For many recent graduates, the decision to leave their first post-college job is happening earlier and earlier in their careers. In fact, according to a recent study, 55 percent of college graduates only expect to stay at their first jobs for 1-3 years.
Some say the reason is because GenY gets bored easily, while others speculate that we’re eager to get as much as experience as possible. Regardless of the reason, young professionals are moving on from their first jobs, and since it’s their first time making this transition, many have no idea how to go about it the right way.
I’m the first person to raise my hand and admit that I had absolutely NO idea how to leave my first job gracefully. When I accepted an awesome new job in November, turning to Google proved futile in finding the answers to questions like, “How do I give two weeks notice?” and “How do I write a resignation letter?” I quickly turned to a few trusted mentors for tips and relied on my professional instincts to get me through the dreaded day when I had to break the news to my boss and colleagues.
While I’m sure I could have done some things differently, here are six tips I found particularly useful for leaving a job gracefully and with your network intact:
1. Your immediate supervisor should always be the first to know. Out of respect, be sure to break the news to your immediate supervisor first, and preferably in person. Depending on the type of office environment you work in, you may need to request a meeting or simply ask if they have a moment to talk in private.
I’d recommend giving notice in the morning, to give your supervisor the chance to absorb the news and get the ball rolling on the resignation process. Also, have your resignation letter drafted and ready to submit.
2. Break the news to the rest of your colleagues in person, if possible. In person is always better. Avoid sharing the news of a new job in an email. You’ll find that most people will be happy and excited for you, and will appreciate the fact that you took the time to tell them personally.
3. Create a “how to be me” document. My first order of business once I gave two weeks notice was to create a master document of every single project I was working on, outlining point people, processes and deadlines. This document ended up being close to 10 pages long and extremely detailed, but it was worth spending the time; I wanted to offer a resource for whoever would take over my responsibilities.
4. Do what you can to make the transition as smooth as possible. After creating the “how to be me” document, I set up a meeting to review the document and allow my colleagues to ask questions and get clarification about all of my duties. I purposely scheduled the meeting mid-way through my final two weeks to ensure there was time to schedule a second transition meeting, if needed.
Additionally, if your supervisor is looking to fill your position quickly, do everything you can to help replace yourself. Spread the word on Twitter and LinkedIn, help review resumes, recommend people you think could be a good fit. After you leave the job, let your supervisor and colleagues know that you’re still happy to answer any lingering questions they may have about your responsibilities.
5. Show your gratitude. Buy a big box of thank you notes. And prepare to have your wrist hurt after handwriting multiple notes of appreciation for colleagues.
After spending a year and a half at my company, I knew I couldn’t leave without showing my supervisor and colleagues how much I appreciated that they took a chance on a fresh-out-of-college new professional, and most importantly, for their mentorship and friendship.
6. Keep in touch. This is perhaps the most difficult tip to follow, and one I’m still trying to figure out. We all know that staying in touch is key to creating a lasting connection and maintaining your network.
If you aren’t already, connect with your former colleagues on LinkedIn. Ask for a recommendation while your skills are still fresh in their minds – and be sure to return the favor! Stay in touch via email; share useful articles or send a note to say hi and ask how they’re doing every once in awhile. You don’t want to be a pest, but you also don’t want to be easily forgotten.
What other tips do you have for leaving a job gracefully?