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How to Quit Your Job The Right Way

By Meridith Levinson, CIO
March 29, 2011 03:08 PM ET

CIO - Given signs that the IT job market is finally thawing, IT professionals are actively searching for better career opportunities. Who can blame them? After two years of withering under budget cuts that left people more overworked and underpaid than ever, IT professionals at all levels are ready to jet. Many of you can't wait to tell your employers, "I quit!"

As you prepare to tender your resignation, you may be tempted to go down in a blaze of glory, à la former Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater. But quitting your job in a flamboyant fashion is a strategic career mistake.

IN PICTURES: I quit! 8 dramatic ways to leave your job

First of all, you'll never be able to rely on that employer for a reference, says Steven Miranda, chief global HR and content integration officer for the Society for Human Resource Management. Even if you don't proffer your former employer's name when a prospective employer asks you for references, he adds, the hiring manager might still call your old boss.

What's more, remember that the world is small. In a future role, you may end up working with or for that boss or those colleagues whom you roasted on your way out. "As I think about my 35 years of working, it's constantly amazing to me how many times I encounter a former colleague, boss or subordinate in a new organization who has some level of influence, impact or persuasion upon a project or initiative that I'm working on," says Miranda.

If you leave on bad terms, you'll lack political capital if you need those coworkers in the future.

Most importantly, when you leave a job anything less than graciously, you run the risk of ruining your reputation. "Your resignation is the last official act you'll do, and it's the way you'll be talked about and remembered for a while," says Jacques Aboaf, vice president of strategic development for job search website Vault.com. "It's an opportunity for you to define how you want to be remembered. Leaving on bad terms can negate years' worth of good will [that you've built]."

You may be surprised to learn how easy it is to bruise your personal brand on your way out the door. Even without blatantly burning your bridges, your departure can still inspire ambivalent feelings about you in your boss and coworkers. All it takes is leaving your workspace a mess or leaving your colleagues in the lurch. To make sure you end your job on a high note, consider this advice from career and HR experts on four key matters: holding the "I quit" conversation with your boss, determining how much notice to give, writing your resignation letter and leaving a positive last impression with colleagues.

How to Tell Your Boss, "I Quit!"

Whether you're leaving a good job or a bad one, telling your boss "sayonara" can be awkward. After all, your leaving will most likely create some hardship for him or her (your boss will have to start the time-consuming process of finding your replacement) and remaining staffers (who will have to pick up your work in the interim). Your boss may also take the news personally, as an indictment of his or her management style.

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