Congratulations! You’ve been given an awesome new job offer—complete with a better title, more money, and office snacks to boot! You can’t wait to leave your current position. But before you go skipping off into the sunset with your new employer, know that the way you leave your current job matters—and there is a right way to do it. “Your departure is one of the most impactful moments of your career,” said Nicole Williams, founder of WORKS and author of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success. “If you leave on a bad note, you’ll counteract all the great work you did.” And while you might think your boss will have a heart attack when you tell her you’re leaving (how will she run the place without you??), the truth is, that kind of extreme reaction is rare. So how can you expect your boss to respond? And what’s the best way to break the news to your colleagues? Read on to learn what to expect as you’re exiting a job—and how to handle every resulting situation like a pro.
While you’ve known for months or weeks that you’d be quitting, your boss may be caught off-guard. Stay as calm and dignified as you can, suggested Williams, and prepare answers to a few common questions in advance. “Your boss will likely ask where you are going, what you’ll be doing at your next job, and what made you want to leave your current position,” said Amanda Slavin, founder of CatalystCreativ.
According to Williams, counter offers aren’t as common as they used to be. “With people switching jobs more frequently these days, employers almost expect you to leave or at least be looking for other jobs,” she explained. That said, if you’re an indispensable member of a small team (about four or five people), your boss might come back to you with a counter offer. Before announcing that you’re leaving, think about whether or not you’d actually want to stay in your current role—and what it would take to keep you there (think title, salary, and benefits).
While you may be tempted to send a gif of Taylor Swift saying “peace out” to announce to colleagues that you’re leaving, hold off on telling anyone until you’ve spoken to your boss. “Ask her how she wants to tell the staff you’re moving on,” said Williams. “She may want to do it herself or keep the news quiet until she figures out a replacement.” Once your co-workers do find out, they’ll likely be a little bummed (because you’re awesome, duh) and, like your boss, they’ll have a few questions—especially since your departure may mean more work for them. Even though you may already be looking ahead to your next gig, do whatever you can to ensure a smooth transition.
In your dream world, your exit interview with HR would be like a “tell-all” on The Bachelor. You’d spill the beans on every little thing your boss did to annoy you and reveal the real reason you’re leaving. In reality, you shouldn’t use your exit interview to air out your dirty laundry. “Unless you have a serious personal issue, it’s best to stay positive,” said Slavin. “If you want to complain just to complain, talk to a friend outside the company so you can get out all your grievances without burning any bridges.”
“You don’t want to be remembered as the girl who left without finishing her job,” said Williams. “You may think, ‘What does it matter? I’ll never see these people again!’ but it’s a small world and you could need a recommendation from your boss in the future.” Schedule a meeting with your manager to go over all your responsibilities and the status of your current projects. You may even want to recommend people who can take over your work, i.e., “Kelly has been working with me on this client. She’d be a great person to help out when I’m gone.” Wrap up as much as you can before you go and leave a status report for the next person. On your last day, send out an email to your business associates and clients to let them know you’re leaving and provide contact info for a new point person. “Do whatever it takes to make your transition as seamless as possible,” said Williams. “And above all, be professional.”
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.