While loyalty is important and many companies will reward people for long tenures, switching jobs is part of the normal course of business these days.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics followed baby boomers through most of their careers and found that, on average, people in the study held 11.7 jobs between ages 18 and 48. In 2016, the bureau reported the average overall employee tenure was 4.2 years, down from 4.6 years in 2014.
But, this doesn’t mean that you should take leaving your job lightly.
How you make your exit will have an impact on your professional reputation, and you want to get it right. Have a plan and make sure you’re being dignified regardless of what other people do or say along the way.
1. Don’t play games
Going out and getting job offers in order to pressure your current employer for a promotion or more money is a dicey maneuver. While it might be warranted when you have clearly been passed over or your salary is way below market average, you can only play this card once, and you need to play it carefully.
Be completely committed to the process and be prepared to walk if your employer refuses to give you a healthy raise. Using this technique to nickel and dime your way to higher compensation will annoy your boss, and if you don’t leave, you most likely will not receive an offer from the new company again, so you’ll be burning that bridge, too. And, if you work in a small industry and people talk, you might develop a terrible reputation.
2. Keep doing your job
It’s to your benefit to stay focused on your job until you are out the door. It’s also the right thing to do. You are being paid and should perform well. Keep your head in the game.
Another reason to finish strong is you want your current employer to know that you cared enough to give it your all. Sometimes, after you make a move, things go sideways or you realized it was the wrong decision. Leaving on a good note increases the chance your former company would welcome you back if you were to change your mind.
3. Communicate once you’ve decided
Once you’ve made the decision to take a new position, be sure to communicate clearly to the right people in a timely manner. You don’t want people to find out in the wrong way or from the wrong person. This misstep can lead to hurt feelings and people questioning your intentions.
Generally, once you have an offer letter from the new employer and you’ve accepted that offer, let your immediate manager or supervisor know that you are leaving. Your departure will affect him or her the most.
Depending on the situation, giving two weeks’ notice is standard, but if you have a lot of loose ends to tie up and you have enjoyed working for your boss, you might add a few days or a week. Ensure this is acceptable to your new employer.
4. Be appreciative
Throughout the process and with everyone you speak to, be sure to thank them for the opportunities they’ve given you and for what you’ve learned. Venting your frustrations as you head out the door might feel good in the moment, but it won’t help your future prospects and you’ll likely regret it.
If you want to kick it up a notch, write personal thank-you notes or even leave small tokens of appreciations behind for the people you connected with and the people who helped your career. You never know if they will be in a position to hire you in the future or show up at your new company as your boss.
Plus, it’s just a pleasant thing to do.
5. Don’t gossip
It’s tempting to show up at a new company and start sharing all the internal drama and dysfunction from your old company with your new colleagues. It feels powerful and earns you a lot of attention while you’re trying to fit in. Resist that urge.
Not only does such behavior lack integrity, it might be in violation of an agreement at your former company. It will also paint you as a gossip and people might reasonably think that you’ll share their foibles at your next job.
Handling yourself with poise and having a plan to make the transition smooth for everyone will serve you well now and in the future.
Bruce Eckfeldt is the founder of Eckfeldt & Associates, a technology consulting firm.