Beyond a Two-Week Notice: How to Plan Your Exit Strategy
An exit strategy for tech can be different from say, an exit strategy from any other job. You may think you’re doing the right thing by giving two weeks’ notice. But before you can say exit strategy, your security badge has been deactivated, your computer’s dead and you are being escorted out of the building.
So what can you do to prepare yourself for the day you must announce that a) you have received a better offer and b) you’re taking it?
Maybe you’ve spent a lot of time planning your next job. But it’s important to learn how to leave the job you’ve got so you don’t burn any bridges. Life is long. And you never know who from your past will bubble up sometime somewhere in your future. Play it safe; play it smart.
Keep your cool and have an exit strategy in place before you blurt the words, “I quit.”
Tell Your Boss First – Here’s How
News travels like lightning in the workplace. So even before you tell the friendly company chef about your new job, tell your boss. Keep in mind that leaving a job is an etiquette challenge and you need to be on your best behavior. And an ironclad rule of workplace etiquette is that the boss gets to hear the news first – from you. Not the company chef. It’s about respect.
Your news has to come directly from you one-to-one in person. This is a big deal so don’t pretend it’s not. Be honest. Set up a meeting. Say you want to discuss something that’s come up.
Explain how you’ve received a chance to move in a new direction you’ve been wanting to try or to grow into new responsibility or to relocate to an area that would be good for your family or to open a micro-brewery. Whatever works and is the most truthful.
“Be sure to make the conversation about your needs in your career. Don’t make it personal (even if your boss is technically a reason why you’re leaving); don’t make it emotional,” career expert and author Lynn Taylor says in a Business Insider interview.
Gratitude is the word. Taylor suggests:
- Thank your boss for the great opportunity they’ve given you, for all that you’ve learned, the chance to work with great people, and anything else you’re grateful for.
- Then say as much as you’ve enjoyed working with them, it is time for you to move on.
- Again, tell your boss how much you’ve learned from their expertise. Give credit to specific members of your team you’ve enjoyed working with.
Be aware that you may get a counter-offer possibly including a salary raise. It is okay to ask for 24 hours to think it over.
Be prepared to write a letter of resignation. Keep it simple. Google sample letters.
Anticipate the inevitable question: Why?
Fast Company writer Rekha Balu cites career consultant Nancy Badore who offered this advice, “When you give notice, expect that your company’s senior people will want to know your reasons for leaving. Keep your answers brief and professional. If you are leaving for a new job somewhere else, discuss the opportunity, but don’t gloat over your good fortune. And never compare the two jobs. The goal is to protect your reputation and to leave people feeling good about your tenure.”
Be careful to tell all other senior management and HR people exactly what you told your boss. Smile and say only nice things. Reassure everyone who asks that your projects are in good shape and that your team will be able to carry on your work until a replacement can be found.
Make a transition plan
If you are not immediately shown the door after announcing that you’re moving on, you may have time to exit on a grace note. You can do this. Make a plan to help your project team make a smooth transition. Explain to them where you’re at in your projects and what you think the next steps should be.
“Your last impression will be a good one if you make life easier for others when you leave,” Badore advises.
If it seems appropriate, you can even offer to help write your job description. Just try to be as helpful as possible without over-committing to anything past your departure date.
Start packing ahead of schedule
Once you know you’re outta there but haven’t officially quit yet, be subtle. Maybe take a few personal things home each day. But not so much that your desktop looks vacant and abandoned. Delete personal photos, emails, and passwords from your computer.
Vanessa McGrady, a Forbes career columnist, further suggests, “Export all the important contacts for vendors, colleagues and clients. Back up the files you may need on the outside to your Google Drive, personal email, or a thumb drive (if you signed something agreeing you wouldn’t take contacts or files with you when you leave, you might just have to have a really, really good memory and double-check the length and terms of said agreement).”
Write a new LinkedIn section for your new status that you can post immediately after your last day on your current job. Especially if you will be job-hunting. Make a list of school friends, mentors, colleagues from previous jobs who you will want to update on your whereabouts and career news.
Figure out what benefits you can take advantage of in the little time left you have at your job. Maybe use a few vacation days or not if you’ll need your unused time to pad your last paycheck. Schedule a medical check-up or dental cleaning if health benefits at your new job don’t kick in for a few months or if you won’t have any health benefits for a while.
Breaking up is hard to do – even with your colleagues
“Leaving a job is like breaking up with a significant other. Whether you’re parting on good terms or bad, whether you still loved your job or couldn’t wait to get out, parting can be an awkward time filled with professional mines that you don’t want to step on,” says career specialist Brie Weiler Reynolds on the website FlexJobs.
People, even your work buddies, may start to act weird. They may start to pull away from you; to act distant. Don’t get angry or hurt. This is about them, not you. They are protecting themselves from the void they will feel once you are gone.
“You’re going to make me wonder what I’m doing…”, Bob Dylan says in his song, “You’re Going to Make Me Lonesome When You Go”. Exactly. Your imminent departure will make your colleagues question their own choices and may make them feel left behind. Again, be respectful. And be grateful. Tell them how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and how much you will miss them. Some may even ask you to keep your eye out for spots for them at your new company if you’ve got a great-sounding job lined up. Be positive, supportive and kind. It’s all about the high road.
“If you’re on your way out, it helps everyone if they feel like it’s a tough decision for you and that you feel you’re leaving a good organization,” says career consultant Jennifer Winter. “Even if that isn’t totally true, your colleagues still have to wake up and go to work after you’re gone, so there’s no reason to make them feel bad about what they’re stuck with if you’ve moved on to greener pastures.”
If Possible, Finish Your Projects
After deciding to leave your current job, you may feel as free from the responsibilities of your current job as a kid on the last day of school. Whee, no more teachers, no more books etc. But not so fast. Your colleagues still have work to do. Maybe your work too after you’re gone until a replacement is hired. Don’t burn them. Not only because you may need them one day but because completing your work and tidying up loose ends is the right thing to do.
Nothing tarnishes co-workers memories of you as fast as leaving a mess for them to clean up. It doesn’t matter how much great code you’ve written, if you haven’t tied up all your loose ends before you walk out the door, some folks will be annoyed with you which could hurt your chances of asking them for a reference for down the road.
Should you stay late or work weekends just to finish up your work if you know you’re leaving? In a word, yes. If you have overdue projects that should have been done already, or ones that you have a unique perspective on, then devote as much of your time as you’re comfortable with to finish them, advises Reynolds of FlexJobs.
3 Steps For Leaving on a Grace Note
- If the end of a project is within sight, stay late or work weekends to finish it before you leave.
- Make sure your teammates and boss are up-to-date on the status of your portion of any projects
- If you don’t have to vacate immediately, email your outside consultants to connect them with others on your team they may be working with after you’re gone.
Going, going, gone
One parting thought, literally. After you’ve said all your goodbyes on your last day, just go. Don’t hang around. This may be the one time at this job when it’s okay to leave early. It’s been great. It’s over. Onward and upward, my friend.