How to Leave a Job Gracefully

While some people approach it like the end of a relationship, leaving your job shouldn’t be as dramatic as a break up. There are ways to make sure both sides learn from their experiences together without leaving an employee feeling unappreciated or an employer feeling upset. There are steps that you can take to help you keep emotion out of your departure while letting your previous employer know why you’re leaving, and maybe help them improve things for the co-workers you’re moving on from.

Ask yourself why you’re leaving

People leave their jobs for many reasons: they may feel like they’re underpaid or that their careers have stalled; there could be a problem with a manager; or, the company might have undergone changes and they just don’t feel like they fit in anymore. Sometimes passion is the best indicator of whether it’s time to move on. If you dread going back to work every Monday, or you find yourself phoning it in, it’s probably time to go. And that’s okay.

Having an honest conversation with yourself about why it is time for you to leave will make it easier to explain your decision clearly without getting emotional, or even potentially allow you to discuss these problems internally to see if they can be fixed before you start looking for jobs with other companies.

Remember, it is just business

When you're leaving a company, think of it as a business relationship coming to an end. It’s not personal, even if you’ve come to see your co-workers as family. You probably want some of those relationships to continue even after you’ve left, and the personal relationship doesn’t have to change just because you’ve decided to explore other professional opportunities. You have a lot to lose and very little to gain by getting too emotional when you leave a company. The people you work with become part of your professional network, and you never know when you’ll run into someone again.

Keeping emotion out of your departure also helps any constructive advice you might have to improve the company experience from getting tainted. If things become heated, instead of listening to what you had to say, your previous employer might just be happy that you’ve left. Leaving emotion out of the equation makes it easier for your voice to be heard as you leave the company.

Use tact if you’re looking for other jobs

Looking for other jobs can feel a little dishonest. There you are, working at one company while trying to land a position with another. Some people don’t want to feel like this, so they tell their bosses that they’ve started to seek positions with other companies. But sometimes that level of honesty isn’t always the best idea or even an option.

It becomes a tricky balancing act. Sometimes it’s important to signal to your company that you’re looking for other opportunities, especially if you’re in a leadership position and have been working there for a while. But there will be times when telling someone you’re thinking about leaving can prompt concerns about team morale and questions about your own productivity. So if you have the trust and have built a solid relationship with your manager, consider being honest about your situation, but realize it’s not going to be an easy conversation to have.

Don’t overestimate your importance

Recognize that the company can and will run without you. It might seem like nothing could get done if you’re not there, but the reality is usually the opposite. When you leave a company, hopefully with a replacement lined up, life will go on fine without you. That might be hard to accept, but it’s true.

I sometimes ask people we’re hiring if they can start at Credit Karma in two weeks. Sometimes they tell me that they’ve given their two weeks’ notice, but that they might stay on several weeks longer because they don’t want to leave anyone in a lurch. I appreciate the loyalty on display. I think I’d want that too, but you have to cut off the relationship somewhere. Move on. Take accountability for your last projects; rearrange things around your end-date; and, make things happen. Otherwise, you’re just delaying the inevitable.

Focus on the positives of your experience in the job

At Credit Karma, not only do we use exit interviews to solicit feedback, but also to give employees some closure. If there's anything they need to get out of their system to help them move on, we encourage them to tell us what’s on their mind. We don’t want people feeling badly as they leave. Usually, handing in your notice and focusing on the future is a relief for people as they get excited about their next steps and sentimental about their time in the job.

As you leave a job, focus on the things that you’ve learned and what you’ve accomplished. It’s good practice for an employer to recognize the work you’ve done for them, rather than chastise you for leaving. It should be a celebration of sorts, which might never arrive if you make your departure too personal.

Ragini Parmar is the VP of Talent Operations at Credit Karma, an online consumer finance platform with over 40 million members that offers truly free credit scores and reports alongside a suite of financial management tools. Since joining Credit Karma in January 2013, she’s overseen the company’s growth from a headcount of 40 employees, to 350. Stay up on Credit Karma job news at the company careers page or by following Ragini on Twitter at @ragini_parmar.
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