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5 Things Successful People do Before They Leave Their Job

quit a job

Often the best way to advance your career is to change jobs.

In fact, the top reasons people quit and move onto something new is a lack of advancement opportunity at their current company, a negative work environment, an unproductive relationship with their boss and, of course, money. Leaving may be the right choice, but there is a good way and a bad way to quit a job. The former sets you up for success while the latter often leads to distress.

Here are five things successful people do when they leave one job for another:

  • They leave with grace and dignity

Never leave in an unprofessional manner. Sure, we’ve all fantasized about telling off the powers-that-be, but that’s akin to shooting yourself in the foot before a race—so don’t give into it. A company is more than the personalities of those with whom you have difficulties.  Instead behave in an exemplary manner by giving adequate notice (keeping in mind the higher you are in the corporate structure the more difficult it will be for them to replace you) and working to complete projects in progress before leaving. The world of your industry is smaller than you think and there’s more than a small chance you will run into some of these people again, or be connected in the future to someone who knows a former colleague.

  • They see quitting as an opportunity, not a failure

Successful professionals don’t equate quitting with failure, but instead see it for what it is: an opportunity. Quitting and moving on to another position, company or even to strike out on your own should be a strategy for advancing your career.  It’s also an opportunity to maintain and continue to build the relationships you have with those at your old company. If you leave with the good wishes of your former colleagues and manager you could find yourself working for or with them again at some point.

  • They quit for the right reasons (and those reasons aren’t personal)

The best reason to quit one job for another is because you are making an upward career move–or a necessary lateral move–to give you the experience needed for that next upward move. Taking another job just to get out of your current one, because you don’t like your boss, for instance, is just wheel-spinning. Whenever you leave one position for another make sure you’re taking that step to move toward something, not away from something else.

It’s also unwise to quit one job for another simply because of money. A bigger paycheck may seem like a good reason to move on but it should never be the only criteria you use to make that decision. Step back and look at other aspects of your job (and company) and consider all of those—not just the money—before making a decision to leave. Rarely is money the reason someone likes their job.

  • They have a resignation plan

It’s important to plan out how you will resign, what work you will complete, how you will leave that work to whomever will be taking over for you and what you will tell people when they ask why you’re leaving. Part of your plan should be to spend the remainder of your time at the company being positive and productive. Don’t spend that time complaining about the company or your boss. No matter what your experience as an employee has been like you want to be remembered as someone who helped solve problems, was a team player and didn’t add to any problems that already exist.

  • They don’t accept a counter-offer, no matter how attractive it is

If you’re good at what you do and show leadership potential, chances are your company will try to get you to stay by making you a counter-offer, which may include greater opportunities for advancement, better perks and more money.  But if you’ve made a well thought-out decision to take another position then there’s no reason to waffle, because that decision is about more than just money. Instead, turn down the counter-offer but leave the door open, saying that you feel it’s important to your development to try something new but would like to stay in contact because you never know what the future will bring. What you learn in your next position might make you an even better fit in the future for the company you’re leaving.

About the Author

Eilene Zimmerman is a journalist who writes about entrepreneurship, technology, small businesses and the workplace. She was a career columnist for the New York Times and is a regular contributor to the paper's small business section.