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The right way to quit your job

The right way to quit your job

What to say when those greener pastures are calling your name

Quitting is important. The man/woman who wants to find what he/she loves must have the balls/ovaries to stand up and say ‘I don’t like this!’ and move on. Great careers (and happy lives) are built on quitting your job in a well-timed and well-executed manner. We’ve all reached the fork in the road where we know it’s time to move on. But taking those first few steps down the unknown path is scary. So we stay put. We gripe about whatever it is—our job, our hobby, stir Fridays—to our friends for a bit and sometimes that helps. But the path is still there, waiting for us. And when the complaining stops working, you know it’s time to take that step. Because if you don’t, you will lose everything. Your friends, your hope, and your will to live. Done. Gonzo. To paraphrase a movie about an actual prison: get busy workin’ or get busy quittin’. But like anything in life, you need to do it right. Since going through a big growth and hiring spurt at CloudDevs a few years ago, we’re starting to see some people move on. It’s natural. In fact, 2 million people in America alone are voluntarily leaving their positions every single month. And just like there’s an optimal way to get hired, there’s a right and a wrong way to walk off into the sunset. When a person leaves, it’s easy to still feel good about the situation if they did it with integrity and in line with our company values. On the other hand, we can’t help but be left with a sour taste in our mouth when someone hands in their two-week notice out of the blue. And this is not the type of quitting on which great careers are built.

How to quit with grace

“Don’t burn bridges” is classic advice. If you cross a bridge and burn it down only to find a pack of lions on the other side you’re gonna wish that bridge was still there. It’s good advice. But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend the bridge was a liberal arts degree. No one cares about the bridge. So why should you? Let’s be selfish. You’re never in a million years going to need to use that bridge (aka get your old job back). So how do you burn that bridge properly? Start by showing how you tried to put the fire out in the first place.

So you want a new job…

Great! I can help you with that. I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people (after which you quickly develop a knack for recognizing immaturity). Here’s how your interview shouldn’t go: “Why did you leave your last job after only a year?” “It wasn’t the right fit.” “What specifically didn’t fit?” “I expected the role would be more suited to my qualifications and in the end I was doing menial tasks mostly.” “And when you realized this, what did you do?” “I did my job the best that I could.” “Did you tell your boss you felt your tasks were not suitable?” “It wouldn’t have helped.” “Why not?” “She wouldn’t have listened to me.” “So instead you chose to quit?” “Yes.” I’ve had a version of this conversation more times that I can count but I can tell you how many times we’ve hired a person after a conversation like that: zero. What this tells an interviewer is that when faced with a problem you didn’t speak up or try to solve it. You ran. So what’s to stop you from doing that if we hire you? Major red flag. Instead, a good answer to this line of questioning is to outline the steps you took leading up to the leave. Let’s try that conversation one more time: “I expected the role to be more suited to my qualifications and in the end I was doing menial tasks mostly.” “And when you realized this, what did you do?” “I had several conversations with my boss over the course of the six months or so leading up to my departure. They tried to give me a little work in my field but there just wasn’t enough and the menial work had to be done. I explained that, while it was okay for a while, I really wanted to push my skills. In the end, we agreed there wasn’t a good place for me there and I found and trained a replacement.” Now that’s a perfect answer. In reality it will come out in bits and pieces with some ‘ums’ and tangents but regardless it’s the single most impressive answer anyone can give in an interview. So if you’re looking for the selfish reason to quit properly, it’s this: so you can use the quitting process as a prime example of your having-shit-together-ness in future interviews

Two weeks notice is a fairy tale

I know what you’re thinking: “But if I tell my boss I’m not happy, he/she could fire me/me.” That’s a fair point. Quitting can be scary. But this isn’t a confrontation—this is a long-term relationship you want to continually work on with your manager. And unless your manager is a complete monster—or you’re completely incompetent—they aren’t going to fire you for wanting or trying to improve the relationship. That is, assuming you approach the conversations correctly. Like any relationship in trouble, you shouldn’t place blame. You want to have a constructive discourse. And while sorting things out you should still do the best damn job you can, even if you feel things aren’t going to improve. Granted, some managers won’t be used to this level of honesty nor know how to handle it. And if they aren’t willing to work on it, or aren’t open about what they are doing to improve the situation, then that’s a sign you’re not in a very healthy organization.

Lastly, forget the BS departure reason

This, perhaps, is the most interesting part of the poorly-executed quit because it’s steeped in delicious irony. Same scenario again: you want to quit your job because you, well, hate it. But you don’t want to burn the bridge. But you also don’t want to try to save it. You decide then not to explain the real reason you’re quitting. You don’t want those words out on the table in case you have to come back one day. Instead, you come up with a reason that seems plausible. The ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ of job quitting. “I liked working here a lot, but I need to take some time for myself.” Hmm. Here’s what these quitters forget: People are very intuitive. If your reason for leaving ‘smells’ wrong, you’ll lose a lot of trust and that bridge is pretty much torched. No manager wants to re-hire or recommend anyone whom they think is being dishonest. Even more so if they once considered you a friend. So while it seems like covering your intent might soften the blow (a win/win) it’s a gamble. It’s easier to recover from an honest ‘I’m leaving because I hate working here’ than a dishonest ‘I want to try something different.’
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