We’ve all had that wanderlust thought: “Man, I really wish I could just quit my job.”
Regardless of whether you were offered a position at another company, you’re leaving to start your own business, or you’re going on a much-needed sabbatical from everyday life, resigning can be tricky business. You might fantasize about a dramatic exit after a difficult conversation with your boss, but if you’re really about to make a move, it’s important to leave on the best note possible.
Take a note from these successful entrepreneurs who took that leap of faith, while still keeping their professional reputation healthy.
1. Make sure you’re ready to leave
No matter how long you mull over the decision or how confident you are with it, leaving a steady paycheck and working environment can give you anxiety.
When Regan Walsh left her job as the head of branding and culture development at a non-profit after four years, she said 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,” she said. “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.”
Especially if you don’t have another gig to hop to, make a list of everything you need — from the number of zeros in your banking account to how you’ll handle health care — to ensure you don’t spiral before you even get started.
2. Be professional with your exit
Though quitting 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. Instead of two weeks’ notice, she gave a month.
“If you are leaving because you are unhappy or you don’t like the culture, be honest but also professional,” she said. “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 added that it’s important to not 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 said.
3. Don’t look behind you
A year ago, James Aschehoug left his job as a financial consultant to start the social media platform, Uriji Jami. 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.
When you’re putting in your notice, you don’t want to harp too much on what happened, he said. Focus instead 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,” he said. “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.”
4. Do it on a Friday
After working in investment banking for several decades, Catherine Tan decided to leave to create a company, Notey.com, that curates recommendations for travelers.
When she made her move, she put in her notice on a Friday. While the day of the week might not seem important, it sets the tone for your exit, she said.
“The worst thing is showing up to work the next day and your boss is still angry,” she said. “Give them a weekend to calm down so that Monday you can proactively start working on a transition plan.”
5. Tie up loose ends
Co-founder and CEO of Bombas, David Heath, left his job to work-full time for his company, just a few months before it officially launched. Making the move was an important one for Heath — not just because he was passionate about his company’s mission, but also because he knew it was essential to leave on a high note, instead of a messy one.
Make sure you tie up all loose ends, clean out your inbox, and leave your coworkers and employers in a secure place before leaving, he said.
“Arm your team and your managers with the tools to pick up where you leave off,” he said. “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.”
6. 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 Recycle Studio in Boston, learned this first hand.
“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,” she said. “I think it is important to identify the best ways for you to work with your passion if you chose to do so.”