You’ve Quit Your Job. Here’s What to Do Next
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The Fiscal Times
June 19, 2014

It’s the great American fantasy: You quit a job you despise and tell your boss off in the process. A recent commercial for the New York Powerball lottery features a woman doing exactly that, accompanied by a brass band and a gigantic parade float with the words “I quit” written at the top.

Unfortunately, unless you’ve won $100 million or are independently wealthy, the luxury of that type of resignation will probably remain a fantasy.

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"It’s not just about not burning bridges,” says Fraser Marlow, vice president of marketing at BlessingWhite, a Princeton, New Jersey-based consulting firm. “It’s about making sure the gates will be wide open if and when you do want to come back.”

There are thousands of reasons that you might quit a job, ranging from burnout to receiving a great offer from a competitor. Whatever the reasons, here are 10 things you should do after quitting:    

1. Stay on good terms. Once you’ve decided to leave your job, write an email or statement to your boss and colleagues telling them why. “Take the time to communicate widely with those you’ve worked with at the company, thanking them for their help and support,” says Marlow. “You don’t want people finding out that you left when your email accounts stop accepting messages.” Send a note to your external contacts, too.

2. Refrain from criticizing or taking potshots at your former employer. It’s not uncommon for employees to trash talk their ex-employers in interviews, while networking or in casual social situations – but it’s a bad idea, even if the negative comments never get back to the former employer. “If you slam them, it’s like slamming yourself,” says George Dow, a Minneapolis-based career coach. Why? The person you’re talking to may be hesitant to refer you to anyone else or hire you because you seem to have a chip on your shoulder.

3. Tie up loose ends. Experts say that leaving a job as soon as possible after giving your notice can be perceived as irresponsible – and will leave colleagues feeling overburdened and filled with bad memories. “Your unfinished projects usually become someone else’s headache,” says Roy Cohen, a New York-based career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “When your colleagues know that you’ve eased the transition to the best of your ability, they will miss you for all the right reasons.”

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4. Have a financial plan. Before deciding to quit, put together a financial plan or at least a six-month emergency fund. “The very first thing is to know how much money you have available, how much you’re spending and where you need to cut back," says Carol Roth, a former investment banker based in Chicago and the author of The Entrepreneur Equation.

5. Take a short sabbatical or vacation. A break taken under the right circumstances may be the perfect antidote after years of working for the same company – but first define how long that time off will be, especially if you don’t have a job lined up. “Being able to recharge your batteries is a good thing,” says Roth, although more than a month or two away from the job market could be problematic in future interviews.

6. Create a personal brand when deciding what to do next. If it’s the right time to change career or work environment, first identify your preferred type of work so you can find the right fit for you, says Mary Ann Masarech, a lead consultant on employee engagement at BlessingWhite in Princeton. ”Knowing your strengths and passions can help you differentiate yourself in networking and interviews.  What skills, knowledge or experiences differentiate you from the rest?”

7. Network. Networking is still the most effective way to land a position and it usually means face-to-face meetings, not just using social media. Dow, the career coach, says you should be prepared to answer questions that people in your network may ask, such as: Why did you leave? What do you want to do next, and in what role? Where do you want to work? What can I do for you?

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8. Find a credentialed career coach. If you’ve already got another job confirmed or know exactly what you’re looking for, you probably don’t need to hire a career coach who can often charge $125 to $500 an hour. Those struggling with their next move or needing reassurance about it may find a coach helpful. “If you’re contemplating a significant change, a coach can help you think through your goals and plan to achieve them,” says Masarech of BlessingWhite.

9. Be discreet on social media. We are a society of over-sharers – and there’s no place we over-share more than on social media networks. Roth says we should resist that urge and keep details of job departures offline. “Unless it’s something you want broadcast to everyone around the world to be there for posperity and for every future employer – there is no reason to have that discussion on social media.”  

10. Make a smooth transition to your next job. Get as many questions answered upfront as possible. “If you’re looking for a job or evaluating a job offer, ask questions about the culture, the managers’ work style, and your decision-making authority,” says Masarech. “Take responsibility for clarifying details of your work environment.”

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David Koeppel is a New York-based journalist who has covered business and economics for a number of publications, including The New York Times, Fortune.com, Newsweek.com, MSN Money and Crain’s New York Business.