We all have it: the list of dream job qualities. It has to be the right company or group, coworkers with particular qualities and a salary that meets (or exceeds) your basic needs.
What if you land the perfect job and then need to walk away just a few months or years later, thanks to your spouse’s military orders?
This is seriously THE worst, especially if you are at all career-driven or have sacrificed even a little bit to work your way up the ladder. As someone who has been there, very recently, I know it stings, burns and smolders on all fronts.
It doesn’t have to be totally terrible though, especially if you exit gracefully, graciously and on good terms.
How to Say Goodbye to a Job You Really Don’t Want to Leave
Be upfront with your boss.
When I was getting ready to leave my last job (my dream job!), I asked for a face-to-face meeting with my boss as soon as we got orders. This time, the next duty station had a little wiggle room, and I was able to finish out the school year.
We all know that orders aren’t always so easy to work with. Last-minute changes, short notice and unfortunately timed moves, plus the general chaos of a PCS, doesn’t always match up with a non-military work schedule.
As soon as you know, the boss needs to know too. Remember, your company will need to hire and train your replacement and you might need to be a part of that process.
I have found that it is better to schedule a face-to-face meeting, since it makes it more personal. It gives you the chance to be honest and upfront about why you are leaving. Especially if you are leaving because of a military move, you should tell your boss that under different circumstances you would not be leaving or thinking of finding a different position. Use this meeting to set yourself up for positive recommendations down the road.
Make it formal.
After your meeting, submit a formal letter of resignation at least 2 weeks before your last day. Since you already shared your reasons for leaving with your boss, Forbes recommends that you keep the resignation letter short, sweet and to the point.
Here is a basic resignation letter template:
I am resigning my position as [job title here], effective [insert last day of employment here, typically 2 weeks from the date you are submitting this letter].
Thank you so much for the opportunity to work at [The Company]. I have learned (describe a few skills or experiences) that will influence my career in the future.
During my final weeks with [The Company], I am ready to wrap up my current assignments and help the new [job title] acclimate to his/her new position at [The Company]. Please let me know how I can help ease the transition.
I wish [The Company] all future success, and look forward to staying in touch.
It is seriously that simple.
Finish your work before you leave.
Now that you’ve told everyone and submitted your letter (assuming you have 2 to 3 weeks left at your position), don’t slack off.
Whatever is on your plate and can reasonably be accomplished completely before your final day, do it. If it isn’t feasible to finish some of your current projects, you should wrap them up enough to hand them over to your replacement.
If you are leaving some loose ends, keep your current coworkers in the loop too. Let them know your company computer passwords and how to access any files or client contact information. If you are being really kind, you could put as much as possible onto a USB drive or into a zip file.
If you are involved in finding and training your replacement, be a positive person. Let him/her know all the tricks and tips about succeeding in your (almost) former position. Introduce him/her to your coworkers and clients. Generally, show your replacement the ropes.
Cultivate your connections.
You are leaving because of the military and not because of conflict with your coworkers, so keep it that way. As you prepare to leave, be as friendly and approachable as you usually are. Let your work friends know how much you will miss them and why.
As I left my last job, I sent an email to my whole teaching team and other staff I was close with containing my non-work contact info. I shared my personal email with everyone, since my teaching team and close friends already had my social media account info and cellphone number.
I also made sure that I stopped in to see everyone who had helped me even a little bit to thank them personally. I was specific and clear about how I felt they boosted me up and expressed how much I would miss their friendship and professional support.
Secure possible letters of recommendation for now and later.
Since you are leaving on good terms and not as a result of a dismissal or on bad terms, asking for a letter of recommendation should be fairly easy. When I left my last position, I brought up future recommendations in the first face-to-face meeting, right after I told my boss how much I loved teaching and working in his school.
In the age of email, requesting a letter of recommendation or a reference is often as easy as sending your former colleagues and supervisor an email. This is especially important if your future job applications just ask for contact information for your references.
Don’t put someone down as a reference before clearing it with that individual first!
It’s important that the people you ask to provide references for you know you well professionally and will give you a positive reference. Anything less than perfectly positive can be off putting to potential employers.
Leaving a job under any circumstances is challenging. It can actually be more difficult to leave a job that you love unwillingly. You can make it easier by being honest, polite, positive and friendly as you make your exit.