The secret to quitting your job with a great reference in hand

I was so nervous the first time I quit a job. I wasn’t sure what to say or how to handle the career transition.
Luckily, I turned to my parents and Google. I prepared accordingly, told my manager, handed in my letter of resignation, did all of the other necessary steps, and left knowing I’d have a good reference if I needed one in the future. I even got an ice cream cake at my going away party!
I was able to quit my job gracefully and keep the professional and personal relationships I built at the organization. Want to know how I did it? Here are a few things you need to know about quitting your job—with your reputation and a reference in hand.

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1. Don’t accept just yet

Don’t accept your new job until you talk to your manager. Say thank you for the job offer, but tell them you’d like a day or two to let them know your final decision.
There is a chance your current job will make a counter-offer because they want you to stay with the company. Of course, you’ll have to consider why you were looking in the first place and the pros and cons of both jobs, but it’s easier to do that when you haven’t already verbally or contractually committed to another offer.

2. Tell your manager first

Your manager should be the first person to know that you are resigning from your position. You can tell Human Resources and your work friends afterward. It’s better for the news to come from you.
Email your manager to set up a time to speak. You don’t have to tell them that you are setting up a meeting so you can resign. (That’s the work equivalent of a breakup text or breakup email.) You can be vague and say that you’d like to speak with them and ask to put time on your manager’s calendar.
Start the meeting by telling your manager that you’ve received a job offer. If you are interested in staying at your current position, wait to see how they react because they may immediately discuss a counter-offer. If you know that you definitely want to leave, or if they don’t bring up a counter offer, let them know that you are meeting to announce your resignation.
Remember to stay positive even if you didn’t enjoy your job, and are so excited to be handing in your notice. Tell your manager that you had a great experience, learned a lot, and that this move is what is best for your career trajectory. Staying positive is one of the keys to leaving on a good note.

3. Give two weeks notice (at least!)

Two Weeks Notice isn’t just a great romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. Most jobs expect you to give at least that amount of time when you quit your job, meaning that you work for two weeks after formally resigning. Your manager may ask for you to give more than two weeks, or you may want to offer to stay longer to wrap up projects.

Find out if your future employer is flexible with your start date. You’re more likely to be in good standing with your current company if you make the transition as seamless as possible—even if it means staying a week or two longer. This is especially important if you have a senior position or if you’re working on client work that will be finished within a reasonable amount of time.

4. Write a resignation letter

After meeting with your manager, write a formal resignation letter for Human Resources to keep on file. Be brief, straightforward, and positive. Date it, sign it, and notify them of your last date with the company.

5. Help with the transition

Do as much as possible to help with the transition as you exit your role at the company. At one job, I made a detailed guidebook answering any possible question the new hire might have. I also stayed to help her transition into the role. My manager was impressed and I felt more comfortable with my departure.
Write down details like important deadlines, notes about clients, and other pertinent information. Additionally, organize all papers and electronic files so that they can be found easily (and no one calls your cell phone with questions).

6. Finish as much work as possible

Finish as many projects as you can before you leave. You understand the work best, so there is a higher likelihood that the work will get done correctly and efficiently if you’re the one doing it.
Finish as many projects as you can before you leave. You understand the work best, so there is a higher likelihood that the work will get done correctly and efficiently if you’re the one doing it.
If you can’t finish in time, or if it’s an ongoing project—add details, action items, and descriptions to your transition document.

7. Tell your colleagues

Let your coworkers know that you’re leaving. Make sure to tell a consistent and positive story—even if you’re leaving because your boss makes Miranda Priestly look like a piece of cake. Don’t start the rumor mill because your reputation may suffer as a result.
Let them know what you’re doing next, connect on LinkedIn, and ask people you worked with closely for a LinkedIn recommendation.

8. Write thank you notes

Write thank-you notes to your manager, mentors, people you managed, and people you worked with closely. In your letters mention what you learned from them, your appreciation for their work, how much you enjoyed working with them, and let them know how they can stay in touch in the future. Some companies will even allow you to write a company, office, or team-wide email.

9. Be diplomatic in your next interview

Many Human Resource departments will ask you to complete an exit interview. The purpose of the exit interview is to solicit your feedback about your role and time at the company and to make note of your reason for leaving.
Don’t use this as a time to vent, because the details will be recorded. Simply answer diplomatically, positively, and explain that you’re leaving because you’ve found a new opportunity that will be good for your career path and accomplishing your professional goals.
Mention that you enjoyed your time at the company, learned a lot, and are excited about the next step.

10. Stay positive when you leave

It is a very small world and you don’t know how people are connected or what could get back to your potential employer. Stay positive about the work environment in-person and on social media when you leave. Oh, and don’t raid the supply closet for notepads and ballpoint pens when you leave!
One of my life mottos is to never burn bridges. Who knows—you might want to work for the company or your former colleagues again. You’re also likely to need references as your career progresses.
Follow these tips when you do quit to help you leave your job gracefully while maintaining the important relationships that will help you continue to grow your career.
This article originally appeared on Career Contessa.