Landing a new job kicks off a process that's not always pleasant. Your current employer needs to be notified, and sometimes, doing that is like breaking off a love affair.
No matter how you handle it -- from a simple "I quit" to a long explanation of your reasons for leaving -- your boss could be happy for you or angry at you. Yet no matter how you expect your boss to take it, there's a right way to quit and tie up loose ends properly on your way out the door.
Actually, quitting is only the first piece of the puzzle. There are a number of things you have to do in order to meet your obligations to the company and yourself.
1. Give notice
In most cases, two weeks' notice is standard. If you've landed a new job, you may want to wait until you're close to the two-week period before giving notice. That's because, in some cases, once you give notice, the rules change.
My wife, for example, just gave nearly three weeks' notice that she was leaving her job. During that three-week period, she needs two days for training for her new position. Her current employer, however, doesn't allow people to use vacation days once they've given notice.
She knew that rule when she met with human resources (HR) after she informed her boss. She offered to take the days unpaid and ultimately agreed to work longer hours on some of her remaining days to cover the time.
2. Know what you're entitled to
Even if you have an employee handbook that details how leaving works, you still should check everything with your boss or HR. For example, some companies end your health insurance on the day you leave. Others pay by the month, so you'll be covered longer than your employment. You also should learn what the rules are for unused vacation days, and if you're in a profession where this applies, how unpaid bonuses are handled.
3. Prepare what you can
One of the reasons you give notice is to make things as easy as possible for your employer and your replacement. Make a hand-off document that details not just what you do, but anything the next person sitting in your chair may need to know.
This should include practical things like passwords, phone numbers, and any wisdom you may have to share. It also should include less obvious things like the trick to opening the sticky drawer and the fact that the vending machine often eats your money when you try to buy M&Ms. Try to think of anything you would have liked to know on your first day, and share.
4. Take the high road
If you're leaving for a better opportunity but enjoyed your current job, it's easy to be positive on the way out. If you're leaving because you didn't like the job, your boss, or your co-workers, that's not always as easy.
Remember that it's only two weeks. Be professional and take the high road, even if you want to tell people what you really think of them. It's not only the right thing to do, but it may offer benefits in the future if you encounter any of the people from your current job again.
Getting a new job is something to celebrate. Quitting and going through your lame-duck period may not be pleasant. Sometimes, it's not that people treat you poorly, but that they move on even though you're still there.
Do what you need to do to leave things right. That may not always be easy, but it's the right thing to do. It also is a great way to set the table for the next phase in your professional life.