Quit your job the right way: 5 secrets to leaving on a good note and boosting your career

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Getting ready to move on from your job? Whether you're quitting to pursue a dream career, launch your own business, work for higher pay or just take a big break, you'll want to make a smooth exit. That begins with some deep thinking.

Start by framing your departure — in your own mind — as the start of something new. "Instead of leaving a job, it's actually better to think about the departure as going toward another job," Julie Cohen, executive coach and CEO of Work. Life. Leader., told Mic. "This will help you focus on going toward what you want in the next step in your career path."

And unless you've got a good reason — like if you have been a victim of workplace discrimination or other illegal practices — do your best not to burn any bridges. "Leave professionally," career coach Hallie Crawford told Mic by phone. "The people there may cross your path again in the future."

By heeding these five tips below, you can be sure to bid goodbye on good terms — and maintain any important relationships you may need down the line.

1. Keep your confidences

Loose lips sink ships — and careers. "Even if you're confident that you are never ever going back to the job you're leaving, even if you hate that office with enough passion to make you pack up and move across the country, even if you are sure the boss will give you a horrible reference no matter what you do ... try not to really screw the company over," certified job and career transition coach Rita Friedman told Mic by phone.

One big way you could hurt the company and your reputation is to go into direct competition with your old firm or blab their business secrets.

While non-compete agreements aren't always enforceable, you should avoid breaking your contract just because the company might not be successful in suing you. Plus, certain non-disclosure agreements and laws protecting trade secrets are enforceable.

Finally, even if you don't have a legal obligation, you don't want to be known in your industry as an untrustworthy person. So don't take client lists with you, don't share information your employer wouldn't want you to disclose, and be sure to obey any rules your company set forth to protect intellectual property.

2. Don't run out the door

When you've got an exciting new career opportunity on the horizon, you're probably eager to move on — but you don't want to leave your boss in the lurch. "Give your boss sufficient notice, and do so in person," Crawford told Mic. Two weeks is standard, but definitely consider offering more if your job is complicated and will be hard to fill. "The higher your position, the more thought you will need to put into how to wrap things up," Crawford added.

Don't leave without giving notice at least two weeks' notice.
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"If you can wrap up any projects you're working on, offer to train your replacement or create a training manual with standards of practice to leave behind, you'll be minimizing the damage," Friedman advised. Of course, your company may immediately escort you from the building upon your resignation, so you'll need to be prepared for that possibility, too, by packing up any personal items in advance.

If you're allowed to stay on after giving notice, don't slack off before you go. "Avoid checking out professionally before you leave the current job for the new one," Cohen warned. "Your work ethic and integrity can be damaged if you don't uphold your normal standards, even on your way out."

Be a pro through your very last day, especially if you'll want a reference or networking help in the future, Cohen said.

3. Accentuate the positive

When you're leaving a job, it's tempting to unburden yourself about workplace problems, but try to avoid doing so. "Even if you’re dissatisfied about the job you’re leaving, remaining professional will serve you in the long run," Cohen said. That doesn't mean you stay quiet, however, if there were serious issues like safety lapses or illegal behavior. Then it's worth raising concerns.

You should also be careful what you tell your soon-to-be-former coworkers. "Don't talk about how glad you are to be leaving," Friedman advised. Even a well-meaning work friend might accidentally share your sour grapes with the others, which could taint your reputation long after you're gone.

Not only should you stay positive with others, you should also jot down some personal notes on your accomplishments while they're still fresh in your mind and you have access to hard data to back them up. "This might be metrics that show how you improved a process, writing samples you're especially proud of, details about the environment or specific quantifiables about the scope of the business," Friedman noted. Keep receipts.

4. Clean everything up before you go

Before you go, tie up loose ends at your job. This means finishing up remaining projects, sharing all relevant work contacts with your boss or successor and providing clear instructions on how to complete anything left undone.

It also means physically cleaning up after yourself: "Wipe any personal info off your work computer, clear your cache and search history and take any physical personal belongings with you when you go," Friedman advised.

Perhaps more importantly, make sure you've tidied up your financial affairs with the company by submitting your final expense report, using up any fringe benefits owed to you — like that annual eyeglass or contact lens benefit — cashing out any remaining paid time off and rolling your retirement account into an IRA or your new company's 401(k).

5. Keep your network close, even after you say goodbye

Your coworkers and clients are a part of your professional network, and you should try to maintain these relationships after you go. Sooner or later, you'll be looking for a new job or will be tasked with referring a qualified candidate for an open position at your new firm, and a healthy network comes in handy.

The best way to leave on good terms is by treating everyone with respect. That means letting your team know you'll be leaving so they don't find out about it secondhand, asking for personal email addresses to stay in touch, connecting on LinkedIn and possibly writing a recommendation for coworkers you particularly admire.

As for staying connected, you'll need ongoing personal contact. If you were too shy to add your coworkers on Facebook while you worked together, it doesn't hurt to reach out now. Or consider inviting former coworkers to a happy hour — or your next summer barbecue — to catch up.

Even a simple text or email asking how they're doing and filling them in on your new life will go a long way to show you value that relationship and genuinely want to stay in touch.

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