Most of us have entertained the thought: “Man, I really wish I could just quit my job.”
But when it comes to actually making a plan to do it, there are so many things to get wrong. Maybe we quit too late, long after we stop having interest in our role. Maybe we leave too early, when there is still growth potential at our job. Maybe we’re too over-the-top, burning a bridge to a recommendation or a reputation that will come back to bite us later.
Before you make an “Office Space”-worthy exit after a difficult conversation with your boss, take a deep breath. It’s important to leave on the best note possible. Regardless if you were offered a position at another company or you’re leaving to start your own business or go on a much-needed sabbatical from everyday life, resigning can be tricky business.
The good news is that you’re definitely not the first one to make their escape to something bigger and better, so you’re not on your own on figuring out how to do it. Take it from these successful entrepreneurs who took that leap of faith, while still keeping their professional reputation healthy.
Make sure you’re ready to leave
No matter how long you mull over it or how confident you are with your decision, it’s an anxious feeling leaving a steady paycheck and working environment. When Regan Walsh left her job as the head of branding and culture development at a non-profit after working there for four years, it was a stressful endeavor. To ease her worries as she transitioned into a full-time executive coach, she created a plan B to make that step off the ledge into the unknown easier to navigate. “As the frustration and weariness of my job set in, I immediately began evaluating what it would look like for me to step away. I had a safety net—savings, a supportive partner and a detailed business plan — while I transitioned to a new career. Feeling a sense of security during this ‘in-between’ period was important to me,” she explained.
Especially if you don’t have another gig to hop to, make a list of everything you’d need to have set in place — from the exact number of zeros in your bank account to how you’ll handle health care — to ensure you don’t nosedive before you even get started.
Be professional with your exit
So you’ve crunched the numbers, you’ve gone through the interview process, you’ve negotiated your salary and now you only have one more item on your to-do list: quitting! Though it might seem like the last part of a long process, Susan Bratton, the founder and CEO of Savor Health argues it’s the most important one. She left a 20-year career on Wall Street to start Savor, which is a company dedicated to the nutritional needs of cancer patients. But when she decided it was time to head out, she knew how essential it was to be professional, no matter how ready she was to leave. Instead of two weeks, she gave a month, and when asked why she was leaving, she was honest while being helpful.
“If you are leaving because you are unhappy or you don’t like the culture, be honest but also professional. Say something to the effect of ‘While I love the X, Y, Z of this company, I have found that A, B, C are not suitable for my personality/desires/objectives etc.’ In other words, focus on how you are not a good fit rather than saying ‘I hate this place,’” she recommends. She also adds that it’s important not to throw anyone under the bus.
“I am a big believer that there is a place for everyone and sometimes when things don’t work in a job it is because of ‘fit’ more than anything,” she says.
Focus on the future
A year ago, James Aschehoug left his job as a finance consultant to start the social media platform Uriji Jami. Though he juggled working full-time with developing his start-up at the same time, when it became too much, he knew he needed to make a choice. While he was ready to plunge into the entrepreneur life, he knew that focusing on the past or worrying about the future wouldn’t serve him professionally — or emotionally. Especially when you’re putting in your notice, you don’t want to harp too much on what happened, but focus on the reasons you’re moving forward.
“Rather than brood over the past and the reasons that might have led you to quit, try focusing on your next step and the exciting times ahead. There is nothing worse than being bitter as you will be remembered as a loser. Instead, impersonate this inspiring, high-potential person leaving for something better. And then be that person,”Aschehoug says.
Do it on a Friday
After working in investment banking for several a decade, Catherine Tan decided to leave to pursue a career curating first-hand, geo-based high-quality content. Her company, Notey.com, curates recommendations for travelers. When she made her move, she put in her notice on a Friday. While she did everything on her end to make it a professional departure, she wanted to be sure that her boss would have plenty of time to cool off.
“The worst thing is showing up to work the next day and your boss is still angry. Give them a weekend to calm down so that Monday you can proactively start working on a transition plan,” she advises.
Tie up loose ends
David Heath left his previous job to join the socially conscious clothing line Bombas just a few months before it officially launched. While wildly successful now, Heath had no way of knowing if the move was be the right one. He also knew it was essential to leave on a high note, instead of a messy one. That’s why he says to make sure you tie up all loose ends, clean out your inbox and leave your co-workers and employers in a secure place before leaving. “Arm your team and your managers with the tools to pick up where you leave off. Be understanding, too. While you may be leaving, your colleagues and managers still have the work to do. So make sure you help make the transition as easy as possible on your way out,” he says.
Be sure you want your passion to become your job
If your motivation to leave is centered around a thirst to become an entrepreneur, remember that when your passion becomes your job, that inspiration may change. Cate Brinch, the owner of the cycling gym Recycle Studio in Boston, learned this firsthand.
“I drew a line and realized early on that the best way for me to run this business was to be owner and operator, not instructor, because I couldn’t wear all hats. I think it is important to identify the best ways for you to work with your passion if you chose to do so,” she suggests.