Career

Not Happy At Your Job? Your Exit Strategy Should Include These 9 Steps

By Hannah Leah
·  6 min read
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Especially for people early on in their career, there often comes a time when you need to move on to a new place of work. Do this with grace and integrity because it will benefit both you and your employer in the long run.

If you’re feeling stuck in your career, and you’re looking to try something new, it’s wise to exit carefully and considerately. Here’s an exit strategy that will only help you in your future endeavors. 

1. Make Sure You Have a Game Plan for When You Leave the Company

Don’t just quit and hope you’ll find something better elsewhere. With our current situation, keep in mind that it's getting increasingly more difficult to find a job. Layoffs are happening left and right, and depending on what industry you're in, it could be near-impossible to land a new job.

Before making any big decisions, evaluate what things you’re unhappy with at your workplace and what things you do like. Review your goals for yourself, and make sure leaving is what will keep you in line with your goals. No matter where you work, there will be days that aren’t fun and feel boring. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Many of us have this idea that we should immediately be at our dream job, but that’s not always realistic, and sometimes you have to start somewhere else. 

So before quitting, have something else lined up. Start putting in applications and see what’s available. This could ultimately change your plans to leave, if you realize there isn’t anything better for you to go to yet. Being at a job you aren’t crazy about is better than having no job and no money at all.

2. Be Discreet about Your Exit

Don’t make a scene about leaving the company. This makes you look bad and immature, and could cause tension between you and your employer. If you were the employer or business owner and you heard your employee telling everyone that soon enough they’ll be out of there, it would only motivate you to just fire them on the spot or let them leave without a reference. And if you ever wish to return to that job, good luck. You probably won’t get rehired. Or even if you don’t, you will ruin a good reputation. Burning professional bridges is hardly ever prudent.

3. Give Enough Notice before Leaving

Again, putting yourself in your employer’s shoes (because maybe one day you’ll be an employer or business owner), giving notice is important. This lets the employer know that you’ve decided to leave, but you aren’t leaving them hanging. It also gives them time to offer you a raise or to negotiate terms that would make you want to stay at the company. It’s a win-win either way. This also allows time to hire someone else and train them for your position. 

Burning professional bridges is hardly ever prudent.

How much notice you give might be determined by the type of company you’re in. Two weeks' notice seems to be the average that people give, but depending on your job, it might be wise to give even a month so that the company has time to find a replacement. Have an idea of when you will be leaving and discuss it with your employer. 

4. Write a Resignation Letter If Applicable

You probably don’t need a resignation letter if you work somewhere like Chick-fil-A. But in a more professional setting, one might be useful. A resignation letter will let the company know that you’re leaving, outline your time spent with them, informs them of what’s to come, and how you appreciate the experience there. There are many online resources to help you write the letter if you feel unsure of what to include. 

5. Have a Meeting with Your Employer

At some point, you obviously have to inform your employer about your plan to exit. Do this professionally and civilly. Ask them to sit down with you in a private meeting and talk to them about your plans. You don’t need to give them details of where you will be moving on to, but let them know what is necessary. Tell them the timeframe they have left with you, and offer to help with whatever will make the transition easiest for them. 

6. Offer To Help with the Transition

In your meeting about leaving, offer to help train your replacement, or ask what you can do to make the transition easier. This will say a lot about your character and show the employer that you want the best for the company even if you aren’t there. Then, in the future, when you’re applying elsewhere, these employers have only good things to say about your time with their company. My mom is a business owner, and I’ve seen her not hire someone because that person was difficult with their previous employer and caused too much drama for the business. Don’t be that person. 

Exit your job in a way that upholds your character and your reputation.

7. Finish Your Projects 

Finish what you started, even if you’re moving elsewhere. Don’t leave a mess for the next person. Get everything ready for the person taking over your job so that the transition is less difficult. 

8. Ask for a Reference 

If you’ve done all the previous steps, then you have a strong chance of getting a good reference from your employer for your next job. This will also show your future boss that you were a trustworthy employee, so much so that your previous boss has something good to say about you.

9. Thank Your Employer for the Work Experience 

Leave on a good note, and thank your boss for the time you spent at their company. There’s no reason to leave a company with disputes and tension. You could do this in person in a meeting or even with a goodbye email to your coworkers. Even if you’re burned out or don’t like the company, find some positive part of the experience you can thank them for. 

Closing Thoughts

Leaving what feels familiar is always scary, but if you have no room for progressing in your career, then maybe it’s time to go. Make a plan, find a new job, and then exit in a way that upholds your reputation and character. 

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