How to Avoid Bridge Burning When Leaving a Job

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In general it's a good idea to avoid a scorched earth policy when leaving a company, even if you were treated unfairly. I'm all for standing up for yourself, but it's not worth it to tell off your employer and then trash their name publicly after you leave their employ.

If you are tempted to do so, just sing "It's a Small World After All" to yourself to remember that there may very well come a time when someone from that company will come back into your professional life one way or another. I see it all the time. And I am always amused to see the "scorcher" acting surprised that the "scorchee" has somehow come back to bite them.

I see this happen not only with job candidates from a recruiting perspective, but also as a hiring manager in the high turnover staffing industry with recruiters, sourcers, and account managers. You would think the staffing folks would know better, but it often seems like they just don't care. I never hire those who speak too ill of their former employers. And I always check references.

Etiquette writer Jodi R. R. Smith of the Huffington Post has written a nice article outlining how to graciously leave your job. Here are the high points:

I Quit! ~ While it is tempting to include a manifesto of the company's ills in your resignation letter, you are better served by keeping it simple. A resignation letter needs only three pieces of information. 1. Your last day. 2. Contact address and phone number. 3. Your signature with a date.

Time Your Timing ~ Once you have decided to leave a company you often become a lame duck. Plan your announcement and your time remaining carefully. When quitting, be sure to factor in time for a replacement to be found and some training to take place. Do not linger.

Let's Celebrate ~ As employees leave a company, it is common to arrange a good-bye party. The company should cover the costs of such an affair. The celebration can range from an after-hours cocktail party to cake in the break room. (Be aware, sometimes it is best not to have a public good-bye.)

Exit Interviews ~ Many companies interview outgoing employees to gather information. Answer all questions judiciously. Some exit interviews are confidential, while others are not. In addition, you want to be sure not to burn any bridges. Boomerang employees are more and more common. (Employees who leave a company only to be hired back a few years later.)

Six Degrees Of Separation ~ Just like the song says, it is a small world after all. If you have specialized in a specific field it is highly probable that you will cross paths in the future with the people you are leaving behind today. Keep relationships positive and the communication open. You never know when you might see these people again.

Take The High Road ~ Leaving a company can be a stressful and unnerving time. But it is at times like these that it is especially important to keep your wits about you. Do not yell at anyone, do not destroy company property, and do not disparage the organization to the media or to the clients. What you do reflects on you.

Keep In Touch ~ Be sure to build and maintain your professional networks: join professional organizations, attend alumni events, and subscribe to journals relating to your field. These networks help to ease the transition process.

Always Update ~ Even after you have found the job of your dreams, you should always keep your résumé updated. Because, as you have learned, you never know!

Jodi R. R. Smith: Gracious Good-Byes - Careers in Transition

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