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Leaving a Job Gracefully

June 6, 2011

When leaving a job, whether it’s by your choice or by your employer’s choice, it is very important to keep your emotions in check. Future employment opportunities that may not arise for years might never be made available to you if you leave on bad terms. Sure, there are times when you’d like to tell your boss what you think of him or her, but that sweet but very brief moment could ruin future opportunities for you. Remember that your present manager is connected to other professionals who might not consider hiring you, having perhaps heard about you over drinks with him or her at the next ASHA conference.

Be Respectful of Your Employer’s Property and Reputation

Perhaps you’ve decided to move on for positive reasons (better pay, more interesting work). Or, perhaps you’ve decided you don’t like your company’s policies, management style, and inequities in treatment, etc. Remember that the company deserves basic respect nonetheless. It should go without saying that you cannot help yourself to any of the company’s property, and this includes proprietary information such as sales figures and client lists. You could end up facing criminal charges. Slandering your company is also a no-no. A lawsuit could await you for that. What would be the point of moving forward in your career only to have to deal with lingering litigation or criminal charges based on employment you no longer want? Remember, never put nasty remarks about your company in an email or online, as that could come back to haunt you in court.

References and Reference Letters

Do your best to obtain a letter of reference from your employer before you leave, or, include it in any severance agreement you may have been offered. If you leave on good terms, this won’t be difficult to obtain. However, if you leave on bad terms, you can still request a letter. If that is impossible, then ask co-workers with whom you got along to write a letter for you and act as a reference for you. They may not know the details of why you’re leaving a company, but they can usually comment on your competence and good character.

Inquiries from Prospective Employers at Job Interviews

Making disparaging comments about past employers is always a bad idea. No matter how valid your viewpoint is, keep it to yourself. The prospective employer will see your negativity and wonder if you’re a difficult person to work with, and may wonder what you’ll say about the new company once you leave it too. An interview is not the time to air your beefs; rather, it is the time to be at your best, most positive ‘together’ state. Go to interviews with a reasonable answer to the question: “So, why did you leave your last job?” Be sure your answer is neutral in its tone, e.g., “I was ready for more challenging projects and there was no opportunity for me to pursue them at that company.” Avoid making comments about the personnel or clientele. Be ready to explain why the company for which you’re interviewing will meet that need for challenge though!

Remember that, if you feel the need for revenge, the best revenge is always success. Move forward in your career, learn from challenges faced in previous jobs, and don’t waste time on negative behaviors. There is no value for you in burning your bridges behind you. You just never know what the future holds.