Leaving the Job: Leaving


How you leave a company is as important to your career strategy as entering a company.  The reason is that people have more jobs today, with more different companies, and it is important to have “leaving” as one of your skills sets.

The circumstances will differ if you are leaving the company on your own, hopefully to accept another job, than if you are leaving at the company’s direction.

If you are leaving at the company’s direction you will most likely receive an offer of a severance package in exchange for signing a release, the most important provision of which is a statement that in exchange for the severance package you agree not to sue the company.  It is important that you take the agreement to a reputable contract law specialist to make sure that you are signing a reasonable document.  Remember, the release is drafted by the company attorneys.

Whether you leave on your own or at the company’s direction, there are some Do’s and Don’t’s.

If You Resign


  • Be humble
  • Tell your boss before anyone else
    • Tell her how much you enjoyed working for her and how much you learned
    • Give her a reason for leaving that the company cannot match such as, “I have an opportunity with another company for a promotion to your job level and I know from our conversations that you aren’t planning to move anytime soon”.  You do not want it to sound like you are trying to negotiate for something from the company.
  • Give as much notice as you can — more than two weeks if possible
  • Ask if there are any pressing business needs you can help with before you go or even after you go if the issue(s) would not take too long
  • Inform the boss that you will go to see human resources to tie down benefits that are due you (pension, bonus, stock, vacation time, etc.)
  • Ask if your boss will be a reference for you in the future
  • Ask your boss for permission to speak with senior management, your colleagues and/or reports
    • Thank everyone for their help and tell them what a great experience it has been


  • Act like you are bragging or show arrogance
  • Say anything negative about the people or the company
  • Say anything that could be construed as trying to pirate people away

The Company Decides Not to Keep You


  • Wait until the shock wears off and you are in control
  • Learn when you are to leave, the severance package you are being offered, and who you should negotiate with — always with your boss, if possible (see Negotiation)
    • Ask for outplacement assistance-select your own firm
  • Ask to speak with your boss if someone other than your boss fired you
    • Ask why you were fired
    • Learn if you were lacking any needed skill sets
    • Tell her how much you enjoyed working for her and how much you learned
    • Ask her for a reference
  • If the company gives you notice that you are finished on a certain date, or if it is open ended, but allows you to come in and use your office, then accept the offer
  • Ask if you can meet with your colleagues and/or direct reports
    • Thank everyone for their help and tell them what a great experience it has been
    • Ask them to stay in touch


  • Blow up
  • Come to the company unless you are in control
  • Say anything about the company and its people (your reference could be dependent on this)
  • Say anything that could be construed as encouraging others to leave
  • Tell people about all the great things you did for the company

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