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The Right Way to Say, “I Quit!”


The job market is finally showing signs of life–and that means more workers will likely have the opportunity to change jobs in the coming months.

It’s clear that many will welcome this: A recent survey by the Corporate Executive Board, a research and advisory services company, found that 25 percent of workers whom employers had labeled as having high potential were hoping to move to a new company in the next year. This figure is up from just 10 percent in 2006.

Once you’ve found a new job, you may not give too much thought to the one you’re exiting. But leaving a job–and the colleagues who will now become part of your network–the right way is crucial to your career. “Reputation is very important,” says Marianne Adoradio, a career counselor in Silicon Valley. You’ll cement yours with how you leave.

Experts explain how to avoid four common mistakes when leaving a job:

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Staying too long

In most jobs, the standard is to give two weeks’ notice when resigning. When you give notice, you may feel as though you should stay longer to make sure you don’t leave your former employer short-handed. Sometimes this is a good idea–for example, if you’re working on a project that will be done in three or four weeks. However, you may discover that as soon as you announce your resignation, you are no longer considered indispensable and are left out of the loop. Your continued presence can even be a drain on an employer if you’re no longer being useful.

Plus, “it’s depressing and very demotivating,” Adoradio says.

Saying too much

Whatever your reasons for leaving, now is the time to simply say that you have accepted a position that will move you closer to your long-term career goals.

“Leave graciously, and take the high road,” says Kathryn Ullrich, the author of “Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success.” “Don’t use it as a time to air your grievances.”

If you have an exit interview with the human resources department, it’s OK to raise legitimate issues and let them know why the new offer seemed better. But don’t use either formal or informal interviews to trash your coworkers.

Not preparing

If your job involves confidential information or you’re leaving to go to a competitor, you may find yourself escorted out the door as soon as you tender your resignation, Ullrich said.

You should prepare for this possibility by making sure you have removed any personal items from your office or computer. (Do not take company items or information, of course.)

Accepting a counteroffer without careful consideration

Your company may offer you a raise or promotion to get you to stay. Sometimes this is a good deal–but keep in mind that much of the time, workers who accept a counteroffer end up leaving anyway not too much longer after. (And your employer might have lingering doubts about your loyalty.)

“People need to know why they’re leaving in the first place,” Adoradio says. If the boss you don’t get along with is still there, or if you still don’t see a likely promotion path at your current company, it’s unlikely that a counteroffer will give you what you’re looking for.

And even if it will, “you have to question, well, why didn’t they offer this to me in the first place?” Ullrich says.

Matt Schneider
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