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How to Quit Your IT Job Without Burning Bridges

Breaking up is hard to do. Parting ways with your employer and coworkers runs the risk of awkward silences, hurt feelings, and even a trail of burning bridges in your wake. But you can leave on good terms in a way that is professional, appreciative, confident, and graceful.

If the job has been rocky, you may wonder why you should bother leaving on good terms. But it’s important. Let’s dig into some of the things you should consider when quitting your IT job.

It’s a Small World

Your future career path may bring you back to this very company. You may encounter former colleagues and your old boss in new workplaces. And the employer you leave this year may be the company that merges with your new employer next year.

But that’s not all. Think about your shadow resume: your reputation that shows up during “backdoor referencing,” when a prospective employer uses their network (hello, LinkedIn!) to get impressions of you from your colleagues or non-work acquaintances. How will they remember you?

Throughout your career, it’s important to keep your commitments, help others with their workloads when practical, be flexible, treat people fairly and kindly, and work to reconcile differences. These are still important when you’re making your final impressions.

Before You Give Notice

Be sure you are confident of your decision to make this change, and finalize the important details with your new employer. For the job you’re leaving, find out how much notice is required. How will your last paycheck be handled? What about vacation days and other compensation that may be owed to you? Find out about health insurance and any retirement accounts and pension. If you can’t find it out ahead of time, plan to ask.

Before you approach your boss and your coworkers, clarify in your mind how you’ll frame your departure. Be positive, professional, confident, and appreciative. Here are some things to think about as you plan your exit strategy:

  • Express your appreciation for the opportunity to work with these coworkers and this boss;
  • Share your gratitude for your coworkers’ support and kindness;
  • Convey your pride at what you achieved together and how now you have an opportunity to apply these experiences and your strengths and skills in a new setting.

Your resignation letter should be professional and concise and include these key points:

  • You are leaving your current position (give your expected date);
  • Your reason for leaving, in generalities; possibly mention key accomplishments or things learned;
  • Thank your supervisor and the company for the opportunities. Be honest but diplomatic; this is not the time or place to vent grievances.

Think Through the Counter

Consider how you might respond to a counteroffer. There’s no guarantee that one will be made, but you need to be mentally prepared in the event that the opportunity presents itself.

Many experts advise against accepting a counteroffer — you’d be throwing away a concrete opportunity, and your attempted resignation may make your dedication to this job suspect in your supervisor’s eyes.

The Exit Interview

Think ahead about a possible exit interview. It’s a chance to give constructive feedback and suggestions; but avoid overt criticism — be honest and professional, not petty.

The exit interview is a moment for you to be your most noble self. Think about what can be done to improve the environment, culture, or compensation for your colleagues. An exit interview is a unique opportunity to speak to the real needs of the people in the trenches. Frame your feedback positively so that it has a better chance of being heard by your employer and appropriately handled.

Telling Your Boss

Your direct supervisor should be the first to know about your decision to leave, and not via the rumor mill. If possible, give notice in person with your resignation letter in hand. A scheduled meeting is best, otherwise, your boss may feel like they were ambushed.

Keep your cool if things get confrontational. Stick to your prepared statements.

Though you are giving notice with an expected date of departure, your employer can choose to have you escorted out immediately, based on policy or circumstances. Be mentally and logistically prepared for this possibility.

Any personal files and emails should already be saved to personal media and deleted from your work computer. Similarly, have contact information collected, as well as any non-proprietary examples of your work. Have a plan for gathering your personal belongings from your work area.

You may want to ask your supervisor’s preference about how to share the news about your departure with your colleagues. Volunteer to tell them individually, or it may be appropriate to offer to write a short email to be distributed.

Telling Your Coworkers

Be sure to contact the people who’ve been your mentors and sponsors, in person if possible. Here are some general dos and don’ts as you let your colleagues know that you’re leaving:

Do

  • Plan to keep in touch with everyone of importance — send a farewell message, giving your contact information.
  • Ask for references from select supervisors and colleagues.
  • Draft LinkedIn recommendations for highly-valued colleagues.

Don’t

  • Leave a sour taste behind.
  • Brag about your new position.
  • Tell anyone off.
  • Badmouth your employer, boss, or other colleagues.

Your Final Days

Do your best to help out your boss, colleagues, and your replacement with the transition. Ask your supervisor about priorities for what you’ll accomplish in your last days. Offer to make a transition plan, listing your unfinished projects and other responsibilities, describing how you do things, discussing how best to carry on with them, and possibly who might take them over. Your boss may want you to stay long enough to help train your replacement.

During your final days in the job, don’t have a short-timer attitude; work hard until the end of your last day. Be an active team member. Follow all rules about protecting company information, and return all company property. Finally, leave a neat, clean work area.

Leaving a good impression takes a bit of work, but a professional and graceful exit feels great — and will pay off in the future.

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