How to Quit Your Job

Last week, I posted a Facebook status (which I don’t do very much anymore) announcing my new job as an Admissions Counselor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Everyone has been very supportive and happy for me, and I’m SO excited to be working at a university again! But almost immediately, many of my friends were confused, and rightfully so: “I thought you started your new job a while ago!” “Wait, didn’t you just get a promotion?”

Yes, my current job is technically “new,” because I did recently get a promotion. I’ve been a paralegal for about six weeks. It’s been a very intense six weeks. I was just looking through my pay stubs because Scott and I are applying for an apartment (!!!) and realized that I worked 20 hours of overtime one pay period because I desperately needed to catch up on all my files. My greatest fear was that I would not be cut out for the job like so many others who had been promoted too quickly to that position, but luckily, I did okay. I was keeping up with my deadlines and learning more each day until I got a phone call from the Search Committee at UNLV. They wanted to schedule a phone interview. I was shocked, to be honest–I had applied for this job on a whim back when I was file clerk at my law firm but didn’t think anything would come of it because I felt so unqualified. But then they invited me on campus for a half-day series of interviews, meetings, plus a mock presentation, and I realized this was the real deal.

I got the call last Thursday, and when they offered me a position that seemed challenging and fun in all the right ways with a fantastic group of people–not to mention a higher salary, better benefits, paid travel, fulfilling work, and plenty of opportunities for advancement–I knew my choice had already been made.

Even though I knew exactly what I had to do, it wasn’t easy quitting my current job. Out of the dozen or so jobs I’ve had in my life, I’ve only quit two of them, and I regret the way I went about it in both cases. So, as the next topic in my series on making career decisions, here’s my advice on How to Quit Your Job:

  1. My dream job. *sigh*

    My dream job. *sigh*

    Should I quit? We all have bad days. In just about every job I’ve had I’ve suffered through days that have made me want to throw in the towel (literally…I was a lifeguard for three years in high school). No one’s job is pleasant 100% of the time–unless you’re the intern who gets to rub oil all over Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s muscles on the set of the Fast & the Furious movies to make them glisten more. What I’m trying to say is, don’t let a brief period of struggle spoil what could be in your best interest long-term. Reasons not to quit in a flurry of frustration include: keeping a good relationship with your employer (hello, professional references!!!), maintaining your income, and a stable resumé. Like it or not, you’re accountable to the places you’ve worked at even long after you’ve left.

  2. Identify your career wants and needs, and prioritize them. This goes hand-in-hand with the first step. If your current job isn’t meeting your professional needs–adequate pay, stability, and/or personal fulfillment, etc.–that’s a sure sign it’s time to move on. If your needs are being met, but you have professional “wants”–or goals for an ideal career–it’s important to evaluate your current situation and proceed in a way that will get you closer to those wants. I enjoy my job as a paralegal and could definitely make a career out of it if I wanted to, but when I consider where I want to be career-wise in the future, the university job carries more weight as far as opportunities go. Decide what’s most important to you and organize your priorities accordingly.
  3. Make the right decision for YOU. As long as you’re a good employee, your bosses and co-workers will be sad to see you go. (Hopefully) They like you as a person, but they’ll also have to search for a new hire, do interviews, choose the right person, and train them to fill your position. They might even try to convince you to stay. No matter what their reactions, don’t base your decision on others’ disappointment or inconvenience. Your career is one area of life where’s it’s more than okay to act in your own self-interest.
  4. Break the news wisely. Proceed with caution. Be mindful of A) the order in which you tell people you’re leaving and B) the way you tell them. I started with the people in my office I knew it would impact the most, not necessarily my direct supervisor, then worked my way from there. It’s traditional to write a “two weeks notice” letter, but if your office culture is less formal like mine, a private conversation works just as well. I am more comfortable in face-to-face interactions, but if you don’t like conflict or the circumstances aren’t appropriate, an e-mail might do the trick as well. Also, though two weeks is the norm, the more notice you give your employers, the more grateful they’ll be and the less time you’ll have to skulk around the office carrying a secret.
  5. Baby, you're a fiiiiiiiirework!

    Baby, you’re a fiiiiiiiirework!

    Go out with a bang–a good one. Like a firework. How you leave is how your co-workers and ex-employers will remember you. Don’t get lazy and slack off just because you know you’re leaving. (I’m struggling so much with this right now!) Think about how the quality of the work you leave behind will affect the co-workers you like all your co-workers. Remember the times you’ve been screwed over by someone who was previously in your position, and that will motivate you. It’s worth the effort to leave behind a good reputation.

What advice do you have for leaving a job? Any good or bad experiences quitting, and lessons learned?

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