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How do I leave a company?
18 points by jermore on Dec 12, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments
I've accepted an offer for a new job. I've been at my current company since I graduated 5 years ago. I've learned a lot and made some friends but for me it's time to go. Any words of advice on how to exit on good terms, or on things to consider before announcing it to my manager and coworkers?

1) Tell your manager first in private. Talk only positively. Despite being there for such a long time this is something managers deal with on a frequent basis and expect. (Do not tell your coworkers anything until everything is official)

2) Be open to negotiation. You may have no idea how much they may be willing to put on the table or you may be able to up your offer at the new place through a series of counter offers. (If you have already accepted the new offer, only talk to your current employer)

3) Allow for 2 weeks notice starting at the beginning of next week. Be proactive in putting together a plan to transition your work over to other members of your team. (Also while relatively uncommon do not be surprised if they happen to ask you to leave immediately - its typically nothing personal but can be policy)

4) Get the personal contacts of your close colleagues. Spam everyone there with LinkedIn invites to connect. Possibly ask any close colleagues or supervisors for recommendations.

5) Collect and return any company equipment. Arrange for your last paycheck including any unused vacation.

6) On the last day, you will most likely take part in an exit interview. Say nothing negative - even constructive feedback should not be given. They will ask you to sign some paperwork. Tell them you will take it home with you to read in full. Do not send in the paperwork - it only is meant to clear your employer of any liability and void your legal rights.

7) Take a week off before your new job and relax.

On point 2, I'd like to offer a different view, matching my own experiences and those of people I know in other companies who give the same counsel. Once you've made it clear that you were about to leave and you stayed because they offered more money or some other such better deal, they will always, always, be wondering when you're going to actually leave, and that will affect how they plan your participation. It will change things. It's not that you won't be trusted, so much as you will have a track record of leaving. Unless the counter-offer really is spectacular, once you've decided to go, go.

> Also while relatively uncommon do not be surprised if they happen to ask you to leave immediately - its typically nothing personal but can be policy.

If this happens, they should pay you for the intervening time. IIRC, generally in the U.S., if they don't, then termination was initiated by them, not for cause, and you are entitled to unemployment insurance. (Though you may debate with yourself whether you want to go through the exercise. Nonetheless useful to keep in mind if your new job then falls through at the last moment.)

> They will ask you to sign some paperwork. Tell them you will take it home with you to read in full. Do not send in the paperwork - it only is meant to clear your employer of any liability and void your legal rights.

Don't sign anything without reading it thoroughly and understanding. Even if you are quite friendly with your manager, this is not coming from them, it is coming from Legal and HR. They are, most likely, not your friends -- not to sound overly spiteful; that's simply the way it works.

If they are offering you money to sign ("severance package", etc. -- not as likely when you are the one quitting), that is all the more reason / warning sign to be cautious.

Re point 2: As EliRivers has also stated, taking a counter offer when you have already stated your intent to leave can lead to a bad environment for both you and your employer. I don't see anything wrong with using that counter offer to try and negotiate a bit higher at the new job but personally I would suggest not taking counter offers.

I was in the same position about a year ago. I spent about three years at a company, it was my first real job and the members of my team were not just colleagues, but also friends.

But then a really good opportunity came up and I decided to leave. I just walked up to my boss and told him about the offer that I got. He asked if there was anything they could do to keep me, but the fact was they'd never be able to top the offer I got.

So, I guess, my advice would be:

1. Be honest.

2. Notify your boss well ahead of time. Finish up your work.

3. If possible, write some docs and train other employees. I happened to be the only guy maintaining a certain system, so before leaving I made sure the knowledge was shared with the team members, wrote checklists of what to do in emergency situations, etc.

4. I don't know if it's appropriate in your office, but if it is, throw a good-bye party, preferably with some alcohol. When is the next time you'll get to drink with your work buddies? :)

Note that it may seem like a lot of work to finish up projects, write docs and train others. It is. Fortunately, I had plenty of time between the offer and actually leaving my previous job, but that was because the new employer had to do some visa work. Your situation might be different, though, but even if you don't have much time, try to squeeze in as much as possible. It's more a courtesy to your teammates rather than a favor to the company.

One tip I'd add is practice data hygiene before you notify anyone. Clean any personal or questionable material off your company-issued computer and/or phone. Be careful only to copy files that belong to you -- do not copy any company materials or things you did on company time, that belong to other companies and were shared confidentially with you in your job, purchased by your employer for company use, etc. for personal use, your "portfolio", or what have you without explicit permission to do so.

If you do copy personal materials, copy them onto a fresh USB stick and be up front about it, or at least keep the disk handy in case anyone asks and wants to review it.

There are certain things you may feel entitled to take that are in the grey area -- e.g., contacts you've made on the job. Depending on what country & state you're in, what kind of job and what kind of proprietary information agreements you have or policies the company has in place, different rules may apply. Consult a lawyer friend if in any doubt.

In any case my advice to you is not to risk putting yourself in a position where the company could ever claim either a) that you took proprietary materials to another company or for any use that did them harm, or b) that they have a claim to any of your personal IP or the value subsequently created from it. (Protecting against the latter, of course, requires that you practice good hygiene during your entire employment, not just before you give notice.)

1. Discuss with manager first, colleagues later. Discuss how you arrived at your decision. 2. Give ample time for knowledge transfer / replacement. 3. Keep in touch with them after you leave.


There are some very good recommendations here and I agree with most. I just want to emphasize on "Keep in touch with ex colleagues". It is extremely helpful even if it doesnt seem so at this point. I quit my first and only job 2 yrs back to start my own thing. When I left i left with a smile and maintained contact with all colleagues and bosses. I cannot tell you how much business I have found with the reference from my ex colleagues and bosses. Especially bosses.

Pick a departure date and stick with it. Don't give into concerns about training the company on every possible thing you were responsible for. That could possibly take months to hand-hold them through everything.

Do as much as you can to feel like you're leaving them in a good place, but don't sell your own happiness short to do so.

It's the responsibility of the company to have established sufficient redundancy. What if you were instead stricken with a serious illness or injury?

If warranted, help ensure a smooth transition. But don't "kill yourself" to do so. And... once you are out, be cautious of requests for further support. (Some might even ensnare you, legally. Ex-coworkers should not be sharing significant/proprietary internal information with you or asking you for help with same.)

Of course, there is the real world and maintaining friendships / not being a jerk. But keep the above in mind.

Keep in touch with good people. Collect contact info. Keep it up to date and backed up. Your network is as important if not more, than your skills as you go up the ladder. I think of it as my own private Google index, that I can lookup for anything that the real one can't provide.

From the employer's point of view:


Well, one employer anyway. YMMV, and other employers may feel differently.

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