Tips for Leaving a Job on Positive Terms


My father used to say, “Always be kind to the people you meet climbing the ladder of success because you never know when you might meet them on the way down.” That is definitely true when leaving a job, even more so if you did not have the best experience working there. When you are miserable at the job, are eager to leave and don’t have the best relationship with your bosses, it’s tempting to walk away with little or no advance notice and with little thought or care as to how this rush out the door might affect you and your career down the road.

But that approach may not be wise, say career experts. If your personal integrity is important to you, you want to walk away from your job without burning bridges, if for any reason that it makes you look good.

If you are like most workers, you’ve changed jobs multiple times in your adult life. According to the Bureau of Labors Statistics, workers spend an average of 4.6 years in a given job. That’s an awful lot of job changes over the life of a single worker.

Granted, some of those situations may be forced departures – downsizing and firings – but for the most part, you’ll most likely leave a job for positive reasons, such as a better opportunity at another business, going back to school or starting your own business. And when you do choose to leave, you want to be sure you do so on the best possible terms. After all, you never know when you may need their assistance in some way, such as references or future employment.

Here are a few tips for leaving a job on the best possible terms. While some of these suggestions may seem like common sense, you’d be surprised at how much some workers overlook them.

1. Give at least two weeks’ notice. For most administrative professionals, two weeks’ notice is sufficient time to help you and your boss figure out the best way to transition out of the job and tie up loose ends. For those higher up in the organization, you may need to offer to stay longer, perhaps a month, to close out your term there. Giving less than two weeks is considered unprofessional. To show you are a true team player until the end, give the appropriate notice.

2. Talk to your boss first. Once you know you plan to leave your job, talk privately with your manager, explain your reasons for leaving, and start planning the transition out of the organization. Until you speak with your manager, avoid gossiping with co-workers, clients or vendors about your plans.

3. Be transparent about your reasons for leaving, but don’t badmouth the employer either, especially if you had a bad experience working there. According to the Harvard Business Review, don’t tell one person one reason for leaving, and tell another person a different story. Remember, once you’ve updated your social media with your new employment information, people will find out soon enough what you will be doing.

4. Don’t trash the business in the exit interview. Use the meeting to reiterate your reason for leaving, and express your gratitude for what you learned while working there. Any negative feedback you give about your bosses and co-workers reflects poorly on you, not on them. And any suggestions you might give about improving their workplace are likely to fall on deaf ears.

5. Don’t leave unfinished business. Complete all the tasks and projects that you are responsible for, or work with your boss to determine alternative arrangements, such as transferring the project to another co-worker. If necessary and if it will help your bosses, make a list of all your responsibilities, the reports and projects you do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This step might be especially helpful in a small organization that has fewer resources to help them determine if outside support might be needed.

Another option is to offer to train a co-worker to do your tasks until they hire a replacement, or to return to train the replacement. While the employer may not take you up on the offer, making the suggestion leaves a positive impression and shows you are a team player until the end.

6. Be sure to contact all your vendors and clients that you worked with to say good-bye. Tell them why you are leaving, express gratitude for working with them, but don’t recruit them to your new business, which could be a conflict of interest.

7. Ask for references. If you had a solid working relationship with your manager, do ask for a reference in case you ever need one or your new situation does not work out. Ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn as a professional contact or if they will provide a testimonial of your skills. Most managers are usually open to maintaining some kind of connection with former employees. If you don’t ask at this point, when good will is at its peak, you might forget later.

Taking care of business before you leave a job helps build good will for the long term. And like my father told me many years ago, you never know when you might need a former manager’s help at some point in the future. You don’t want to burn your bridges along the way.


What I Learned from Taking a Career Break

nightNo matter what kind of job you have or how long you’ve been in that job, sooner or later you are bound to feel that impulse to get up and leave it behind. The wild blue yonder comes calling, or more likely, you’re just tired of the nine-to-five grind. The work no longer appeals to you. Or you have accomplished everything you wanted to professionally. What’s next?

That’s what happened to me a few years ago. I walked away from a job that I was happy with at first, but after eight years at the same organization and a change in CEO, I knew it was time to change course. But I honestly had no idea what that course was. Fortunately (and later as it turned out, unfortunately – but that’s another story), I had an opportunity to buy a yoga studio business. It seemed the perfect solution to my career stalemate dilemma. I figured if I could try that for a year and see how it worked out. If it didn’t, I could always return to a corporate gig.

Millions of baby boomers like myself have made a similar shift in their careers. But the decision to walk away from a job that no longer serves you should not be taken lightly. There are numerous factors to consider when making a major change, and there’s no guarantee that a job in the corporate sector will be waiting for you if things don’t turn out or you change your mind.

First of all, do you have the financial security to take time off? If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, taking a career break is probably not a wise choice. Maybe you have a cushion in your savings or your suddenly came into some money after your favorite uncle passed away that allows you to take time out of your career. If your spouse works, you may have the emotional and financial support to make a go of this lifestyle change.

According to the website Career Shifters, a career break should not be confused with a career sabbatical. A career break is an actual break from your career. You can take as much time as you need to figure out your next career move, whether it’s going back to school, traveling around the world or caring for an elderly parent, but there is no job to go back to. You are on your own.

In a career sabbatical, you negotiate an arrangement with your employer that allows you to take extensive time off while they keep your job open. The amount of time you take can be anywhere from one month to up to six months. But the employer cannot fire you and you have the option to return to your job.

Considering a career break? Here’s how to make the most of your break so you get back to being you and prepare for the next phase of your career.

* Spend time with family. Of course, the best reason to take a career break is to spend more time with your loved ones. For some, too much work and travel have taken them away from their kids and they miss seeing them grow up. For others, an ailing parent calls for more time to take care of their needs. Whatever your situation, nothing can replace the time you spend with people you care about most.

* Volunteer at your favorite charitable organization. Is there a cause you believe in? Is there an organization that needs someone with your skills and experience?  Seek out organizations whose objectives align with your personal beliefs. For example, as a breast cancer survivor, I volunteered a few hours each month at the local hospital where I was treated, doing miscellaneous administrative tasks to prepare for upcoming events and education programs they sponsored. It was a wonderful way to get to know other volunteers, some who were also breast cancer survivors, and to give back to the hospital that provided great care for me during my treatment.

* Declutter or redecorate your home. During my time off, I slowly and systematically, weeded out excess clothes and items I didn’t use anymore. It has had a cleansing effect, not only on my small condo, but on my emotional well-being. The more stuff I got rid of, the lighter and freer I felt. I also repainted my living room, and the change in décor helped spark my creativity, gave me peace of mind and brightened up my home environment. A little housecleaning and redecorating can do wonders for your emotional energy.

* Take a class. During my career break, I indulged my passion for writing by taking several writing classes. Taking these classes not only challenged me to delve more deeply into my own psyche, it prompted me to learn a different style of writing than I was used to. If writing doesn’t interest you, try gardening, photography or learn to speak Italian – whatever your soul calls you to do. Who knows? Your newfound hobby could turn into your next career.

* Practice yoga and meditation. I went through a difficult time in 2014 and yoga kept me sane while I dealt with several challenging situations during that time. Yoga was also a spring board toward more healthful habits and led to more intense workouts as I regained my physical strength and stamina. Meditation, even for only 10 minutes per day, helped me to calm the voices in my head

* Travel. If you’ve got the time and the savings, go wherever your heart desires. I didn’t do a lot of traveling, only a couple of short trips to visit friends, but the change of scenery gave me a fresh perspective on my problems and cleared my head so I could face challenges more effectively.

* Visit an old friend. During my break, I went to Florida to visit an old childhood friend whose daughter was battling cancer. By reconnecting during a time of crisis in both of our lives, it helped both of us gain perspective and helped us laugh at a time when we needed a little laughter in our lives.

* Become a tourist in your own town. Is there somewhere in your town that you’ve heard about but never visited – a museum, a restaurant or other special landmark? A career break is the perfect time to explore these places.

* Indulge in a hobby. Whether you love painting, attending concerts, writing poetry or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, a career break gives you ample time to indulge in your favorite hobby. Who knows? Maybe that hobby can turn into your next great business idea.

When used wisely, career breaks can clear the heart, mind and soul of past challenges and disappointments, so you are ready to face the next phase of your life with greater clarity, strength and sense of purpose.