I got fired from my very first job. It was an evening job cleaning toilets at Mr. Donut. I was in junior high school. Maybe it doesn’t sound like such a great gig, but they said I could eat all the donuts I wanted. Being 13 years old and having a growing boy’s appetite, that was more incentive than I needed. I thought I was doing a decent job, but my bosses said I didn’t clean that well. They also said that I was eating way too many donuts.
After that, I learned that I had to aim higher in every task that I accepted. I never got fired again. Sure, I’ve had to resign from a few jobs, but over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at leaving on good terms. I’ve also seen the way others handle leaving on their own terms, and have learned from them as well.
Seven ways to leave with grace:
- First, take a step back and assess your situation. Is it possible for you to get the career fulfillment you are looking for from the company you are with? If you can, fabulous, you’ll want to go as far as you can at every place you work. Make sure that your boss or the executives you report to know what your career goals and hopes are. That way, they can help you get there, and there is no surprise if you decide to leave to chase those dreams if you can’t reach them where you are.
- The most talented people will have many options available to them. It’s best not to formally accept a new job before talking about it with your current employer. I would always say, “This looks good, but I’ll need more time to formally accept this as I owe my employer the chance to tell them.” Sure, there is a risk they can rescind the offer, but it’s unlikely. Do this because it is the right thing to do; it’s a wonderful thing to give your employer a chance to discuss this with you. Do not use this as a way to nickel-and-dime anyone in the final negotiations. That leaves people cold — and they remember it.
- Don’t only think about the future; also stay focused on the present. Work to ensure a smooth transition. Give everyone adequate time to prepare for your departure. Often times 2 weeks is not enough notice. Senior roles require 3-4 weeks.
- Always keep the door open and offer your replacement or former team the opportunity to reach out if they need help. If it is welcomed, check in with new person once a week until you are not needed anymore.
- Always act gracious and professional. People have long memories. Reference checks never go the way you expect. Of course people do background checks to ensure you are not a convicted criminal and they will hopefully call the 3-4 references you list, but they will also use backchannel references. I get calls several times a month about people who haven’t listed me as references. I won’t talk unless someone authorizes me to, but not everyone has this policy.
- Leave the door open. You never know how things are going to work out, and many companies will take people back. At Yahoo, we call people who return “boomerangs,” and we track this phenomenon and are very happy about their return. We’ve even created several engagement platforms that help our HR department stay in touch with them.
- Don’t let anyone make you feel disloyal. If your company is Neanderthal in its thinking, managing by fear, and trying to make you feel guilty for leaving, you shouldn’t be there anyway. Do a great job while you finish out your time and feel good about moving on!