08 Oct How to Quit Your Midwest Technology Job
CHICAGO – Can it be that things are looking up in our Midwest tech economy? Headhunters are a little more optimistic this fall. Monster.com and HotJobs are a little more interesting. Hiring managers are still deluged with inquiries from job seekers but working harder to fill some of their positions, too.
What if one of your irons in the fire gets hot and ignites? It’s a wonderful feeling to be in demand after that long dry spell! Let’s say you get a job offer. You accept it. Congratulations! Now there’s only one thing left to do: give notice at your current job.
What is the etiquette of quitting a job these days? Tech companies especially have the reputation for getting a little prickly when employees decide to move on. It’s good to be as well prepared for your departure as you would be for any other major career move and go out on the best possible note.
First off, don’t ever give notice until you’ve signed an offer letter from your new employer.
True, companies have been known to renege on written offers (especially in the shocking days of the big downturn) but commonly they won’t put out the written offer letter until the budget for your position is approved. Get the offer letter, sign it, return it and confirm your start date with your new manager and the company’s HR department before you bail on your current employer.
Now for the notice-giving itself.
If your boss is out of town, wait for him or her to get back if at all possible. It’s bad form to give notice over the phone or by e-mail unless there’s absolutely no alternative. Also, don’t give notice to anyone except your boss. If you have an incredibly trustworthy friend in the office, go ahead and spill the beans, but if the word gets to your boss before you deliver it, your reputation is shot.
That being said, if your manager does happen to be on the road for a few days and you’re not in a rush to start the new gig, it’s a really great thing to have a few days to yourself. You can use that time to clean up your desk, organize your files for the next guy and begin to work on your “turnover” report (the one that helps your replacement figure out what you were working on).
This turnover report is incredibly important. The professionalism that you display in handing off your work to the next person – especially if that person arrives weeks later and doesn’t get to meet you – will keep your good reputation safe no matter how angry or disappointed your boss is when you actually drop the bomb.
The other critical thing you should do before you actually give notice has to do with your belongings. Except for the very obvious desktop items (like family photos and your various Linux penguin toys), you should get your personal stuff out of there before the big day.
Why? If you’re basically already moved out when you deliver the news, it makes it much easier for you to sweep up your photos and penguins and hit the road if they decide to escort you out on the spot, which still is a common practice at a lot of tech firms.
Of course, you can’t take company property or proprietary information with you, but if your 2002 Christmas card list is on an Excel spreadsheet on your hard drive, copy it and take it home in advance. The same think applies to your list of bookmarked Web sites, your eBay password and anything else that resides at your office.
If they decide you should leave in a hurry, they’re not going to want to supervise your data-gathering and file-copying activities, so do it ahead of time.
For the same reason, make sure any company property (like your cell phone or laptop) is in the office the day you give notice. This way, your desk is in good shape, your personal files (hard and soft) are at home and your boss has a free moment. Walk into her office and say: “Excuse me, Angela. Do you have a second?” Said with just the right tone, this simple question can convey your intention to a reasonably savvy boss and make the rest of your task that much easier.
When Angela says: “Yes. Come in. What’s going on?,” don’t even think of making small talk or asking about her weekend. Get right to it: “I wanted to let you know that I’ve accepted a position with XYZ Industries so I’m giving my notice. I really want to thank you for the experience here. You’ve been a fantastic manager.” (If that is patently untrue, say something less fervent but try to end on an upbeat note.)
“What do you mean? How could you?! Your #%$# project is due next week!” and similar sentiments may follow. If they do, stay very calm and stick to your guns (along the lines of “There’s never a good time. I’d love to stay available to you by phone for a few weeks after I leave. Robbie has really been coming up to speed on my accounts.”)
Whatever you need to say, keep it professional but firm. If you’re really open to negotiation, you shouldn’t have accepted a job already. Remember that a huge percentage of people who accept counter offers from their employers leave within the next six months. Remember why you started job hunting in the first place. If you weaken now, your reputation will suffer at your current job and you’ll be lifelong toast at the other place.
If the company’s policy is to treat all resigning employees like Benedict Arnold, they may ask you to leave then and there. In that case, you’ll conduct yourself with grace and aplomb and be glad you got your Christmas-card list on a diskette two weeks prior.
Scoop up the penguins and the photos and wish everyone well. Don’t show any impatience or indignation. It’s much more effective if your excitement about your new position makes you blissfully unaware of the bum’s rush. You’re just emanating goodwill from every pore. “Take care, guys! Talk to you soon!” and out you go.
If your company follows the more conventional path and accepts your two weeks’ notice (there’s really no reason to give them less than that), make it the most productive two weeks you’ve ever spent on that job. Life is long and many of these people will circle back through your orbit (maybe even your boss).
If they conduct exit interviews, you’ll be asked what the company could improve on or what made you think about leaving. You can be honest, if you like. After all, they asked the question. If they don’t do exit interviews, that tells you how much they want your opinion. Keep your counsel.
Co-workers will behave in a variety of ways toward you. They may in some cases treat you like an outcast or a non-person. They may also suck up to you and ask you about opportunities at your new company. Make no promises and don’t try to encourage company bashing just because you’re a short timer. You’re going out on a good note so don’t blow it.
Eventually, the big last day will come. Enjoy it.
Get phone numbers and e-mail or home addresses from the people you want to keep in touch with. Thank your boss again for his or her support. Don’t leave early! The weekend will come soon enough. If your emotions on that day resemble those of a guy being let out of Alcatraz after 20 years, just be grateful for your good fortune and don’t gloat. Remember that living well is the best revenge.
Send your job advice questions to Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liz Ryan is the founder of ChicWIT (Chicago Women in Technology) and founder of WorldWIT(World Women in Technology). She can be e-mailed at email@example.com. Her column Nine2Five, which appears on ePrairie every Friday, is designed to keep you up to date with career trends and advice related to working and managing organizations in the post-bubble technology world. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of the The Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.