Information technology, telecommunications, and social media have all made the world a much smaller place.  Unless you leave well, leaving a job today poses serious risks to your career’s future health.

Take This Job and Shove It!

In 1977 country music artist Johnny Paycheck recorded what many employees wanted desperately to tell their boss as they quit their jobs.  Take This Job and Shove It! nearly won a CMA award for song of the year, and artists like the Dead Kennedys and David Alan Coe re-recorded it in the years to follow.  It was so popular that feature film Take This Job and Shove It! was released in 1981 with a cast that included Robert Hays, Art CarneyBarbara Hershey, and David Keith.

Have you ever felt like leaving a job this way?  Many people have.  Some have found some pretty imaginative ways to leave a lasting impression of their own shove it quit, as this YouTube classic demonstrates.  However, before you yield to the temptation, there are few things you ought to know. 

A Shove It Quit Will Follow You

All it takes is a coworker with a smartphone to catch wind of your plan to quit and be ready to video the event.  Maybe your coworker does play-by-play over the video, or simply tweets it to the Twitterverse.  A few people think it’s hilarious and post it on YouTube, with stills and a brief story on Facebook and Instagram.  People add their comments and your epic shove it quit makes the rounds, with people across the planet knowing what happened.

Your employer knows, too.  You’ve probably been marked ineligible for re-hire.  Your boss (and others here) don’t forget their embarrassment about the way you left.  You think, “No worries…lots of jobs out there.”  So you begin or continue the process of looking for your next job.

What you may not know is that your shove it quit comes up as recruiters use social media to vet your application, or contact your former employer and co-workers to learn more about you.

Even if you left in less dramatic terms, or decided not to list that job on your application, make no mistake – employers will find out that you left poorly.  And they will want no part of you, regardless of your excellent skill set.  You’ll never know the opportunities you lost because your shove it quit followed you.

It doesn’t matter whether your boss is a certifiable jerk or your employer treated you like a Shanghai sweatshop worker.  You simply cannot afford to leave poorly.

How to Always Leave Well

Once you’ve made the decision to leave, and you’re certain you aren’t running from your job to just any job in order to get away, consider these tips on how to leave well:

  • Provide at least one more week’s notice than is customary. If the prevailing notice period is two weeks, then provide three. Your current employer will appreciate this gesture, even if your employer elects to reduce or eliminate the length of notice you gave.
  • Write a letter of resignation, with copies to your supervisor and HR. In it outlines how thankful you are for having had the opportunity to work there, and provide positive reasons for leaving (even if they are hard to come by).  Keep the letter positive and professional.
  • Deliver the letter in person to your supervisor. Ask to speak with him or her privately.  Rather than just hand over the letter, inform your supervisor that you are leaving and thank him or her for all he or she has done to help you.  Provide your letter of resignation at the end of your meeting, and then inform HR.
  • Leave your position in better condition than when you arrived.
    • What open items need to be closed? Don’t leave a mess for the new person.
    • What documentation should be created or updated? Especially the how-to documentation that the new person taking over will appreciate.
    • Have you developed an open items list that details everything that is pending? Share it with your supervisor.
  • Offer to train your replacement. Provide the open item list and any documentation you’ve created.  Show that you have left your position in better shape than you got it. Offer to be a resource to your supervisor and replacement during and after the transition.
  • At no time should you ever gossip or badmouth your employer or supervisor, regardless of how you may have been treated. Set an example of integrity.
    • This includes not telling coworkers that your future employer is so much better than the one you’re leaving.
    • All social media you control should present the employer in the most favorable light possible.
  • Now is the hard part: work harder and longer each day than you ever have before all the way through your last day. No shortcuts, no calling in sick, no slacking, and no farewell tour.  By your performance, make your employer already miss you!
  • If you have an exit interview, do not use it as an occasion to vent. Be helpful, positive, professional and thankful for the opportunities your current employer provided you while you were there.
  • Consider sending handwritten thank you notes to supervisors and others who supported you during your tenure. They leave a very positive and professional last impression of your time there.
  • If appropriate, ask former supervisors for recommendations to post on your LinkedIn profile, and to serve as a reference for you in the future.

Bottom Line

When you leave poorly, you damage your future.  When you leave well, you leave the door open to return at some point in the future and secure the positive references from your now former employer.  You never know when someone who witnessed leaving well will be in a position to positively impact your future career, as a boss, peer, or network member who connects you with future opportunities.

Hank Boyer is CEO of Boyer Management Group, works with employers and job seekers alike to help them become more successful. See his two newest books on job search at Amazon.com.

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