There’s a right way to quit a job. And one day, you might have to.

To be frank: unless you outright hate your job, your boss and the people you work with, quitting your job is not an easy thing to do. Actually, the act itself can still be nerve-wracking even when you can’t wait to leave.

In my experience, it’s never easy. From the moment I ask to meet with my boss, to those brief few nanoseconds before the words escape my mouth, I feel ill. I feel nervous. I second-guess everything from my decision to quit to the effect it will have on my life. My brain goes into meltdown mode where all of my concerns relating to my career and goals simultaneously explode inside my head.

You might be wondering why you’re reading a blog about quitting jobs when many of you are likely looking to start your careers or move up in them. Well, odds are you will have to quit a job at some point in your working life. The point is knowing HOW to quit, because no matter what your position, burning bridges is never the right decision. Quitting the right way means giving proper notice, providing a written resignation, being polite, not bashing the employer or discussing confidential matters, and doing your part to not leave your team hanging.

When it comes to quitting, there are a couple of things you can do to not only soften the blow to your boss, but enable you to come away feeling like you left your team in good shape.

Have a plan.

Once you’ve decided to quit, it’s important that you reflect on everything you do at your current job: your responsibilities, duties, leftover files or deliverables that are upcoming. What can be finished before you leave? What is there left to do on projects that won’t be completed before you leave?

Make a list of what you will complete before you leave. For projects that won’t be finished in time, make a list of the remaining tasks, the status of each and key persons to contact for the project.

Give both lists to your “future ex-boss” and promise to participate in any necessary transition process to train someone new. This will go a long way in demonstrating your professionalism and prove to your boss that you’re a stand-up employee with a lot of integrity. Perhaps more importantly, you should be sure to follow through on your promises.

Be respectful.

Quitting a job doesn’t automatically give you permission to cash in on any unused sick or vacation leave. I’ve seen this happen before and this once-star employee quickly burnt bridges and left a very sour taste in everyone’s mouth.  If you have a human resources department, check in with them about what to do with unused vacation time. You may get a payout!

Regardless of how long you have left, you should show up to work as if each was just another normal day. This means arriving on time, leaving at your usual time and maintaining your productivity.

Say goodbye.

This seems perhaps a little obvious, but what I mean is to really take the opportunity to say goodbye to people. Sit down with your team members individually and reflect on your experiences together. Maybe offer some parting advice to a newcomer, or offer some praise to a colleague you always felt was doing a great job. It’s a great time for you to show your appreciation for the opportunity of working with them, but also a way to strengthen these connections. You’ll never know when your paths may cross again, or if you may need to call on them for help or a reference.

Have you ever had to quit your job? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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