Job longevity may be joining the ranks of land line telephones. Sure, there are still “lifers” — people who join a company at the onset of their careers and stay there through retirement — but they are becoming increasingly rare. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employees stay with a job for an average of 4.6 years nowadays.

People quit their jobs for a variety of reasons, usually citing greener pastures elsewhere. Often seeking the advice of a career coach when they feel frustrated with their current job or confused about their next step, we encourage our clients to handle the resignation process with care.

How to Resign Without Burning Bridges: 6 Career Coach Strategies

career coachArrange a convenient time to talk — Don’t catch your boss off guard in the hallway. Rather, set up a time to talk at his or her convenience. If possible, try to arrange the conversation for a time that won’t interfere with the rest of the work day; a Friday afternoon is ideal.

Give ample notice — Follow company protocol, but be flexible, respecting your company’s specific situation. While two weeks’ notice is standard practice, many jobs require very specialized knowledge and skill sets, and that may be an unrealistic time frame. If you’re leaving a small company, try to give your manager as much lead time as possible to find your replacement and allow for training and transition.

Don’t feed office gossip — Many companies have procedures in place for announcing employee departures. Let your boss take the lead and decide when and how to let other team members know about your decision. Avoid the “don’t-tell-anyone-but …” trap. It always backfires, and quickly morphs into a game of telephone operator; each time it is told, the version changes ever so slightly.

Express thanks — Regardless of the circumstances that drove your decision to resign, chances are there were people along the way who helped you achieve success in your position. Take the time and effort to thank them before you leave. Send an email, write a handwritten note or walk over to their desks and offer a handshake. After all, you might want to ask them to serve as a job reference in the future.

career coachRemain tactful — Even if you feel like your manager was a narcissist or that certain company spending policies were irresponsible, think before you speak. Career coaches generally advise that, even in the context of an exit interview, you examine your motives before providing any negative feedback when asked for your reason for departure. If you can frame your comments in a constructive manner, they might prompt changes within the company that help keep other employees from following you out the door. However, if you recognize that you would be venting simply to “get things off your chest,” you are probably better off biting your tongue.

Keep in touch — Once you say your farewells, it doesn’t have to mean goodbye. You’ve likely made valuable networking contacts and, in some cases, good friends. Stay in touch through social media, email, phone calls and, when possible, in-person get-togethers with those people you choose. You never know when you might need to call upon those connections when preparing for a future job or career change.

While your job at a particular company may be ending, if you approach your resignation with care, it doesn’t need to mean the end of the relationships you’ve formed there.

What strategies have you found helpful in resigning from a job without burning bridges?

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