The Next Step

An ending is always a new beginning, especially in your career.

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An ending is always a new beginning. Let's say you've decided to leave your current job for a better one, a different lab, or a new career opportunity. Once you've given your notice, what's the next step? Should you burn bridges or exit gracefully? And what about that exit interview?

Time to Go
If you're straddling the fence, it could be time to go. Forbes offers signs to look for that could help you decide, a few of which are listed in the Table. The article also points out that while signs can be obvious to family members and coworkers, some people will be unaware while others will try to improve the situation, deny there is a problem, complain, or rationalize staying. The difficulty isn't knowing we have to leave, adds career site executive Teri Hockett, but making the change itself.1

Another Forbes contributor points out that change can be a push to move on. People may cling to a job during a recession but look at different options as the economy improves.  A culture shift or change in priorities could foreshadow layoffs. And if change doesn't include you, it might be deliberate, signalling that it's time to move on.2

To help decide, start with a "pros and cons" list, being brutally honest about why you are dissatisfied and if leaving will really improve your life and career. As one strategic analyst writes, "If your work makes you physically ill or affects your mental or emotional health, or if you have professional philosophies and objectives that are diametrically opposed to the company's senior management, it might well be time to leave."3

Burning Bridges
Once you've finally decided to leave, you feel relief. Resentments and frustrations can surface, and you can think that since you have nothing to lose, it's time to tell everyone what's really wrong with them. It's tempting to burn bridges, telling off coworkers, calling out the last few days, and spouting off on social media.

Don't do it. Ever.

Business is about relationships, and healthcare is no exception. Your laboratory networks with other departments, laboratories, and hospitals. We're more connected than ever before, and relationships are more important than ever. As organizational psychologist Michael Woodward puts it, "Don't ever underestimate who is connected to whom and how fast word can travel. Many people just forget how important it is to maintain their bridges."4

What if the place and people are fine? It's not uncommon to quit a boss. According to Gallup, the top reasons we quit are an environment created by a bad boss and how we feel we've been treated.5 That's still no reason to torch the place. Your coworkers will pay the price, because they have to take up the slack after you leave. Your boss won't care after the shock and anger wears off. And nothing in the culture will change. Wendy Goffe, a trusts and real estate lawyer, blogs in Forbes, "Amazingly enough, they get over it-quickly."6 All you've done is ruin relationships you may need in the future.

Exit Interviews
If you decide not to give the company both barrels with your opinions, they may line up in your sights anyway. Human Resources may conduct an exit interview to ask questions such as, "Why are you leaving?" and "What would you change about your job?" Job search expert Alison Doyle points out on About, "This is your opportunity to give feedback,"7 and she's right to a point.

Table: Is it Time to Go?

  • No passion - the feeling of excitement you had when you first started working at the job is gone
  • You dread going to work in the morning
  • Your company is sinking
  • Constantly stressed, negative, and/or unhappy - especially if you feel this way just thinking about work
  • Your health is affected
  • You no longer have a good work-life balance
  • Your skills aren't being tapped and management doesn't acknowledge you or passed you for promotion
  • You're asked to do more but not being paid more
  • You've outgrown your position

Approach an exit interview with caution, especially if leaving a job you hate. Recruiter and author Nick Corcodilos describes the credibility gap between an employer's expectation that feedback will prevent future resignations and reality. "This is purely wishful thinking, and very naive at best," he writes. "Exit interviews invade an employee's privacy and insult his intelligence. Employers can't possibly believe they're going to get credible information in such a meeting."8

An exit interview isn't your problem, and why you're leaving is your business. As Forbes points out, honesty has pros and cons. Author Alexandra Levit tells Forbes, "If you don't have anything nice to say, lie."9 Being honest may not do any good and can hurt your reputation.

As tempting as it is to tell your employer exactly what's wrong, why you're leaving, and why your boss is a jerk -- after all, they're literally asking for it -- don't do it. Solicited or not, burning bridges won't help your career.

Leave With Grace
Leaving a job is a choice to end a professional relationship. It's not unlike a romantic breakup, in that it should be done with accepting responsibility and without blame. "It's not you, it's my career" is one way to look at it. It's also your choice to leave with grace and dignity, demonstrating your value and earned respect through your last moment on the job.

Here are great tips to follow from US News and World Report:10 

  • Resign in person. It shows respect and confidence in your interpersonal skills.
  • Give notice. A two-week notice is a recognized minimum, but it also allows for a transition to begin. Some positions may need more notice.
  • Don't think you have to explain. Depending on how well you get along with your boss and other factors, you might want to say why you're leaving, but fact is you don't have to. It's best to take the high road and be positive about the impact you've made.
  • Avoid outbursts. Quitting carries an emotional punch, and your employer can get angry. Stay cool and be positive; you may need these relationships down the road.
  • Don't leave them stuck. Be willing to stay a little longer to finish critical projects. The working world is a small one, and your professional integrity is everything in it.

It doesn't hurt to thank those who have helped you and to stay in touch. Leaving with grace ends on a positive note and gives you the best shot at a positive next step to providing better patient care.

Scott Warner is laboratory manager, Penobscot Valley Hospital, Lincoln, ME.


  1. Smith J. 14 signs it's time to leave your job. Available at: www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/09/04/14-signs-its-time-to-leave-your-job/. Last accessed Mar. 25, 2014.
  2. Goudreau J. Top 10 signs it's time to leave your job. Available at: www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2011/03/17/top-10-signs-its-time-to-leave-your-job/. Last accessed Mar. 27, 2014.
  3. Thompson M. How to make a decision to leave a job. Available at: work.chron.com/make-decision-leave-job-5969.html. Last accessed Mar. 27, 2014.
  4. Smith J. How to leave a job so you can come back some day. Available at: www.forbes.com. Last accessed Mar. 28, 2014.
  5. Businesspaths. People quit their boss, not their job. Available at: http://businesspaths.net/Articles/12/people-quit-their-boss-not-their-job. Last accessed Mar. 28, 2014.
  6. Goffe W. How to quit your job without burning bridges. Available at: www.forbes.com. Last accessed Mar. 28, 2014.
  7. Doyle A. Exit interview questions. Available at: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/sampleinterviewquestions/a/exit-interview-questions.htm. Last accessed Mar. 29, 2014.
  8. Corcodilos N. Exit interview, stage right. Available at: www.asktheheadhunter.com/haexit.htm. Last accessed Mar. 29, 2014.
  9. Smith J. You quit your job. Now they demand an exit interview. What do you say? Available at: www.forbes.com. Last accessed Mar. 29, 2014.
  10. Guerrero A. 8 ways to graciously quit your job. Available at: http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2013/08/12/8-ways-to-graciously-quit-your-job. Last accessed Mar. 31, 2014.

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