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Learn to Exit Gracefully

Last week, we discussed the decision of whether to quit a job or not. But what do you do if you decide it really is time for your next step?

It can be difficult to preserve relationships when leaving, whether you are resigning from your job or completing an internship. Whatever the reason, it’s important to leave with the utmost grace, even if you had the most horrible boss. There’s nothing worse than taking a bad situation and leaving it worse off. How you leave is going to be as important as how you arrived.

If you are quitting, it’s important to communicate as respectfully to your boss as you can about why you’re choosing to leave, and make sure you give plenty of heads up. If you’re considering leaving your government agency, or are even completing the term of a position, consider these tips:

  • Pinpoint your deadline. Think on this on your own before you approach your employer about leaving. What date is your absolute last day you want to still be employed at your current agency? It’s important that you have this date in mind so that when you do share the news with your employers, you can say your plan is to leave on “X” day.

Be flexible though. While you shouldn’t feel obligated to stay longer than necessary (and therefore delaying your own plans), it’s important to be helpful to your employers since it may take time to find your replacement. You should try and stay on at least two more weeks. If they ask you to stay a month, that’s not unreasonable, but you don’t need to stay on any longer than that.

Make sure you give appropriate notice of your leaving too. For government, it’s probably better to give notice at least a month in advance, rather than just two weeks.

  • Map a transition plan. This is especially important if you’re resigning from your government position. Take the time and the initiative to develop a transition plan for your responsibilities and think through the timing of when you announce when you actually leave. For government, your employers had to complete quite the long process to hire you, so if no successor is apparent, try and help your boss consider the criteria for possible candidates to take your place.

Also, be sure you have your own plans in action. Unless you need personal time off, it’s good to have secured a position elsewhere if you’re leaving a job. It’s also important to make sure you’re caught up on all your work. Complete as much as possible before you leave, so you don’t leave your employers reeling.

Finally, make sure you not only transfer your work, but also your relationships inside and outside your department.

  • Thank your employers. Whether you’re quitting because you’re miserable or because it’s simply time to move on, it’s important that you are respectful to your employers in bidding them farewell. Even if you hated the job or internship, write them a thank you note for the opportunity. Leave things on a good note. This is not the time to flip the tables and have a “mic drop” moment. Even if the job wasn’t right for you, there’s still an opportunity to get great recommendations.

Have a farewell chat with key people you’ve worked with both in and out of your department. Talk to them about what you’ve learned from them or what you’ve appreciated working with them. This is also a great time to ask for advice.

  • Embrace transparency. It’s difficult to attain a government job, especially if you’re a young professional starting out. Employers may think you’re more interested in making money in the private sector if you don’t explain your reasons for leaving in the midst of a job. A little honesty goes a long way. Once you’re sure you’re leaving an agency, be honest with your boss about your reasons. You don’t need to tell your employer “you’re a jerk,” or anything along those lines, but you can share if the job wasn’t the right fit for you or if you feel you have outgrown the position.

Our very own GovLoop Fellow, Laila Alawa, advises the following: “Although it might be counterintuitive, making your bosses miss you can be as easy as staying on their radar even as you’re switching fields. I’ve found that keeping my former employers near at hand, whether it’s through Facebook, LinkedIn, or good old email, can be a quick way to ensure they hear about all the great things I’ve been up to. Don’t be afraid to keep in touch!”

The most important thing to remember during all this is that you’re making a huge move and embarking on a new adventure. Also, it’s important to remember that you want to leave your department in the best place it can be.

If you’re leaving your job or completing an internship, do your best to put in the time and effort now to leave your team in a good spot so they can continue succeeding without you. They’ll also be able to share strong recommendations to potential future employers about you even if you’re no longer working with them.

 

For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial

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Danita Meshack

The advice and recommendations for transitioning from public service to another job or career are on point and well worth heeding by newbies in government , as well as long-term public servants. This article is a keeper for future reference and sharing with colleagues.

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