Though potentially stressful, leaving a position can also be an opportunity to create an atmosphere of positive change and growth in your professional life. Step number one: leave your job gracefully. Here are some tips, as compiled from my own experiences and the AIGA article: Exit Ethics—Seven Strategies for Karmic Relief.
1) Make a list of what you learned in your previous position. You will most likely be pleasantly surprised at the skills and life lessons you picked up. Saw things at your last job that abhored you? Great. Phrase it in a positive light: instead of “I will never show up unprepared for a client meeting”, try “I learned that clients respect when you come to a meeting prepared.”
2) Zip it. As tempting as it is to talk to your coworkers, clients, or vendors about why you’re taking off, please refrain! Instead, try, “I’m pursuing an opportunity.” They’ll respect your ethics and see you as trustworthy.
3) Be Helpful. Make every effort to make the transition an easy one for your former employer. Make detailed records of where they can find your files, who your primary contacts were, and forward relevant emails. Offer to stay a full two weeks, if that’s an option in your position. Even if they don’t repay your kindness, you’ll find karmic happiness in knowing you took the high road.
4) Determine what’s yours and what’s not. This can be a tricky one, when you consider copyright and trademark protection. In general, work that you did for an employer belongs to the employer. If you’re not sure, consult any agreements you signed when you took the position, ask for permission, or if need be, consult a lawyer. By all means, Don’t use your transition as a reason to contact clients. This was the best advice I ever read on the topic (from the AIGA article listed above):
It’s insulting to think clients can be “stolen.” They do whatever they think best for their companies. It is inappropriate to call on them as a free agent after leaving a firm. Any action considered proactive is discouraged. You should ask the firm what they would like you to say to clients you have had ongoing contact with. Respect their wishes. Patience pays off. If the client sees a drop in the quality of the firm’s work or in the service they receive, they will find you.
If you truly believe that your exit will end the relationship the client has with the firm, you can discreetly give them an e-mail address or phone number so they know how to reach you. This should be in an unsolicitous way and not be followed up on. They will call you if they need you.
Remember that if you’re leaving a position, it’s probably because you and the company were not a good fit for one another. More than likely, a better opportunity is soon to follow! This is a great time to take classes related to your field, try new experiences, and go out an meet people at networking events.