Leaving a role

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Q:  I plan to leave my current job in the next three months.  I know some of my colleagues have left unprofessionally over the last few years, while others have left in a graceful and professional way.  Do you have any specific recommendations on how to leave a job in a professional way?

A:  Of course!  Leaving a role in a professional way is an important skill in a successful career.

1.  Present a professionally written letter of resignation to your direct manager during a private face-to-face or video-conferencing meeting.  First, verbally communicate your decision to your manager and then explain that you will share a letter of resignation, either in-person or via email.  It is not ideal for a manager to open an email and learn of your departure that way.

2. Develop a transition plan.  This plan should include what you can complete, and what is outstanding or incomplete.  The plan should provide an update on each of your major job responsibilities.  You should also think about who could handle some of your work responsibilities after your departure.  If you work with external vendors, it may be helpful to list the external vendors, along with their contact information.

3. Give as much notice as reasonable.  Two – four weeks is usually realistic for most roles.

4. Offer to answer questions throughout your notice period and even after you have left.

5. Let your manager take the lead on the communication of your departure.  Hopefully, your manager will handle it in a professional and appropriate manner.

6. Avoid talking excessively about your new role.  Some may interpret this as bragging.  Others may interpret these conversations as “sour grapes,” or having a negative attitude.  Keep answers to any questions short and succinct, but with a positive spin.  For example, “I am really looking forward to my new role but I will be surprised that any employer offers the benefits that we enjoy here.”

7. After you leave your company, reach out to your former manager.  Ask to meet for coffee or lunch.  Your goal is to maintain a positive relationship with that person.  Your former manager may be a future professional reference for you at some point in the future.

8. Maintain positive relationships with co-workers, vendors and others.  It is a small world.  You may be working with or for a vendor or a co-worker sometime in the future.

Finally, say goodbye to co-workers, vendors, and others in a positive way.  Make sure that leave a strong final impression.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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