1. Give your notice early
The most polite way to leave a job is to hand in your resignation with two weeks notice so that your boss has time to fill your spot. This will show your boss that you have his or her best interests (and the best interests of the company) at heart.
“Providing appropriate notice to an employer you are leaving helps you maintain a positive professional reputation,” says Gary Alan Miller, the assistant director for social media and innovation at career services, at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “By showing respect to the needs of that employer you leave on a more positive note, which benefits everyone involved.”
If, in extenuating circumstances, you can’t give two weeks notice, be prepared to fully explain the situation to your boss so she knows you’re not just bailing on her, and to offer your boss the names of friends you know who might be willing to take your spot. It’s even a good idea to have their resumes on hand.
This was the case when Michelle, a junior at Emerson College, left her job at Forever 21 to start immediately at a smaller boutique. “Luckily, my boss liked me a lot, so, while she was frustrated that I was quitting, she was mostly just upset to see an employee that she liked and trusted go. However, I think it was really helpful for her to have me recommend people to replace me. All the people I recommended were girls I had worked with before and genuinely believed would be good at Forever 21.”
This way, you can help out a friend while also leaving your boss with a good lasting impression. Chances are, your boss will understand.
“Your boss is never going to be happy that you quit—unless, of course, you're an awful employee—but it's likely that they've been in your position before where they found a job that suited them better,” says Michelle. “A professional boss isn't going to take it personally and you'll still be able to have a professional relationship with them.”
2. Talk to your boss in person
It can be tempting to e-mail your notice and avoid talking face to face with your superior. Yet if you want all of your hard work at the job to pay off in the future, be sure to sit down and talk with your boss in person.
When Lauren Conrad, an HC campus correspondent and senior at the University of Kentucky, left a full-time marketing position to return to college for a second degree, she sat down the vice president of her company. While her boss wasn’t happy to hear that she was going, she was grateful that Lauren was truthful about her reasons for leaving.
“Since I was open and transparent with the company, they offered to let me work from home in Lexington to help transition my clients until school started, which gave me four months to continue working,” says Lauren. In her case, transparency also left her in her boss’s mind for another position. “They also told me that they thought the degree I was pursuing could be useful in another sector of the company and that if I was interested in a job with them where I could possibly work remotely or from a city other than Cincinnati after graduation to let them know.”
Adds Miller, “I think technology has allowed people to feel comfortable doing things digitally that good etiquette should really demand be done in person. When leaving a position, whether it’s a good situation or a bad situation, it is simply protocol to work through that process in person.”
Because of her professionalism before she left, Lauren has still stayed in touch with her bosses and other friends who work at the marketing company.
3. Don’t slack off in the time you have left
The best way to leave the door open at a company is to leave with a good final impression. Even if you know that you’ll be leaving your job in two weeks, that doesn’t mean that you can treat work like a vacation. Miller says, “Do you want to be known as someone who is responsible, who gets things done, who can be trusted and respected? If so, carry out your responsibilities to the best of your ability, no matter the circumstance.”
If anything, you should try to work harder than you have in the past. It might just pay off in the long run.
“I actually went back to work at the job I had quit. I worked at another place in between, and it wasn't working out, so I called my old manager and she said she didn't have the hours, but she wanted to hire me back so she worked me in! I'm positive she wanted me to come back because of the attitude I had while working there, especially during my last few weeks,” says HC campus correspondent and University of North Alabama student Sydney Threet.
4. Help out the new girl (or guy)
Remember when you were starting work and had no idea where anything was or how to do the day-to-day duties? One of the most helpful things you can do is to train your incoming replacement. Whether this means writing up a report about your basic activities on a daily basis or showing the new employee around the office, it’s good to show your boss that you have the future of the company in mind.
5. It doesn’t hurt to stay in touch
Even if you don’t think you’ll return to the job you’re leaving, it’s still important to maintain ties. You never know when you might want to use a former boss as a reference, in which case you’d like her to know what you’ve been up to. Miller says, “Colleagues, peers, supervisors and others within the organization become part of your network, and you know how important your network is to your future. So, invest in those people and they will invest in you. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Stay in touch with them. Go out to lunch with them occasionally. Keep your reputation strong and your network growing, and you’ll benefit in the long run.”
Also, if you’re ever hunting for a job again, your boss might be a good source of knowledge or open the door to a new position.
“I have several friends who still work there and I have also stayed in touch with my bosses—one now works at another company,” says Lauren. “I am going to search for other jobs that are local or farther south first, but if I can't find anything I will definitely consider a position with the company.”
Quitting a job isn’t the end of the world, but there are ways to do it that will leave you in positive standing. Just be sure to follow these quick tips and chances are you can stay in your boss’s good graces!