There’s much advice written about How to get a job. Not a lot about How to leave a job.

There’s a couple aspects to this activity:
A. Making a decision to leave (though sometimes this decision might be made for you)
B. Exiting yourself from the job
C. Transitioning to a new job

We cover them in a 3-part series. This first part is this article: B. Exiting yourself from the job.

B. Exiting yourself from the job

The decision is made – you’ll be leaving and the boss knows. How you leave a job, is just as important as how you start a new job, so get ready to invest time and energy in the leaving activity.

The advice below can be relevant to all situations – even if you are leaving because you aren’t happy in the current gig or leaving because your role was made redundant.

The advice is organised using three of the seven Responsibilities in being Self unLimited.

Consider Reputation as you exit

  • Thank people who have been meaningful to you and tell them why.
  • Treat people with respect, and if there are people who have caused you too much pain to, then simply avoid them. You don’t have to be a martyr. Act gracefully – people won’t forget how you made them feel.
  • If you want to retain a positive reputation, then be intentional about positive emotions like gratitude and kindness.
  • Create a ‘leaving story’ that is truthful to you, and not harmful to others. Your leaving story can be a mix of what you look forward to in the future, and what has happened in the past to bring you to this point. Tell this story when people ask why you are leaving. (If you don’t control the narrative of your leaving story, then there’s a risk others will tell a story of their own making that may not be in your best interest.)
  • On a practical note, be sure to note down the highlights of this job and the lessons you have learnt. This is good material for future job applications. Where you can identify people or artefacts that can support those highlights/lessons as 3rd party evidence. It’s also good to have this kind of knowledge recorded to see how much you’ve grown over time. Even if nobody else gets to see it, you’ll be able to feel good and bolster your spirits when they are low.
  • Update your online profiles in a timely manner. Show you are in control of the information flow!

Consider Relationships as you exit

  • Identify the people that will have enduring value to you and let them know they are important to you.
  • Share contact details with important people so they can easily reach you when you are no longer inside the same organisation.
  • Offer to write a recommendation or be a referee for people you would genuinely recommend. (If you don’t write a recommendation right now, be sure to note a few key points while they are fresh in your mind to use later.)
  • Make key people part of your ‘leaving’ process – there may be a sense of loss for all involved. It’s not like you died, but it is a moment in time where things have significantly changed. It’s worth taking time and consideration to acknowledge this with shared stories and hospitality.

Consider Renewal as you exit

  • Be kind to yourself during this period. Your emotions will likely be mixed and heightened. Processing emotions is tiring work, so the basics of self-care are important.
  • Identify the areas where you want to grow or enrich yourself. This is a useful moment in time to give such consideration. When you get busy with settling into a new job, you’ll be focused on what learning the job needs, rather than any bigger picture stuff.
  • There is sure to be things that you would rather forget about the job you are leaving. Take a moment to appreciate that they may have taught you something valuable like what you will Not-Tolerate, or what is More-Important to you. The dark-sides of life can often reveal unexpected goodness after they have passed.
  • Plan a break before you start the next thing. Give space for resetting and recharging yourself. Think of some personal rituals that can more meaningfully mark endings (and beginnings) and involve important people outside the job in these.

May you have respectful and meaning experiences as you leave a job. Do what you can within your power to make it so!

In the second part of this series, we look at A. Making a decision to leave.



Helen Palmer, Founder of Self unLimited, has not followed a traditional path in her ‘career’, nor does she intend to. It’s been her personal experience that she’s made plans, then life happened and things went in a direction that wasn’t anticipated. As a consequence she’s fascinated by the emergent and serendipitous approach to life and work. She thinks about ways to help others navigate the future of work, given the ambiguous possibilities and opportunities if there is courage to take that journey. And for good measure, she likes to inject humour and originality into her work.


(Amended) Photo by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash

How to leave a job: B. Exiting yourself from the job
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