Sometimes you have to quit your job to grow your IT career (and your earnings). Having just experienced this, I’m going give you 13 tips (OOooo, spooky) that will allow you to make a graceful exit.
First, the basics.
There are some principles that you must follow if you want to keep from burning bridges when you quit, no matter what the job is. This is just a gentle reminder for everyone:
Don’t quit on the spot
Except in extreme cases, everyone should give 2 weeks notice when they leave a job (it’s just the standard, deal with it). When you are in IT, though, sometimes they may not keep you around for the full 2 weeks.
The reasons for this vary. Sometimes they just don’t need you to stick around. If there’s tension or you recently got caught pulling IT shenanigans, they might want you out to make sure you don’t break or delete anything on they way out the door.
Your company may try to negotiate more time out of you for transition, but by this time, you’ve probably already accepted a position (you have, right?? You’re not going to quit without a job, riiiight??). So stick to your guns.
Create a resignation letter
This is what professionals do. Make a resignation letter, on paper, and prepare to hand it to your boss. Here’s how my recent one went:
This is my 2 week notice of resignation from Company. My last day of work will be on (date 2 weeks from the day I give you this).
I have enjoyed working here and am grateful for the opportunities for growth and advancement I’ve been afforded.
(My Name Printed)
Short and sweet. Resist the urge to take jabs at your boss and the company. It’s not professional and can damage relationships that you may need later.
(FYI – My buddy Liz Ryan likes to just do it verbally, but I like the letter. It’s a bit more formal.)
Be prepared for a counter offer
Depending on your role and how big of a team you have, you company might try to offer to match or beat your new salary. However, I strongly recommend that you don’t take a counter offer. Reasons include
- You’ve conducted a stealth job search, and they may not trust you
- They might strip away your responsibilities as soon as they can transition them, then fire you
- There are reasons you wanted to quit, remember? Do you really think those underlying issues are going to change? Probably not.
You can use a competing offer to try to get a raise, but bear in mind that you had better have it in hand, because your current company might call your bluff, and you should be prepared to take it.
Clean up your work area
Make sure you remove personal items from your desk and work bench. Do this over time, if you can, to avoid arousing suspicions. I made this mistake when I took my many Nerf guns home one afternoon. When my coworkers saw this, they starting questioning.
Do this a little at a time, but do take care of it. You don’t want to miss items you really want to keep if they suddenly decide to terminate you- or if you get fed up and just quit on the spot at lunchtime.
OK. Now the IT specific stuff:
Clean up your issued computer
As soon as you decide to start looking for a new gig, you should take some time and start cleaning your company issued workstation. This should be done ahead of time because sometimes IT people get fired when they give their notice, and obviously you may have some stuff you want to keep.
Make sure to grab pictures, documents, and copies of some of your work and scripts. DON’T take proprietary or secret documents. That’s illegal.
You should review your employment contract, if you have one. Some companies stipulate that any work you do on company time or assets belongs to the company. This is really meant for software an intellectual properties. For example, when a friend of mine quit, he had written some very long and very advanced scripts- but the manager said he wanted them because they were works-for-hire. You want to avoid creating a conflict there the best you can.
Most shops image their computers, but just in case, remove any software that you don’t want to leave on there. You get the idea. Make it so they don’t need to do any digging when you exit.
Round up and return company-owned hardware
Most IT people are issued hardware take home. After all, that’s one of the many perks of being in charge of the gear and working from home.
Things you borrowed, like servers, workstations, monitors, docks, phones, etc, should be brought back to the office for return. Now this is something you want to do discreetly, just like your desk: you don’t want to raise the alarm that you’re leaving.
Don’t forget the power cords and associated accessories. Keep them in your desk and out of sight.
Now, give your notice
Go see your boss, close the door, and let them know that you’re going to quit. Give them the letter, and thank them. Don’t belabor the point, just get right to it. Do it in-person, not over IM, email, or on the phone.
Your boss will have some questions, but keep the conversation on transitioning your duties. Also, resist the urge you may have to help find someone new. That’s their job/problem, not yours.
Make a list right then (if you can) on some projects you need to finish or hand off, documentation you need to make, and other tasks you need to get done. You want to leave your role in the strongest position you can when you leave, if only for integrity reasons.
Make a smooth transition
Now that the word is out, you have 2 weeks to get things straightened out for your departure. Here are some guidelines:
Work each day like it’s your last.
Waste no time. You should have been doing this already, but now you have to get serious. They could still let you go- with or without pay- at any time. It happens. While it’s tempting to goof off, you want to quit and leave your peers in a strong position.
Prepare communication to people you want to know you’re leaving.
In the past, I have left places where people didn’t even know I left because HR dropped the ball on communicating it. It was funny- when I visited a couple of weeks later to return a charger, some people didn’t even know I left. Assume the company will not communicate your exit like you want it.
I like to send an email to people who I’ve connected with and let them know how to get in touch with me afterwards. For select people, I made sure to include a link to LinkedIn and my phone number. It’s important to keep in touch, as you never know when that person will be in your future again. Most IT markets are tight-knit communities.
DO NOT send an email blast to the whole company. They usually frown on this.
Make sure you send a note to vendors that you have a relationship with as well. I like to keep vendor relationships alive as much as possible, and they love getting into new companies.
If you want to give or collect contact information, now is the time to get it.
Say “No” to any new projects and hand undone ones off.
Some people will still try to get you into new projects, but this is absurd. Just say no to anything new.
Give any important project information to your peers or your boss so they can pick up where you left off.
Document and train everything possible.
Especially passwords. Get them out of your head and into a password manager.
When I left my last place, I made a step-by-step process document for our backup architecture (we were using CommVault, by the way). It was complicated and I was the subject matter expert, so it made sense.
There were 2 main motives. #1, I wanted to leave them in good shape so they could still operate. #2, I didn’t want them calling me and trying to get me to help them.
The knowledge transfer part of this is important, too. They need to know not only that the documents exist, but also where they are, and probably a review of them before you leave. That is, unless you really want to do unpaid consulting for them.
Avoid staying on as a contractor
You should probably just make a clean break from your old gig, but if you were a one-man shop, they probably can’t replace you within 2 weeks. You might get asked to stay on as a paid contractor if they get in a bind.
If you can, just say no. If you really feel like you somehow owe them or the money is just too good, then sure, contract. But make sure you set ground rules about when you’d be available, and that it can’t conflict with your new job. I would also run it by the new job. If that last bit sounds like a bad idea, that’s because it is, which is why you should just say no.
Using these tips, you can quit your old job with no regrets and make a smooth transition into your new role.
Do you have a war story from leaving an IT role- maybe a huge but painful lesson learned? Let me know in the comments below!