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What Not to Do When Giving Notice

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I was unhappy at my job for a long time. One morning in late summer, I decided it was my last day. I sat in my office for twenty minutes, stared out the window at my view of the Statue of Liberty, and thought about my escape. I called my husband to let him know I was about to quit, even though I knew he was going to try to talk me out of it. However, my mind was made up.

My plan was to walk into the office of the hiring partner and calmly tell him I was giving two weeks notice. I was going to carefully explain that after much serious thought I decided not to practice law any longer. I would then thoughtfully stroke his ego and assure him this decision had nothing to do with the firm. Instead, this was a plan I had been pondering for months. After all, this is how you break up with someone, right? It’s not you, it’s me. We want different things, but lets still be friends.

[Related: Check Out Levo’s Guide for Finding Your Purpose]

However, even with the best of intentions, sometimes things do not go as planned. Reviewing my thoughts over and over in my head on the long two minute walk to the second floor, I entered the partner’s office and sat down. I opened my mouth to speak, and the tears started flowing. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I think it was something along the lines of, “I can’t work here any more,” (sobb) “I hate this job,” (more sobbing and some possible hyperventilating), “I’m so stressed that I lost ten pounds.” During my “speech” a middle aged male attorney stared blankly back at me as if I was a species he had never dealt with before, and wanted out of his office as quickly as possible. He had absolutely no idea what to say to me, so he just stared at me and said “ummm….I am really sorry you feel that way. Did you tell your boss about this?” Now, considering my boss was one of the scariest, most intimidating people I had ever met at the time, no, I didn’t tell her. That’s why I was giving notice to this guy on her day off. Major cop-out, I know.

I share this experience as an example of what not to do when giving notice to your employer. There are many ways to leave your job, but none of them should include sobbing in someone’s office. As you know, “there is no crying in baseball,” and there is absolutely no crying on the job. I have since moved on in my career and learned a few things (thank goodness). If you are thinking about giving your two weeks, consider the following:

1. Don’t give notice on a whim. Sleep on it.

While I had been unhappy at my job for months, I should have been better prepared. I don’t recommend deciding to quit on a whim and then executing this plan ten minutes later. Giving notice at a job should take preparation and thought. After all, you’ve worked hard and put a lot of time and effort into a job. It’s important to think about the repercussions of what you’re doing, and if this decision is the best for your life. It makes sense before you leave a job to have something else lined up. We all know finding a job without a job, is much harder. Every situation is different, but make sure you’re making a smart decision, and not just acting on emotions.

[Related: How to Quit Your Job with Class]

2. Prepare a brief resignation letter for your file.

You should always prepare a resignation letter before you leave a job. In my opinion it is a sign of respect and also allows you to leave on a positive note. Your resignation letter should be brief, and thank the company for the opportunity it provided. You never know if you may come back to this company in the future and you want your permanent file documented in a positive way.

3. Do not burn bridges.

In your career, you want to expand your network and not limit it. You never know where someone is going to end up in a few years. Your manager could be at another company where you want to work. Your co-worker might be the VP sitting in your next interview. I can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain a positive professional attitude in the corporate world. Industries are small and you want to make sure you have a solid reputation preceding you.

[Related: Why Sometimes You Need to Burn a Bridge]

4. What if my company makes a counter-offer?

When you are giving notice, you may be confronted with a counter-offer from your current job. This can be a difficult situation. When considering a counter-offer, don’t forget that you just tried to resign! If you stay at the company, the relationship with your managers may not be the same. If they are making you a counter-offer, the good news is they obviously want you to stay. However, just take the time to think this through and weigh the pros and cons. Even if your management team may not mean to think of you in a different light, they might question your loyalty. This might inadvertently be taken into account when promotions arise. Each situation is different however, so make sure to evaluate on a case by case basis and ultimately do what is best for your career.

[Related: Learning the Art of the Counter Offer]

5. Give at least two weeks notice to your direct manager.

In the continuing theme of not burning bridges and maintaining relationships, make sure you give an acceptable amount of notice to your manager. Do not wait until he or she is out on vacation to give your notice. You want to show professional courtesy, even if you are a little scared! Also, make sure you have the time to finish up any projects you are working on. In my experience, there is nothing that makes employers and co-workers angrier then when an employee leaves a mess for them to clean up. It appears very professional when you offer to complete outstanding projects, or even help train someone new. Every time I have left a job, I have prepared detailed notes on my files and have always offered my co-workers the ability to call me on my cell phone if they had questions. This might be going above and beyond, but is certainly one way to leave on a good note and assure a glowing recommendation, should you need one in the future.

Leaving a job is never easy. Remain professional, maintain your contacts, and remember you are moving on to bigger and better. Follow the tips I have learned through my own career and you will have a bright future wherever you go!

Have you ever left a job? How did you go about it?

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