I quit! I’m outta here! Take this miserable job and shove it!
Quitting your job, leaving a familiar workplace culture of people. It’s a recurring fantasy, especially in an economy which cannot seem to create jobs that matter, where current bosses may seem to take advantage. It’s a necessary consideration as you plot your career trajectory. It’s inevitable. The days of 40 years on the job and a gold watch are so long gone even the movies look weird.
So how do you quit – or to be polite and politic, resign – your job? More importantly, how do you leave your job and contain the damage? Here are ten pointers – the recruiter’s version of Paul Simon’s prescient ’50 ways to leave your lover’ – that will guide you in what not to do when resigning. And let’s face it, it’s what you don’t do that may have the most lasting effect.
- Don’t resign unless you have a firm, written job offer you’ve accepted. This was the first thing my Dad taught me about the workaday world, and it’s been one of the most important. Why? All your friends at cool start-ups, that gal you met at a conference, your boss from three jobs ago: one (or all) of them has said to you, “I’d hire you in a second. Call me.” Problem is if you quit and then make that call, the magic dies. They won’t hire you. The stars don’t align that way. Put your plan in place first, then resign.
- Don’t resign in anger. This is soooo tempting. Here, as in much else in life, anger is the enemy, not the energy. You may hate your job and think your boss is a horse’s fanny, but don’t let your anger show until – back to # 1 – your plan is in place. Never, ever say what you think about that jackass boss, either. Tomorrow is today, with mistakes.
- Don’t resign without a financial safety net. If you’ve ignored #s 1 and 2, this one’s for you. The rule of thumb used to be three months of expenses but these days plan on socking away enough cash to take you through up to nine months’ unemployment. And don’t count unemployment benefits – who knows what Congress will do with those?
- Don’t resign to find yourself, unless you’ve observed #3. Odds are you’re not lost, but are bored, angry, depressed or underemployed.
- Don’t resign to start a new company until… a) you have vetted your idea with folks with deep pockets (Mom and Dad usually don’t count here) and industry expertise (or) b) you have doubled down on #3. No dipping into IRAs to pay salaries and expenses, either.
- Don’t clean out the shared drive at work and then resign. Not ever. This is called theft, and it’s punishable in a court of law. And don’t think, because you changed a word here or there, that a company’s IP has suddenly become yours. Ethics. Say it three times the next time you think about shooting a file home on Gmail.
- Don’t resign because you had a bad review. Bad reviews are second chances. They give you time to come to terms with your shortcomings on the job and improve, and if you can’t manage that, if the damage is too great, they give you time to plan a graceful and positive exit.
- Don’t resign because you’re bored. See #s 3 and 4. There is nothing more boring than waiting for the right day to call the unemployment hotline. If you’re so smart your current job bores you, well, there’s an opportunity. ‘Nuff said.
- It should not require saying, but here goes: do not resign to follow your true love to his or her next step on the job ladder, unless you have seen to #s 3, 4 and 8. Take care of yourself. No one else has that as priority #1 on their to-do list, be sure of it.
- Don’t resign unless you really mean it. Have a plan, have money in the bank. Have an offer in your pocket. Have the support of family, friends, your job network. This is the only way you will be able to go to your next job with an open mind and a willing heart.