How to Leave a Job

Learn how to leave a job and make the transition easy.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #87

How to Graciously Leave a Job

Belinda writes in:

How do I graciously leave the job I have loved for 22 years? I have been recently downsized in my county government job.

Belinda! Soulmate! Today is my last day at my dream job at Babson College, the #1 college for entrepreneurship in the world since 1993. First impressions matter, and so do last impressions. Whether you're quitting, being laid off, or retiring, you want people to remember you as a responsible businessperson. You don't want their last memory of you to involve security guards with trained attack dogs. It looks bad when your next employer calls for references. Don't ask how I know this.

Organize your office and create a transition document the next person can use to sort through the stuff you leave and get up to speed quickly. I'm going to pack a lot into this episode, so the transcript will have a summary sheet you can print out for reference.

Record Your Projects

In the transition document, list your current projects, with a brief summary of each, and who your successor should contact to get quickly up-to-speed on the project. Even if your boss is clueless about what you actually did, some poor innocent won't have to suffer for it. And if your boss was clueless, you really need to listen to my episode on self-promotion. There's a link in this episode's transcript.

Organize Your Files

Zip through your files. Toss or take any that aren't relevant to the job. I like to clip articles and file them neatly in my filing cabinet until I read them. No one but me is going to be interested in an analysis of whether my aluminum foil hat protects me against the mind control rays, or actually makes it easier for the rays to enter my skull. They should care, but they don't. So I'll take that article with me.

The files that are left are, of course, neatly arranged in alphabetical order so you can find them easily. Your successor doesn't know what the files are likely to be called. So group together files related to the same project or client, and use a sticky label to label the whole pile. Use the same project names you listed in your transition document to make it easy to match files to projects. If you don't like the person who will be replacing you, label the piles incorrectly. You can always claim the sticky labels fell off and got switched around.  I have a Quick Tip for keeping important information during job transitions right here.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.