Realizing that you’re ready to change career paths can be an exciting time. After working your way up, you recognize that it’s time to move on to greener pastures. Sending out resumes and going through interviews can be a major experience, but finally seeing the fruits of your labor blossom can make the hard work and stress worth the effort.
When it's time to move on from your current job, should you let your employer know where you’re going? The answer depends on your specific situation.
How to tell your employer you’re leaving
Though the thought of quitting your job may make your heart sing or cry, it’s important to keep your emotions in check and leave on a note that is both respectful and dignified. Whether to divulge your next steps is up to you, but there are other key details that are essential to provide before you leave.
The most important thing to tell your boss is the exact date for your last day. This is allows for your boss to have a timeline in mind for what paperwork must be completed with Human Resources regarding your benefits and the process of finding a person to fill your position.
When to give notice
The standard amount of time you should wait to give notice is two weeks, but do make sure to review documentation regarding policies specific to your organization about minimum notice requirements. For example, those who work under a bargaining agreement may need to give notice ahead of time. You may also need to provide information to other employees who will take over your duties once you leave or train a new hire.
However, make sure that you are prepared to leave as soon as you provide your boss with notice. This may include backing up any personal files on your work computer and clearing it and obtaining contact information for coworkers you intend to stay in contact with in the future.
How to resign in person
When addressing your boss in person, schedule a time to speak to them alone. Keep your tone as positive — your next employer may reach out to your current employer. Open your conversation by thanking your employer for their time and any additional opportunities or guidance you may have received doing your tenure with the company. Refrain from airing grievances, and whatever your feelings are for your employer, keep the conversation focused on factual information.
Depending on your relationship with your boss, you may feel intimidated, but keep in mind that moving on is a natural part of life, and it’s unlikely that your boss will take it personally. If you typically experience anxiety around having difficult conversations, try practicing what you want to say to a friend or partner outside of your workplace as you might practice for an interview to avoid being flustered.
How to resign after receiving an offer letter
As the adage goes, the best time to look for a job is when you already have one. Your job isn’t completely finished once you receive an offer letter from another company, however. Keep in mind that while not a completely common practice, employers have the right to change their minds even after an initial offer. For this reason, it’s important to hold off on resigning until you have thoroughly negotiated a contract with your employer and have no further changes to request.
Once you have this settled, work out a hard start date with your soon-to-be new employer. Ensure that your start date is far enough away that you may give your employer an appropriate amount of advance notice.
Reasons why you can tell your employer where you’re going:
1. You trust your boss.
If you have enjoyed a close relationship with your boss and you’ve mentioned the possibility of transitioning before, then letting them know what you plan on doing could be a smart move. This is especially true if you were serving in an entry level position where your boss understands that you intended to move up elsewhere.
2. You’re changing industries.
Once you realize that your heart lies in a different industry, choosing to follow it shouldn’t be held against you by your employer. If you’re branching out to a completely different path, your current employer is less-likely to take your decision to leave personally.
3. You’re relocating.
Moving to another area is a common reason why people need to quit their jobs. Whether you’re pursuing an educational opportunity or need to move to care for a loved one, letting your current employer know can stave off feelings of bad blood and provide closure.
Reasons why you shouldn’t share your next moves with your employer:
1. You’re going to work for a competitor.
This reason could cause some hostility between yourself and your current employer. It might also increase the likelihood that they'll ask you to leave sooner than planned. In this instance, being vague would be a better option.
2. You aren’t going out on the best of terms.
If you’ve experienced friction with your employer in the past, keeping them out of the loop regarding your next moves will probably be beneficial. If you’ve been written up or have had contentious altercations with those at your workplace in the past, they may spread negativity to you and the company you're moving on to.
3. Your boss bashes former employees.
When you’ve heard your boss spread negativity about former employees — particularly those with whom they were on good terms — take this as a warning. To avoid having their negativity follow you outside of the workplace, don’t reveal what your next steps are to save yourself a headache later.
What to say when your coworker is resigning
The experience of losing a coworker can hit you unexpectedly. Whether you were work BFFs or kept things professional and distant, take advantage of your chance to say goodbye. If there’s a chance you’ll absorb some of their duties in their absence, check in with them in advance so they can give you the inside scoop on how to most efficiently get work done. Reaching out to wish them well can also keep the door open for possible collaborations in the future.
If you find yourself dreading the conversation, keep in mind that ends are necessary for new beginnings. Leaving one job behind is a sign that you’ve had the courage to keep pursuing the life you want to live. Though entering that new door may feel intimidating, brushing up on tips to put your best foot forward from the start can help ease your mind and make the change worth the stress.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.