Preparing to quit a job is a second job all on its own, and the work doesn’t end once you give your notice of resignation. If you want to leave with your professional relationships and sanity intact, it requires tact and finesse.
Here are the biggest mistakes to avoid, according to career coaches and human resources professionals who have seen it all:
1. Burning bridges that could have connected you in the future
Colleagues may forget what exactly you worked on together, but how you made them feel can leave a lasting negative impression, even years later.
“In your future job search, you have no idea when you may potentially encounter one of those bridges you’ve burned,” says CV/resume writer Tammeca Riley. “That person may be the one reviewing resumes or making the final hiring decision in a division you have your sights set on.”
Gregory Tall, a former human resources professional who now runs manager coaching workshops, recalls an employee who quit in the middle of a client presentation without notice, leaving a bad impression on the client and the team who then had to scramble to cover their absence.
“Now you have upset your manager, your manager’s manager, everyone in that chain of command. Your client, anyone who was there connected with that, they now have a not-too-great impression. Those people start to spread out and go off to different organisations. They’ll remember this guy who walked off,” Tall says, adding that he certainly still remembers this person years later.
That’s why his advice is to consider how many people will be left with a bad impression from the way you quit, beyond just the boss you want to stick it to.
2. Telling people too early, before your next job is truly secured
If you are waiting to leave until you have another job lined up, make sure that next job offer is truly a done deal before celebrating the news.
“Hold off on announcing your resignation until you’ve cleared background, credit, drug, etcetera screenings at the new gig,” Tall says. “People sometimes accept offers ‘contingent on satisfactory completion’ of background checks. I’ve seen people have offers fall through at the last minute for exactly that reason.”
Be cautious about which people you confide in about your desire to quit, even among those with whom you have a good relationship.
“What I have seen work against people is if they inform their boss of their intent to resign, or if they have a really good relationship with their boss and their boss knows they are looking. As a result, very logically, they don’t get rewarded during the compensation cycle,” says Daniel Space, a human resources consultant with business partners in strategic staffing. “You are not going to give a stock vest to someone who is leaving. You may give a lower bonus.”
3. Giving too much notice.
Two to four weeks notice is standard, but not required, and during the Covid pandemic, employees have successfully argued for less time. Unless you are a manager or executive and there’s a real business reason for you to have a longer notice period, this can be enough, says Jennifer Tardy, a career coach and diversity and inclusion consultant.
“Some individuals often get wrapped into extending their time because of guilt and the feeling that the company will flounder without them,” Tardy says. “Do not lose your new opportunity because you are unable to cut strings with your current one. If you do decide to extend... ensure that you are able to negotiate additional pay or a stipend for your added time given to the employer.”
4. Working too little or too hard after you quit
In your last days, you want to keep doing your job so co-workers don’t remember you as the colleague who completely checked out and left them picking up the slack while you were still around. At the same time, you don’t want to work overtime for a job that’s ending. Space says a big mistake quitters make is overworking themselves.
“A lot of people do that out of weird sense of guilt and honour,” Space says. “You want to spend time with your co-workers... focus on that. There was one person who was up at 1 o’clock in the morning, sending me reports on their second-to-last day. And I’m like, ‘This is crazy. Please get offline.’”
Tardy recommends being honest with your boss about what you can accomplish in your remaining time.
“Your employer may try to convince you to complete every single initiative before you go, which will likely be unrealistic,” Tardy says. “One of my clients actually had to draw the line with an employer and share a list of what was realistic to deliver upon in two weeks versus those things that would need to be transitioned to another employee.”
5. Quitting at the wrong time and lose out on benefits
Space said in his experience, most companies will continue your benefits like health care and accruing paid time off through to the end of the month in which you resign. That’s why he recommends timing a resignation for the beginning of the month, rather than the end.
“Any time someone resigns at the end of the month, I always say, ‘We’re going to pretend this resignation letter didn’t come through and change this to the first of [next] month instead of the 28th of this month,’” Space said.
But he cautioned there is no flexibility for certain payments, so you need to double-check when any and all payouts get distributed.
6. Not giving yourself time off between jobs
By the time you quit a job you are desperate to leave, it’s likely you are burnt out, enduring sleepless nights and other physical forms of work-related stress. Jumping straight to another job after quitting is a missed opportunity to get some much-needed recovery time. Space said he often sees millennials jump straight from quitting a job on Friday to starting a new one on Monday.
So if you have the chance to ask for more time, Space recommends taking more than one week in between jobs. “The first week [of the break], especially if you have had a really tough job, is essentially just detox. You’re not even recharging yet, you are just recovering by not being in it anymore,” he said.
7. Not being prepared for the day you give notice being your last good work day
Just because you give notice doesn’t mean you’ll always get it. Whether it’s because a manager handles the news poorly or you are privy to too much sensitive work information, sometimes the day you announce that you are quitting becomes your last day. Tall said he has seen people ushered out as if they were fired after quitting.
Tall also said that he has worked with people whose managers retaliated against them for resigning by making their remaining work days hell. In those cases, comfort yourself with knowing you won’t have to deal with them much longer.
“If your manager would do that to you because you have simply found something that is going to be better for your life and future prospects, and they make a point to make you as miserable as possible, that’s not someone you want to be working with long-term anyways,” he said.