How to leave a job you love with your head held high and without getting pulled back in.

Leaving a long-held, cherished job is not easy.  Even with a new dream job in-hand, cutting the cord that connects you to a place you have become part of can be one of the most difficult challenges you ever face in your career.  While there is no sure fire method, the steps below reflect lessons from the experience of those who have been successful in so doing.

To quit, follow these steps in order and as precisely as you possibly can:

  1. Make sure you have really decided to quit and that it is not just a ploy to get your employer to talk you in to staying and giving you a raise.  If you want an offer to stay (even though when you announce and then decide to stay it is likely that management will from then on question your loyalty and motives which may be a fatal blow to a thriving upward progression) then this is not the method to follow.
  1. Remember that you need to be loyal first to yourself, not to your employer or your colleagues no matter how much they have done for you up to now.  Almost everyone thinks their own departure will be more catastrophic for their organization, its employees, and its customers than it will really be.  Any one of us in virtually any position leaves a hole upon departure about the size of the hole left in a pitcher of water when a clenched fist is pulled out from it.
  1. Come up with three iron-clad reasons that explain why you have decided to quit.  Any more than three leaves you open to having the weakest refuted allowing your current employer to claw their way back to convincing you to stay, and their instinct will be to try to talk you in to doing exactly that.  Memorize your three reasons and become glib with them.
  1. Say out-loud that you are leaving and why over and over again in front of a mirror so you will have heard and felt yourself speak the words in a safe and unemotional setting.  The last thing you want at the moment of truth is for a tear to come to your eye or for your lip to quiver.  Practice quitting to a few close friends, family, and advisers.  Ask them to help you state your points more firmly, with more authority, with less emotion, and to tighten up the message.
  1. A day or so ahead of announcing, do something to manifest your decision to leave; for example, exercise and sell your options, take your favorite knick-knacks out of the office, give up your parking space, or something along these lines, to convince yourself and to show colleagues and management that you really have checked out.
  1. Set up a time to speak with your boss.  Use the departure letter template to draft your resignation letter that says:
    • You resign as of a specific date to pursue a specific other opportunity
    • Express positive sense for your time at the firm
    • You are committed to do whatever is needed to orchestrate a smooth transition

At the start of your meeting hand over the signed letter and allow time to read and absorb its contents.  Offer to have a discussion where you take your manager through the three reasons why you are quitting and explain what you have already done to mentally and physically check-out.  Your manager’s natural instinct will most likely be to immediately talk you into staying.  When they attack your reasons for leaving it is important to say exactly this:

“I appreciate you helping me to rethink my decision but it is my decision to leave” .

  1. This is followed by a gradual progression through a series of predictable stages of acceptance: shock, denial, pain, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.  Stay calm and help orchestrate the progression through the stages until  acceptance is reached.

Good luck departing!  Be sure to review the IntelliVen post on termination for tips on how to learn all you can about your last position as well as the post on how to orchestrate the best possible entry to your new position.

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