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How to Quit Your Job in Style

Marcelle Yeager

There are many different approaches to quitting a job. Some people are so fed up and don't care if they burn bridges, and may simply say "I quit!" and walk out. Others put a lot of thought and consideration into it before saying goodbye to ensure positive references in the future. Then there are people who are extremely loyal and afraid to quit, producing enough anxiety that they decide not to quit at all. Where do you fall?

The ideal spot is in between. It's important to recognize that if you've gotten to the point of just high-tailing it out the door, you may have waited too long to go. One way to remedy this situation is to stay on the lookout for new opportunities. Yes, it's time consuming and isn't fun, but you don't want to get so bitter that you cause yourself harm. There are professionally acceptable ways to behave, and you can damage your career by causing a hostile display at work, quitting or not. Post your résumé on major sites like Monster and CareerBuilder; if you're afraid your human resources department will see that you just posted your résumé, then you could sign up for daily or weekly job alerts tailored to your interests instead. Most major job sites offer them.

You also don't want to fall in the latter category, i.e., you don't want to stay to the end of your days to avoid the resigning process. While many employees feel a great sense of loyalty to their firm, it's not reciprocal. In truth, all of us are replaceable in our jobs and companies will move on long after we're gone. And when you're really gone, do you want your gravestone to read "Sean was a loyal worker who did everything for his company?" Hopefully there are other things you'd rather be remembered for.

So, quit in style.

1. Timing. People always ask, "Should I give two weeks' notice or longer before I leave?" Take a look at your contract and follow what it says; two weeks is the usual. While it may help your boss more to have a month or more notice, it's not necessarily going to help you. You may find colleagues start treating you differently or excluding you from projects, and you'll be ready to leave long before a month is up.

2. People. While it can be very exciting to announce to friends and co-workers that you got into graduate school, you're moving or you accepted your dream job, wait. Even among your closest colleagues, these things can slip out unintentionally in casual conversation. Your boss may find out long before you intended to tell her. That will make things -- and you especially -- very uncomfortable.

3. Paper. Even if you're not required to submit a written notice of resignation, do it. Type up a simple note that states you're resigning from your position and request that your last day of work be whatever date you've chosen. You don't have to go into detail about where you're headed or why you're leaving.

4. Exit interview. Your company may schedule an exit interview with HR. You're not obligated to tell them everything about why you're leaving. In fact, if you really feel like trashing your boss, save that for close friends and family. HR may get a call from your future employers asking about your personal qualities.

5. Email. Pay attention to the norm at your office. Have other people who've left the company blasted an "I'm leaving! See you at the beach!" message to all company employees, or only sent it to a select group? You should follow suit. If your boss or HR asks you specifically not to send something out, you should only send a note to your closest colleagues with your contact information, or do it in-person.

6. Old-fashioned notes. A really nice touch is to compose handwritten notes for your close colleagues and boss. These should touch on why you've enjoyed working with them and include your contact information. This is something that people don't easily forget.

Quitting is not easy, but it's a given in life, and there is an appropriate and inappropriate way to do it at the office. While you will be moving on to a new adventure and out of sight, you won't be out of mind if you follow these guidelines. Most companies ask for contact information for past employers and you want the feedback to be positive. You're in control -- don't let their comments be otherwise.

Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn't know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Yeager holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.

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