When you're ready to fly the coop and move on to a new job, there's certainly a right and a wrong way to do it. You may no longer need the employer's paychecks, but that doesn't mean you should burn bridges or take steps to damage your reputation. Instead, quit your job with some dignity and take steps to avoid looking bad as you do it.
Write a letter of resignation and give it to your employer in person. Even if you despise the employer or hate the working conditions, there's no need to mention it. Simply state that you're moving onto other opportunities and thank the employer for the chance to work for the company. Give the notice and provide a date two to six weeks in the future as your last day of work. Not giving the employer enough time to find your replacement is one sure way to make yourself look bad. If you're asked to do an exit interview before you leave, state any facts that lead to your decision, but don't make judgments against anyone. For example, it's OK to say you question your supervisor's judgement -- making sure to provide an example -- but don't just say "he's stupid." If your employer doesn't ask for an exit interview, offer to do one, and then show your gratitude for the opportunity to work with the company.
After you give notice to your employer, it's OK to share your news with other members of the staff, provided you continue to avoid passing judgments or making declarative statements about your supervisors or the company. During the time in between your notice and your last day, do your best to wrap up the work you've started. Continue pulling the same amount of weight you've always pulled in the workplace. Slacking off is going to upset your co-workers and paint you in a bad light.
New Job Search
In a tight economy, it's always a good idea to have another job lined up before you declare you're leaving. If you don't have anything else lined up and you're actively looking, avoid conducting any part of your job search using company resources. Use your home computer to search for open positions, and if you don't already have one, get an email address that is not associated with the company. Searching for jobs using company computers, or on company time, can make you look bad.
You may hate your employer and everything about working with the company, but the biggest faux pas you can make is to talk badly about your soon-to-be-former employer. If you speak badly about your employer with co-workers, they may agree with you during the moment -- but as employees who aren't on the way out, they may think badly of you for doing so. Avoiding bad-mouthing applies outside that workplace as well. Any future employers with whom you interview will not appreciate it, as it can make you seem disloyal.
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