Q. I have been looking for a job for several months now. I am expecting a written job offer within the next week or so after the new company checks my references. I realize that I am not sure how to quit in a professional way. Any tips for that?
A. How you leave a job speaks volumes about your professionalism. A few tips:
Give appropriate notice. Most employers expect at least two weeks notice. There may be extenuating circumstances where three or more weeks might be appreciated. For example, an important deadline may be approaching or a new initiative in which the departing employee is involved will soon launch.
Inform your direct supervisor first in a private way when communicating your intent to leave the company. If possible, do it in person. If your supervisor works in a different location or is traveling, a phone call may be the best alternative. No supervisor likes to hear through the grapevine that one of their team members is leaving.
Put some thought into a transition plan. Who can pick up some of your responsibilities after you leave? How can the work still get completed? The plan may not be perfect, but your supervisor can think proactively so work does not fall through the cracks.
Don’t burn bridges. Don’t sabotage your former employer. Be gracious and helpful about responding to questions even after you have left.
If given the opportunity to participate in an exit interview, try to present your feedback in a helpful way. There may be negatives about your former company, former boss, or former role, but try to weave in some positive comments, too.
Finally, it is a small world. You want to depart on professional terms because you may be working with some of your former co-workers in a future life. One of them may be a future client, colleague, or boss.