Workers are parting ways with their employers a lot these days.
More than three million people quit their job in May, according to government data.
But even though job seekers have the upper hand right now, keep in mind that how you leave your current job can affect your career in the future.
“Employees need to realize their reputation is at stake,’ said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.com. “The world is getting smaller and we are more connected than even before.”
Know your status
Many companies have new hires sign non-compete agreements that can limit a worker’s ability to work for a competitor or in the industry for a certain period of time.
So before quitting your job, find out if you signed one.
“Most people will sign anything put in front of them during those first few days of employment,” said Donna Ballman, an employee-side employment attorney. “A lot of people have no idea what they signed and then when they put in their resignation, their employer says, ‘here’s a reminder you are under a non-compete.'”
If you aren’t sure if you signed one, Ballman recommended asking your human resources department for a copy of your employment agreement and anything you signed when joining the company.
If you are under a non compete, it’s likely you will have to tell your current employer where you are going. But even if you aren’t bound by any contracts, it’s still a good idea to be transparent.
“It’s best not to sneak around,” Ballman said. “It is best just to tell them what you are doing.”
Tell your boss first … in person
You might be ready to shout your resignation from the rooftops, but your boss should be the first person you tell.
“News travels fast,” warned Yasmin Vora, a recruiter with Core Recruitment. “Tell the boss first. It allows them to manage the situation better and make sure they tell the other employees in the best way possible without causing a stir in the office.”
Don’t just pop into your boss’s office or drop the news in a random hallway run-in. Schedule a time to sit and talk. If you and your manager don’t work in the same office and can’t meet in person, experts said a phone call is the next best choice.
Once your boss knows, it’s fine to tell your colleagues and office mates.
Give as much notice as possible
Two weeks is the generally-accepted warning period that you are leaving your post, but experts recommend giving as much notice as possible.
“The higher up and more executive the position, it is customary to give more notice,” said Salemi.
But be prepared to be asked to leave immediately, especially if you are going to a competitor, said Sue Fox, author of Business Etiquette For Dummies.
Make sure you have all your personal items, like photos and documents on any work-related devices.
“Be very transparent and very careful with what you copy, it’s better not to have personal stuff on a work device,” advised Ballman.
Have a letter ready
Many companies will ask for a resignation letter to formally document the event.
The letter should include your name, your current role and your last day.
Keep it short, Ballman suggested.
“It should be short and sweet, especially if you think you have any claims against the company.”
And don’t place the letter on your boss’s desk and think your job is done. Bring it to the scheduled resignation meeting or have it ready to go when the meeting concludes.
Keep your emotions in check
Even if you hated your job, keep your cool during the exit process.
“Every industry is extremely small. You don’t want to burn any bridges,” said Deborah Brown-Volkman, a professional certified coach. “The person it will hurt in the end is you. It can come back to bite you.”
Don’t slack off
Yes, you have one foot out the door, but you still have to show up to work on time, avoid taking extended lunches, and get your work done.
“Don’t be a slacker,” said Fox. “You don’t want to drop a workload on your co-workers after you leave. How do you want to be remembered? Try and wrap up any unfinished projects, keep working normal hours. This is going to be the last interaction with those people, so you want them to think positively of you and not tarnish your reputation.”