Have you been offered a new job with a new company? Are you ready to retire? Or perhaps you are just fed up and quitting? Here are some tips and considerations to ensure you are prepared before giving your notice:

Research company policy/procedures – There are a number of policies that address items related to leaving employment including how benefits are handled, final pay and other compensation items, requirements for notice, company/confidential information/property, etc. Look up information on your company’s website where you find HR and policy information. Read through these items thoroughly to understand your obligations and what benefits you are entitled to upon your separation.

Calculate your final pay and compensation due – It is important to understand what compensation may be owed to you after you separate employment. Many companies pay on a delay so you’ll likely receive a paycheck after you leave. Calculate your hours worked or salary due for the time period up until your last day. Then be sure you receive what’s owed. If you are eligible for bonus, incentives, sales commission or other compensation items, be sure to check the eligibility qualifications. Some of these programs require that you are actively employed at the time of payout. If this applies to you be sure to plan your last day of employment accordingly.

Additionally, you’ll want to know how any compensation owed will be paid out. Will it be direct deposit or a check that will be mailed to you? If it’s direct deposit you’ll want to ensure your bank accounts remain active until the compensation is received.

Paid Time Off balances – Do you have a remaining balance for vacation, personal, or other paid time off categories? What is the company policy for paying out these balances? What if you have a negative balance? Will this be deducted from your final pay?

Be sure to know how your paid time off balances are calculated and what your balance will be as of your last day. Companies have varied ways of how they allocate time off. Some front load the time at the beginning of each year, others allocate on a monthly or per pay basis. This should be spelled out in the paid time off policies.

Know your standard benefits – Specifically, you’ll want to know the following:

When do your benefits terminate? Is it on the last day of active employment, the end of the month, or other date?
What options do you have to continue your benefits? COBRA provides for continuation of health, dental, and vision coverage for employees and their covered dependents. This may be necessary to bridge the gap before your new coverage takes effect. There also may be opportunities to convert your group life insurance or voluntary benefits to an individual policy. Each plan should outline continuation or conversion options in the associated plan documents along with how the premium rates are calculated.

Know your retirement benefits – Are you fully vested (entitled to ownership) in your retirement benefits such as a 401(k), 403(b), or a defined benefit pension plan? Some plans have vesting schedules that determine when you become eligible for the benefits you’ve accrued in the plan. Be sure to know if you’ve reached these key dates or how close you are to meeting them. If you are weeks or days shy you may want to consider postponing your resignation until you’ve reached the required effective date. Otherwise, you could forfeit these benefits.

If you are retiring, have you met the years of service and/or age requirements to be eligible for the company retirement benefits? Do you know when they will commence after your retirement? What options do you have for commencing or postponing your retirement benefits? These are critical financial matters that should be thoroughly researched before you provide notice. You may also want to consider speaking to a financial advisor to help guide you in understanding your options.

Know what you can and cannot take with you when you leave  – The Company’s corporate policies should outline what is considered confidential and proprietary information that you are not allowed to have access to upon your termination. You may be tempted to take copies of information that you created or helped to create such as new processes, programs, templates, etc. Most employers consider this to be company property and require you to return any copies you may have in your personal possession and dependent on the sensitivity or value of these items may make attempts to recover these from you through legal action if necessary. Employers may monitor your system access to determine if you have emailed, printed or otherwise sought to obtain information after you’ve given your notice.

If you did create or co-create a new process or program you can ask your employer for permission to have access to this information. If you are leaving on good terms and are not going to a competitor they may be open to this.

Be respectful and professional – When giving notice, do so in a professional courteous manner. Provide a written letter of resignation. For most employers, you are not required to state why you are leaving or information on your new opportunity. The exception to this may be if you are asked if you are going to a competitor. The company policy may require that you disclose this information. Your letter should include the effective date of your resignation and thank your employer for the opportunity and experience you gained. It is important to remain professional and productive during your transition. Take the time to hand-over your assignments to others, train others as necessary, tie up loose ends, etc. This will help ensure continuity in the department which will be much appreciated by your leadership and coworkers. This may be hard to do if you’re leaving due to frustration, a bad boss, and/or toxic work environment. Rise above this and go out with dignity and your head held high. This will show others your professionalism and maturity and you never know when your paths may cross again with any of the individuals you worked with. Also, you may want to consider applying to the company in the future and don’t want to jeopardize your re-hire eligibility.

How much notice to give – First, research your company policy to determine if there is a requirement for any length of time. Most at-will employers will not require a time-frame but do recommend a period of 2 weeks courtesy notice. As stated above, you’ll want to ensure that you have achieved any key milestone dates before giving notice so as not to jeopardize eligibility for certain compensation or benefit items. Also, as mentioned above, you’ll want to be professional and courteous. Some leaders or employers may choose not to consider an individual for re-employment if they did not provide adequate notice when they left especially if this leaves your employer in a bad situation, business is disrupted or customers are negatively impacted.

Be prepared for a counter-offer – If you are a highly valued employee or have a niche skill set, you may be presented a counter-offer to convince you to stay. This may include a salary increase, promotion, stay-bonus, or other consideration. This may be very tempting, however it is advised that you proceed with caution. First, consider why you are leaving in the first place. If you began seeking other employment you were likely not satisfied with your current situation. The circumstances will not likely change or improve for quite some time; if at all. Second, if you have already accepted the new offer of employment you may end up burning a bridge with this new employer. Finally, if you do decide to stay and take the counter-offer be sure to obtain the new offer in writing. You may face a circumstance that your direct manager provides you an offer that you later find out was not approved.

Be prepared to be asked to leave immediately – this often occurs in situations when you are going to a competitor and the organization is trying to mitigate the risk of loss of sensitive information, customer lists, etc. This also may occur in situations where an individual is on a corrective action plan or the employer has concerns about the employee’s behavior during the transition, or that the departing employee will become disruptive.

If you are asked to leave and not work out your notice, ensure that your employer pays you for the notice period. If you gave proper reasonable notice and were available for work then your employer should pay you for this time. If they do not agree to pay you for this time contact your HR department to inquire about it. If you don’t have luck there you could also consider applying for unemployment compensation for the period that you were available for work that your employer did not honor. Each state has different regulations related to unemployment eligibility so this is not a guarantee, but may be worth pursuing.

Provide transparent feedback in a professional manner – Once you give notice, you may be asked to complete an exit questionnaire or participate in an exit interview. The questionnaires are typically confidential and not provided back directly to management. HR collects data to help diagnose work environments and what may be causing turnover. You are encouraged to give your direct feedback on challenges you faced and recommendations for creating a better work environment. Just be sure to do so in a helpful constructive manner and do not bash your leader or the organization. If you are highly negative, vulgar, or otherwise inappropriate in your feedback it will be dismissed as coming from a disgruntled employee.

In conclusion, be knowledgeable about your obligations, rights, and benefits that you are entitled to upon your departure. Also, it is important to understand that your personal brand is at risk if you choose to leave an employer in a disruptive unprofessional manner. Take the high road if you are leaving under negative circumstances. Take away the positives that you gained while working at the organization. Even bad situations provide us learning, growth, and confidence that we can handle difficult conditions without it changing who we are.

If you’d like to discuss your personal situation with a professional career coach, contact Life Journeys Consulting, LLC via www.lifejourneysconsulting.com.

Best wishes on your career transition.

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