Steven Slater, a JetBlue Airways flight attendant, was frustrated with his job. He had enough one day and quit on the spot. He cursed at the passenger he had been arguing with, grabbed a beer, and slid down the plane’s emergency chute. Slater was hailed as a hero by many, but quickly landed in trouble. His method of quitting burned a lot of bridges, to say the least. Workers who are unhappy deserve to find a better job, but how you quit affects your job search. If you leave your employer in a bind, you may jeopardize your professional future as a reputation for quitting suddenly may follow you. Exercising patience and leaving on good terms will make it easier to land future jobs.
- Keep your job search confidential
Revealing you are looking for work can cause you to be terminated immediately. Many employers fear that job seekers will depart and take confidential information with them, or they may not give the job their best effort. Ask former employers, co-workers, and clients for recommendations to avoid being discovered during your job search. Be aware that updating your LinkedIn profile may alert employers, but do not let that fear keep you from optimizing your profile. It is a small world and word of your search could travel. Explain to your trusted contacts and potential employers that your job search is confidential. When it comes to references, use previous supervisors. They may ask if your current employer will be a reference. The response to this question depends on how confident you feel that, in spite of your leaving, your employer will sing your praises. Let your prospective employer know that upon receipt of an offer, you will ask your current employer to be a reference. You can be honest if you are uncertain. All too often previous employers are spiteful, though there are laws in most states to protect employees from references that prevent them from landing viable new work.
- Do not make a dramatic exit
If you have a toxic work culture, or boss, it may be tempting to heed the siren call of gleeful abandonment once your next position is secured. There may be an urge to slap a letter of resignation on your boss’s desk, or to tell your co-workers what you really think of them as you make your exit. Keep your exit civil and classy regardless of your working conditions. You do not know when you may need someone at your company as a future reference. They may hesitate to help you depending on how you departed.
- Give ample notice
Turn in your notice at least two weeks before your departure. Two weeks is standard, but give a longer notice when possible to be considerate toward your employer. A sudden exit greatly inconveniences your boss, colleagues, and customers, and ensures you leave on bad terms as they scramble to find a replacement. Again, it is a small world and the reputation that you left your employer in a bind may follow you. While being considerate, you also want to protect yourself. Some employers may send you home that day when you give your notice, and you may even find yourself escorted by security. This is a policy sometimes borne out of concern that departing employers may take proprietary information, especially if you accept a job offer with a competitor. Still, give them the consideration of two weeks’ notice.
- Train your replacement
Training new employees is time-consuming for many employers. Make the transition easier for your boss by offering to work with your replacement, or to create a training manual. These actions create a win-win-win scenario for everyone involved. Your boss does not have to spend time training a new employee, your replacement is empowered to move into your position with minimal effort, and you leave a reputation of reliability.
- Finish your existing projects
Finish your existing projects and tie up loose ends. No one wants to be saddled with the burden of trying to complete someone else’s project. If it is not possible to complete a project, create and keep ample documentation. A finished project or detailed instructions makes it easier for your replacement to move into your role.
- Connect with co-workers
Let your co-workers know of your departure and offer to keep in touch. Informing your co-workers in advance gives them time to prepare for the transition, though you want to use discretion about who you can trust. Send a farewell message via mass e-mail and give co-workers your contact information, such as a personal e-mail address and a LinkedIn profile. Prepare it before you leave, as you may only have 30 minutes to pack up your belongings and leave the premises. Make sure your colleagues are in your LinkedIn network and stay in contact. You never know where a co-worker may end up, if he or she may be your next boss, or in a prime position to hire you at a future job.
- Do not accept a counteroffer
Your boss may make a counteroffer once they discover your intent to leave. There are good reasons to deny this offer. It is designed to stop you from leaving, but you may be fired within a few months as they devise a plan to replace you. Additionally, the dissatisfaction that caused you to seek a new job will remain, even with a pay raise. Remind yourself of the reasons you are leaving and stick to your decision.
If you work at a less-than-ideal employer, it may be tempting to burn bridges as you exit. We hope you are leaving your employer because you have big plans to become happy professionally. We encourage you to take control and plan your exit. If you really have days that are SO bad that you fantasize about going out in a blaze of glory, what you are really seeking is the ultimate feeling of empowerment. This does not come from that blaze of glory moment- that moment can burn you forever. It comes from intentionally and strategically planning your next move and exiting with class. Chances are there are others at your job having the same fantasy who will be inspired by and perhaps envious of your moving on to bigger and better. This is really the best revenge against employers who have proven undeserving of your talents, effort, and time.