Preface: I am not thinking of leaving my current job. Additionally, this is my experience of leaving a job in the United States. Certain logistics may pertain solely to the U.S. so you may want to consult a trusted colleague, friend, or mentor about etiquette specific to your location.
In February of 2018 I quit my job at IBM. There were several reasons which led me to this decision, but navigating the process of gracefully giving my notice left me in a state of turmoil.
I had never quit a job before; I joined IBM immediately after graduating college and spent three years building the foundation of my career.
And not only did I quit my job, I sold everything I had ever owned and moved halfway across the world from Austin, Texas to Karlsruhe, Germany. Needless to say, I had a lot of tricky situations to navigate.
We never discuss strategies surrounding the process of gracefully leaving a job. Why is that?
I have never understood the the negative stigma that surrounds quitting; it’s a skill that most employees will, at one point or another, will need to acquire. Quitting has a negative connotation, when in reality there are various reasons why you might quit a job, not all of which are bad.
Here is my experience with quitting my job, and the tips I picked up along the way to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-employer.
Before we delve in to the methods of giving notice, let’s examine some reasons why you might want to leave your current role.
Perhaps your current role isn’t where you see yourself in five, ten, or fifteen years. Perhaps it’s not even in the same industry! Switching industries can provide you with a large variation of experience within your career.
At IBM I was working on Quantum Computing. It was great! I got to learn physics and apply the knowledge from my Computer Science degree. And when I switched to LogMeIn, I switched into the Online Meetings industry.
Gaining knowledge in different industries is a valid reason for leaving your current job, especially if your passion lies elsewhere.\
Perhaps your current role doesn’t provide you with the work/life balance you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We often forget that mental health is a vastly important part of our overall well-being. If you don’t have time to spend with family and friends, or relax at the end of a long workday, you can quickly burn out.
When we think of quitting, we often attribute it to a dispute with a company. And although this can be the case, it’s not always true.
If you have irreconcilable differences with your company, their mission, or the culture, quitting might be the best option.
This was the reason that I left my job at IBM; I wanted to move to Germany. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep my job, so I was left with no choice but to quit.
I am a huge advocate for always putting yourself, and your family, above any job. I would never postpone moving to be reunited with my husband in order to keep my job; life is too short.
If you’re stuck between wanting to move and staying at your job, I always encourage you to put yourself first.
Sometimes you may be in the unfortunate situation of little-to-no career growth. I’ve noticed this happen in larger enterprises; it can be really difficult to get promoted.
If this is the case, you may want to explore new opportunities. Switching companies is often the quickest way to get a promotion if your career has hit a plateau.
If you’ve been given the job offer of a lifetime, take it. You should never turn down a job because you’re afraid to hurt your manager’s feelings. A good manager will always have your best interests at heart.
Now on to the hard question of how to actually quit your job. There are a few buckets underneath this that I want to examine.
I accepted my job offer in Germany in November of 2017, but my start date wasn’t until March 2018. I had no idea how much notice I should give.
My old manager at IBM gave me great advice:
“Two-weeks notice is sufficient and standard. If you want to leave on a better note you can always give three or four weeks.”
Now, I recognize that giving three or four weeks notice isn’t practical for everyone. Namely, people who may have their visas tied to their current position, who are worried about losing that security. I chose to give more than two-weeks notice as a courtesy to my team and my manager.
Could she have let me go before the end of my four weeks? Yes, it’s possible. But we had always maintained a good relationship, and she recognized that I was giving her an additional two-weeks notice in good faith that I would help transition the team to take over my work.
When you choose to give notice of your departure is a decision only you can make. Whether you give the minimum, or a little extra, you can continue to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-employer.
It’s important to schedule a one-on-one conversation with your manager, away from any distractions or other people.
Here’s an example of how to start this conversation.
“Hi manager. I have received a job offer of a lifetime and I just cannot pass it up, so I need to formally give my X weeks notice. I appreciate everything you and the company have done for me; I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I hope that we can keep in contact.”
Of course, this is just one example, but by showing gratitude to your manager, you diffuse an otherwise tense situation.
At this point, your manager may ask if there’s anything they can do to keep you. It’s up to you, based on your reasoning for quitting the job, whether or not to entertain this idea.
But if you’re adamant about leaving, stay strong. Remember why you are choosing to leave and don’t be talked out of it (if it’s really what you want).
One other thing you can do to maintain a great relationship is to offer to onboard, or search for, the person who will be replacing you.
Before leaving IBM, I helped interview and vet candidates. I also typed up an on-boarding guide to get them up-to-speed. This is one more way you can leave a positive impression on your employer.
This is a completely subjective question. I chose to have a job lined up because I needed a visa to live and work in Germany. Others have quit jobs with no offer on the table.
It all comes down to you, your family, and your financial comfort. Can you afford to go one or two months without a salary? This is an important question to discuss with your family prior to quitting your job (if possible).
I chose to tell my team personally, but if you’re not comfortable with it, you can ask your manager for help navigating this. Perhaps they can send an email to the team or make a formal announcement.
It’s important not to “ghost” your teammates. If you up-and-quit without saying goodbye, your teammates won’t be left with a good impression of you.
If networking is your thing, ask to connect with your team on LinkedIn, XING, or social media.
Remember that quitting is ultimately a personal decision and you shouldn’t be sorry about it. You’re making the best decision for yourself, whatever the reason may be, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.