I’ve resigned from eight jobs over the past 18 years, and have handled the “giving notice” moments with everything from heartfelt empathy to sadistic glee. In some cases, the writing of my departure was on the wall — or in a catastrophically misdirected e-mail. Other times, the news came as a complete surprise to my boss, despite a string of days in which I inexplicably wore interview suits to work and took two-hour lunches. “Laundry day,” I kept saying.
Giving notice beats getting it, hands down, but quitting can create just as much anxiety. It’s not as easy as taking Johnny Paycheck’s advice from his subtle 1977 hit “Take This Job and Shove It,” or in the more obscure but equally catchy follow-ups “Take This Job and Eliminate It” and “Take This Job and Outsource It.”
Leaving a job on purpose is an unusual concept for our parents and grandparents, who generally stayed with the same job their whole lives. They didn’t have to worry about 401(k) rollovers or expiring stock options before they left. They just had to worry about rolling over and expiring. These days, especially in the media industry, people switch jobs all the time.
Those of you who’ve given notice know it can be complicated. For one thing, you have to act like you share your boss’ pain. If you honestly do, then go ahead and show it. If you don’t, at least try not to giggle.
You also have to pretend that those three sick days, four “car couldn’t start” days, and two “waiting for cable guy” days were not conspicuous ruses for interviewing. (Note: It won’t help to say, “No, wait, that sick day was real!”)
Experts suggest handing your supervisor a brief and upbeat letter of resignation, volunteering to help with the transition and keeping negative comments to yourself. Saying “I’m so outta here!,” though both brief and upbeat, is not a good resignation icebreaker.
If there’s a gap in your medical benefits between jobs, know that employee health care coverage often extends to the end of any month you started, so you may want to time your departure as close to the start of a month as possible to give yourself a long grace period. After that, COBRA kicks in. In case you’re wondering, COBRA stands for “Coverage Only Because Recently Axed.”
I still keep in contact with my old supervisors, and have profited off those relationships. Sometimes we’ve partnered on projects, other times we’ve swapped leads and contacts. So, as they say in contemporary times, don’t delete any bridges. And don’t wax on about your latest job to your soon-to-be ex-colleagues. They’ll nod supportively, but they really don’t want to hear it.
Don’t go around trying to collect the snack run money you’re owed either. It’s gone. Let it go.
Speaking of collecting, some people think it’s fair to take a few office supplies on the way out. Not that I did when I quit my last job. No way… Well, who can really read the writing on blue Post-it notes anyway? I was doing people a favor. And that Ficus plant in the lobby? It’s not like anyone really noticed it.
My co-workers often took me out for lunch on my last day, as per the “free lunch on birthday or last day” rule observed by any U.S. company within five miles of a TGI Friday’s. A day that started with me giving notice typically ended with them getting the check.
That’s the time to say your truly meaningful office goodbyes — outside the office. And remember to order appetizers.