. Depending on your experience, you may want to tell your mentor next, your working teams and stakeholders after that, and lastly, anyone else you’ve worked with in the past you’d like to keep in touch with. Make a list of any dependencies that might impact that order, too: Is there a meeting you will need to announce your departure before? Meetings you should really no longer sit in on? This will help you safely prioritize who to give notice to when, and how. (Err on the side of giving notice in person whenever possible—followed by phone, and email as a last resort.) Before you say anything, though...

3. Make Sure Your Game Plan for Announcing Your Departure Is Vetted by Your Boss

Your boss may have to backfill your role and do some internal shifting to keep things afloat while she looks for a new hire. If your boss asks for a few days to come up with a transition plan before announcing your departure to working teams, sit tight. If there are key figures your boss would like to update first, honor that. Help your boss out by sitting on the news while plans for what happens once you’re gone come together.

4. Help With Transition Planning

Offer to wrap up loose ties, and help document as much as you can to pass on to your replacement. This is the spring-cleaning phase of your exit: Organize your projects and list out points of contact, open action items, and potential next steps. Your goal is to leave your work at a stage where someone else can easily jump in and pick up the thread. Think of it like prepping your apartment for Airbnb visitors: You don’t know who will stay next in your apartment, but it needs to be tidy. You’ll also want to make it really easy for them to find the nearest grocery store, bank, and your version of the major sights.

5. Expect People to React Differently

Some colleagues will positively beam and shout “Congratulations!” with glee when they hear your news. Others will bemoan your decision and cry out, “Oh no!” before adding a less hearty congrats. Still others will want every detail—“How long have you been thinking about leaving? What didn’t you like about your team/role/company?” Some may try to convince you to stay—your boss may even counter your notice with an offer! Prepare for every reaction, and do your best to take it all in stride. It’s up to you how much you want to divulge about your next job, but say thank you and express gratitude no matter what.

6. When it Comes to Giving Feedback, Save it for the Exit Interview

Losing good talent is painful for employers, so they will inevitably want to know more about why you’re leaving. Your boss may ask specifics: Did you not have enough resources? Were your projects not compelling? Was management effective? Was it something else entirely? Consider what feedback you can provide for the benefit of the company, then reserve it for your boss or your HR department. If a fellow teammate complains or seems to be prodding you to gossip about the company, zip up. Save constructive criticism for the exit interview, and leave on a good note. No sour apples in the crowd!

7. Say Thank You

You have earned your new job by virtue of the work you have done over the course of your career, including your most recent work at the company you are now leaving behind. There are undoubtedly people who have inspired you, challenged you, and collaborated with you in your current role. Thank them: for their time, their generosity, their mentorship, their good spirit. Trust that someday soon you’ll find a way to return the favor.

8. Keep in Touch

Whether that’s on LinkedIn (a final plug before I go!), email, or other social networks, give now-former colleagues a way to keep in touch. Keep your relationships alive by checking in from time to time and offering advice, skills, relevant articles, or mentorship when the time is right. Your network really is the gift that keeps on giving—where possible, make sure you spend time giving back, too.

9. Save Time for Self-reflection

Changing jobs is a truly momentous thing. No matter how smoothly your transition goes, it’s bound to bring some stress along with it. This is perfectly normal. In the midst of goodbyes and see-you-soons, take a beat to reflect on all you have achieved in your current role, and everything you’re excited for next. Write down your accomplishments, gather any key work samples you’re proud of (company policy permitting), and breathe. It’s all part of the process. You are exactly where you’re meant to be.

10. Lastly, Say Yes to Cake

Never be too shy to turn down an excuse to celebrate you. If your team plans a farewell gathering for you, say yes and smile big! Now is the time to reflect on your achievements, celebrate your time and impact at the company, and remember the lessons you learned there and how you will build upon them moving forward. A little bit of cake and champagne to celebrate all the hard work you’ve given to your current company, and all the exciting things yet to come at the new one? Cheers to that.

One Last Thing

No matter how thoughtful your approach in giving notice, remember that no method is foolproof. Know that word may get out before you want it to, that some people will get left out of announcements or miss a meeting and end up hearing the news from someone else. You can’t control everything. Know that you did your best because you cared, and you tried.

Congratulations, job changer. Good luck!

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Photo of calendar courtesy of Shutterstock.