How You Leave Matters Too

For a lot of folks in higher education, spring means job searching. While I’ve seen a lot of good advice on how to conduct a job search (see, for example, Ann Marie Klotz’s recent post or Sean Grube’s series of posts), I haven’t come across a lot talking about how to leave your current position. For a variety of reasons (some good, some not-so-good), we’ve had a fair amount of turnover in my department since last spring — so here is my list of things you should and shouldn’t do when leaving a job.


  • Give a reasonable amount of notice. The standard is two weeks, but it can be good to give more, especially if you’re willing to help train your replacement.
  • Leave your office in neat, organized condition (but not so cleaned out that the folks left behind can’t find any evidence of the work you did). Communicate the status of any open projects to your supervisor and be sure to leave detailed notes / binders for your replacement.
  • Remember that how you leave is just as important (if not more so) as how you started and performed while in the position. While your mind may be moving ahead to your new position, stay as engaged as possible in your current job. Your supervisors will notice if you are checked out early — do you want that to be their final impression of you?


  • Resist the temptation (however strong) to be “honest” about your reasons for leaving if that includes “you expect us to work too hard.” Future employers may well call your current supervisors for a reference — and the questions could include reason for leaving. Do you think a future employer wants to hire someone who doesn’t like to work hard?
  • Don’t tell your employer that you’re leaving over the phone or via email. It’s rude. Do it in person. Yes, I know it’s hard. So is life.
  • Dump a bunch of unfinished work on your co-workers because you no longer feel like doing it. Finish as much as you can and (as noted above) leave clear instructions for the rest. Someday they could be in a position to hire you for another job. You want them to remember you in a good way.

These are just a few tips — the overarching moral is to leave gracefully and to remember that your final impression is a lasting one, so make it count. What other tips do you have for how to leave a job? Leave your tips in the comments!

[Photo Credit: Flickr User hellojenuine, Creative Commons license]

5 thoughts on “How You Leave Matters Too

  1. I think it is really important to leave a position in good standing. Just because it is the end of your time with one employer does not mean it is the end of the career. The part that really stood out for me was when you wrote about staying engaged. It is easy to lose steam when you there is a new horizon ahead.I do understand that in some situations, “things” come up, but you should be communicating with your supervisor the changes that may or may not be occurring.  At the end of the day, I believe that, “what goes around, comes around.” One day you may be a supervisor and you do not want people to treat you without respect when leaving.

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