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How to Leave Your Job Gracefully

How to plan to leave your job

Have you ever thought about how to leave your job gracefully? I’ve always tried to keep half an eye on the door. Even if you’ve got a great position right now, it might not be in six months. All kinds of things can change: you get a new manager, someone you don’t like as much. The company downsizes and jobs start to go. Or you take on a new project and it’s not interesting/not challenging/too much to handle/requires more travel than you’re prepared to do.

I joined a webinar about preparing an exit strategy from your current role – in other words, how to leave your job on good terms.  Krissy Jackson is The IT Girls Coach, so I was keen to find out what she had to say. Krissy said that even if it seems difficult or time-consuming, it is worth investing the time in preparing a graceful exit.  “It’s not nearly as daunting as it appears at first,” she said.  Being prepared sends a clear message to the people who matter (or it will, when you start telling people) about who you are what you offer and, “why you are the best woman for the job,” she added.

Jackson presented the results from  the 2008/9 survey which had about 7000 respondents.

  • Nearly 65% of employers do not believe their employees are looking for job opportunities.
  • Nearly 80% of employers do not believe their employees would initiate a job search in the next three months.


  • 65% of respondents said they were looking around
  • And 60% of those said they would intensify it over the coming months.

So there’s a big gap between employer belief and employee reality:  lots of people are passively job hunting, and if you’re doing it too you are not alone.  But what happens when you get a bite?  Are you ready to jump ship straight away?

Work Backwards From Your Goal

According to Krissy, your plan to leave your job is like money in your career bank account.  It covers several things:

  • Maintaining your CV
  • Personal branding
  • Mentoring your successor
  • Reviewing your employment contract
  • Networking
  • Being clear about your career paths
  • Keeping up with industry trends.

The best way to start preparing your move is to think backwards from your goal. Once you know that you want to find a new job you can start plotting it from that point, back in small steps (like ‘work out notice’, ‘hand in notice’ ‘go for interviews’, ‘find job opportunities’ etc).

Two things that should be towards the top of the list are training and checking your employment contract.  Before you tell anyone that you are leaving (and perhaps before you finally make the decision yourself) do any training courses, or other development opportunities that you’ve been wanting to do.  “Time appears for things when they are scheduled into your year plan,” Krissy says.

Check Your Contract

Your employment contract contains all the details of how you can resign and what you can expect when you do.  Even if you don’t have plans to move right now, use your next performance review to check your contract is up to date.  You can be checking now what the restrictions are, like whether you can work for a competitor, as that could impact where you could apply for jobs.

You may find that you hand in your notice and you’re told to leave the building straight away – even if you got on well with your boss.  With that in mind, make sure you are ready to go.

  • Delete cookies, web forms, saved passwords and any personal emails from your computer.
  • Delete personal contacts and text messages from your phone or BlackBerry.
  • Save any personal documents that you need on to a USB stick or email them to your personal account – then delete them.
  • You don’t want to give the impression that you are clearing out your desk, but if you have lots of personal things (shoes, in my case) at work, then start taking a few bits home.
  • Check that you have contact details for anyone that you might need to get in touch with.
  • Get anything you subscribe to (by email or post) that’s delivered to your professional address redirected.
  • Make sure you are up to date with your work – whatever circumstances you leave under you must make it easy for the next person to pick up where you leave off.

“You only want to keep what’s relevant and necessary to the person who’s doing your job next,” Krissy said.

Leave Positively and Professionally

When the time does come to walk out the door you want to leave on a good note, so:

  • Hit deadlines
  • Don’t up and leave (shouting ‘I quit’ and just leaving is the worst possible thing you can do)
  • Make sure your files are in order
  • Have accurate and clear to do lists
  • Create documents about what you were doing and what you were planning to do
  • Leave on good terms with co-workers
  • Think positively about the company you are leaving and don’t gloat about your new job
  • Give all your new contact details to supervisors
  • Don’t give constructive criticism in your exit interview; state problems in a positive way and leave the interviewer with the impression that you have effective interpersonal skills.

“As your world expands it also contracts,” Krissy said.  You know more people and therefore more people will talk about you. A longer, successful career and a higher profile gives you a bigger network. That’s even more reason to make sure that if you are planning to leave your job you do it well and exit gracefully.

How to leave your job gracefully: tips for moving on without burning bridges

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.



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