MeExit: The Who, When, Why, and Where of Leaving Your Job22

Whether you hate your job and can’t wait to watch the building from your rearview mirror, or you love your job but simply found a better opportunity, quitting your job can be tricky and, at times, really uncomfortable. In our social media interconnected world, it’s important your exit is as professional and pleasant as possible. It’s not always possible to eliminate the discomfort, but your resignation doesn’t have to set fire to the bridges you’ve built during your time with the company.  Your ultimate goal is to part ways amicably.

Here are the Who, Why, When, and Where of Leaving Your Job (Gracefully)

WHO should you tell first? Your manager. Plain and simple. Regardless of the relationships you’ve cultivated with your colleagues and team, they are not the ones to share your impending departure with. Why? For no reason other than respecting the chain of command, discuss your resignation with your boss first. You do NOT want your boss to hear about your departure from anyone else. Once you have had that conversation, the two of you need to decide how the news will be announced to the rest of the company. Many managers will give you time to speak with your direct team first. Others, prefer a single company-wide email. Either way, one step toward a smooth exit is to respect your manager enough to approach her first.

WHEN should you give notice? Traditionally, the industry standard is two weeks. However, this is not set in stone. Remember, your goal is to exit gracefully, with all contacts intact. When you meet with your manager, it’s reasonable to have an exit date in mind; but it’s wise to be flexible if possible. You aren’t just leaving the company, you are leaving a team of people who rely on you within the organization. Whenever possible, offer to participate in hiring and training your replacement. Allow time to tie up loose ends, create a job description for your successor, and leave a detailed description of where your projects/accounts stand and their next steps. Again, making your exit as seamless as possible will help to ensure your team is minimally disrupted, your commitments and met, and your final impression is a positive one.

WHY are you leaving? Your company may not have an actual watercooler, but chances are your colleagues will find someplace to share speculations about why you are leaving.  And what they don’t know, they will often make up. It’s up to you how much you share. But remember two key things: 1) be consistent and 2) there are no secrets. Decide your story and stick with it. Do not give varying reasons to different people. It is inevitable people will talk and inconsistencies will be revealed and become fodder for speculation and gossip. This can tarnish your reputation and negatively impact your departure. During your final days, you will most likely participate in and Exit Interview. This is the forum for you to mention inconsistencies and offer ideas to improve policies and procedures. It is not, however, the time or place to unload all the complaints you’ve been swallowing for years. Keep your goal in mind: Move on to new opportunities with as little drama as possible.

WHERE are you going next? Again, the details are up to you; but you must be the captain of the ship and direct the conversation.  Be honest about where you are going and some of the new opportunities and challenges you will be facing. All you have to do is update your LinkedIn profile or make a quick Facebook update and everyone will find out anyway. Keep the conversation positive. Do not tell people why your new company is “better” than your current one or discuss what your existing manager lacks in comparison to the new leadership. You do not want your negative assessment to get back to your colleagues or managers. These people are a vital part of your professional network and key players in your transition elsewhere in the future.


With the average tenure being 4.6 years, it’s inevitable most (if not all) of us will transition multiple times in our professional lives.  Ideally, your resignation will be accepted without argument and your exit is smooth for all parties involved. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Take charge of the pieces you can control, always keeping in mind that your exit will always impact your entrance somewhere else.

Have your exits been positive or negative?


About the Authors

Ken Schmitt is the President and Founder of TurningPoint Executive Search and the Sales & Marketing Leadership Alliance. Specializing in placing sales, marketing and operations professionals across the country, Ken’s 18 years of recruiting experience have equipped him with the knowledge to serve as a thought partner to his clients for all recruiting, hiring and human capital-related initiatives. Ken sits on the board of Junior Achievement, San Diego Sports Innovators (SDSI), AA-ISP Orange County (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals), San Diego HR Roundtable and is an Advisory Board Member for the American Marketing Association.

Vicky Willenberg has served as the Social Media Manager for TurningPoint since 2011. In 2014, she was elevated to Digital Marketing Manager, broadening her participation across all things digital for the firm. A former teacher with a Masters in Education, Vicky is an active and published blogger at The Pursuit of Normal and a marketing professional. She has her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in the recruiting, hiring and leadership sectors.



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