When you decide to move abroad, it’s tempting to do a little bridge burning before you go. It can be satisfying (if childish) to say the equivalent of “Take this job/relationship/country and shove it.” But remember, you may want to come back to your job, or, even better, to freelance for your former employer while abroad. Think of the job you’re leaving not just as something you’re giddy to be rid of, but a source of invaluable contacts (among your peers if not your bosses).
Lifehacker has a short article on how to leave a job gracefully, with an interesting thread of comments from people who’ve left jobs well and (more commonly) with some clumsiness. I know I’ve been guilty of clumsiness and bridge-burning—it seems to go hand-in-hand with being a serial relocator. Most of us tend towards one of two poles: the smoother-over, who never wants to make any kind of break or change, and the bridge burner, who’s always itching to strike that match.
Over the years I could have used some of the following tips, adapted from Sandra Naiman’s book “The High Achiever’s Secret Codebook: The Unwritten Rules for Success at Work”:
- Give two weeks’ notice. Both your past and future employer will consider it a plus.
- Explain that you are leaving because of growth opportunities, not due to dissatisfaction, even if it’s not true.
- On your last day, write your boss and colleagues a thank you note about how much you enjoyed working with them.
- Offer to train your replacement, and if possible, be available after you leave to answer questions.
- Make sure your work is caught up before you leave and write notes, when relevant, to guide and inform your replacement.
- If you have external customers or colleagues outside of your company or organization, work with your boss on how to transition them to your replacement.
- When telling customers or external colleagues you are leaving, say only good things about the company and your experience there.
- Let people know you only want to leave the job, not the relationships you have built.