Changing Jobs the Professional Way

 Everyone Makes Decisions – John Hayes

 Professionalism and tactfulness are key with every job change.  Everyone changes jobs, not just the millennials.  That’s a key point as now more than ever there is a chance that your current boss or colleague could be a future boss.  Or they may know someone at your new company.  This is a key consideration and benefit of leaving in a professional way.


 A close family member was changing jobs recently and wanted advice on how to execute the move effectively, professionally and most importantly without burning any bridges.

  As someone who has been in my career for some time, and have people working for me, I thought it would be helpful to share the advice I offered him.  I’m not a lawyer so these are just my opinions on how to change jobs professionally.  If you have any concerns beyond these recommendations please seek out legal assistance. 

We all hear “don’t burn your bridges”.  What does that mean?  Basically it means don’t leave in such a way that your current / former employer doesn’t want to hire you back.  Having a “do not re-hire” designation in your human resources record is not desirable.  Just another potential red flag to potential employers.


The New Job

First my advice on how to secure the new job before you resign from your current position.

Written Job Offer

Get the final job offer in writing from the new company.  This is extremely important especially if you are working with a recruiter.  You don’t want the summary the recruiter presents, you want a formal written offer from the company.  Typically companies have a specific approval process for new hires so you can be reasonably assured that the written offer is coming from someone authorized to extent the offer.

 Health Benefits

This applies primarily to folks in the United States.  If you can’t afford to have a lapse in your health benefits, understand when your benefits start.  Sometimes they start on the 1st of the following month.  This could leave you with a gap, as most likely your benefits at your old job end at the end of the month.  This is something to consider especially as you are planning your start and exit dates.

 Start Date

Agree on the start date.  You might want to take some time off between jobs so nailing down the start date is key.  Typically this is discussed and included in your offer letter.

 Other Benefits

Instead of having the discussion with the hiring manager save the benefits discussion for someone qualified with the new company that specifically understand the company’s benefits.  This is when you discuss vacation time, 401(K) match, volunteer time, commuting benefits etc.  When you discuss it with the benefits specialist it becomes a factual discussion.  If you discuss it early on with the hiring manager it can be viewed as detrimental.

 Now that you have the new job secured.  Time to resign from the old job.

 The Old Job

 Formal Resignation Letter

Regardless of your level, always craft and present a formal resignation letter.  Not only does this present you in a professional light it also acts as evidence that you did resign, and the specific date you will be leaving the company.  Depending on your current circumstances with that company, and your work performance, this could eliminate any indication that you did not leave on your own accord.

There are many templates and letters available so search for one on-line and customize it to your liking.  Doesn’t need to be an essay just a clear description of when you plan on leaving and thanking them for the opportunity they gave you.

 Notice Periods

Unless you are on a contract which will stipulate your notice period, in the United States it is common practice to give a minimum of two weeks if you are in a staff level position or three weeks if you are in a leadership position.

 Tendering your Resignation

If at all possible tender your resignation in person.  Either set up a meeting or stop by your boss’s office to meet and submit your resignation. 

 During the meeting hand your boss the resignation letter and orally resign indicating your last date of your employment.  I would also recommend that if asked you provide the name of your future employer.  Withholding this information typically leaves you susceptible to bad feelings and potential issues.   And with LinkedIn and other on-line resources they will be able to find out where you went.

 Keep in mind that if you are going to a competitor you may be asked to leave the premises immediately.  You will typically be paid your notice period but all your system, email, and physical access to the office will be removed.

 Resign and Stay Cool

Always keep your cool and professionalism up.  Remember, you can’t control how your boss or the company reacts but you an always control how you react.  Everyone makes decisions, decide how you are going to react and conduct yourself.  You are down to your last few weeks with the company; tough it out and maintain your professionalism. 

 The Counteroffer

I subscribe to the theory that you should never accept a counter offer.  At that point you are viewed as damaged goods and really don’t have any long-term career opportunities with that company.  You made the decision to leave, carry through.

 The Exit Interview

Most companies have an exit interview process, typically with HR or an outside firm.  Be careful with this.  I would recommend that you offer professional, constrictive criticism if it is warranted, but never get personal about your boss or co-workers.  Assume that everything you say will be passed along with the company.

 I hope this gives you some tips and ideas to consider when you decide to leave your current role for greener pastures.