5 Ways to Leave Your Job on Great Terms

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After putting in your time at your present company, you're suddenly presented with a new opportunity that requires you to jump ship. It's not an unusual scenario: The average worker changes jobs 12 times, on average, during his or her career, which means there will inevitably come a point when you'll need to cut ties with an employer who's come to rely on you.

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But regardless of whether you're happy to be leaving or not, one thing's for sure: It's critical that you do so on good terms. You never know when you might end up needing a reference -- or your old job back. And if you avoid upsetting your boss and colleagues in the process, you'll buy yourself a degree of future security. With that in mind, here are some tips for making your workplace exit as graceful as possible.

1. Give adequate notice

Two weeks' notice has long been the standard with regard to job hopping, so if you want to leave on a good note, be sure to tell your employer at least two weeks in advance. If you can do better -- say, give a month's notice -- it'll make your employer all the more appreciative, which can work in your favor later on.

What happens if your new company wants you to start sooner? First of all, any employer that pressures you to leave your current job within two weeks clearly isn't the most respectful, so you might consider that a warning sign. But if there's a valid, pressing reason for you to start immediately, offer a compromise: Suggest that you stay at your current job till that two-week period has passed, but be willing to pop by your new office after hours to start getting up to speed. It's not an ideal solution, but it might appease both parties.

2. Tell your colleagues individually, but only after you've told your boss

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It's not just your boss who might get thrown for a loop once you make the decision to move on; your colleagues might feel the pain too. Once you accept another offer, give your coworkers the courtesy of letting them know you're leaving so they don't have to learn about it from an HR memo. But no matter how much you value those colleagues, never tell a soul about your new job until you've given official notice to your boss. Of all the people you work with, your manager deserves to hear that news first, and hear it from you directly.

3. Submit a professional resignation letter

If you have a good relationship with your boss, it pays to give your notice face-to-face. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't also put it in writing. Before you have that meeting with your manager, compose a respectful resignation letter in which you thank him or her for the opportunity and map out your plan for departure. For example, if your last day will be in precisely three weeks, say so in writing. This way, your boss will have an official guideline of sorts to consult when coming up with a plan to replace you.

4. Wrap up critical projects before you leave

Accepting a new job often means leaving your current company -- and co-workers -- in the lurch, whether intentionally or not. That's why, if you're looking to leave on the best possible terms, it pays to push yourself to complete any major assignments you're in the middle of -- particularly those that would be difficult for another person to take over. This might mean working longer hours your last few weeks on the job to get everything done, but the trade-off is that you'll gain the respect and appreciation of those around you. And you never know when someone might be in a position to return the favor down the line.

5. Offer to train others to take over your duties

Getting new employees up to speed isn't easy, so if you really want to leave your job on a good note, make it clear that you're willing to train your replacement, even if it means putting in extra time to do so. If there's no one internal to take over right away, and a replacement won't be hired in time for you to do that training in person, map out your processes in writing so that your replacement has clear instructions. Also, leave a contact number so your former co-workers can reach you with questions once you've moved on. This will send the message that you are, indeed, looking out for your company despite the fact that you'll soon no longer be working there.

Exiting a job on good terms is one of the smartest things you can do for your career. The less upheaval your departure causes, the better your long-term relationship will be with the people you leave behind.

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