You've held your current position for a while now, and you've had some good days and some bad days in the workplace. You've made some friends here, you've learned some valuable new skills, and you've gained some exposure to certain aspects of your industry that can help you develop your career. But the writing is on the wall, and it's time for you to go. This job and this employer have taken you about as far as they can take you, and now it's time for you to leave them behind and move on.
The catch? You know that your boss won't be happy to see you go. So how can you break the news gently and leave this place on good terms? How can you make sure your current coworkers retain fond memories of you? And most importantly, how can you encourage your boss to provide a positive reference in the future?
Here are a few tips that can help you smooth the path behind you while you turn your attention to the road ahead.
Give plenty of notice.
Two week's notice is the gold standard in the professional world. This is the perfect sweet spot; if you give too much notice, your boss may find a replacement and hustle you out before you're ready. If you give too little, you'll catch your employer off guard and leave them with an important position standing empty. A two-week notice period is perfect for both parties; though, if you already have a job lined up and you don't need to fear being elbowed out, go ahead and give more. This turns a basic professional courtesy into an act of generosity and goodwill.
As soon as you know that you're leaving, dial up the three P's.
Patience, positivity, and pleasantness are the order of the day when you know your time is limited in the workplace. Acting perfectly peachy will leave your coworkers with positive memories of your time in the office.
Give your employer a chance (if you can).
If you're absolutely sure you've had enough of this place, and you're certain this job is a dead end, you can skip this rule. But if you're leaving because you only need one thing and you aren't getting that thing (a higher salary, better working conditions, an office with a window, etc.), let your boss know what you want. Be as polite and as direct as possible, and be fair. Give your employer a fighting chance to make you happy.
Smooth out any handoff wrinkles.
Try not to walk out the door with your files in total disarray or your workspace arranged according to a mysterious system that only you can understand. If nobody else in the company knows exactly what you do or how your job works, try to fix this before you say goodbye. If you leave your boss with a terrible mess or a pile of strings to untangle, they may reconsider that glowing reference that they promised.
—For more on how to craft the best possible resume for a new job, have a look at the tools at MyPerfectResume.