Why Graceful Exits Matter in an Organizational Structure


Very few people ever remain in the same professional position throughout their careers. In fact, moving on to greener pastures is typically part of the job description, especially in fields like academics. Instructors become researchers and published authors, who then take their skills further into administrative roles or parallel industries.

Although it’s “normal,” when it’s time for you to make the change from a job you’ve had for a while, it’s not always easy to make the exit happen. You’re probably unsure of how your current administration is going to react, and a bit emotional about leaving behind colleagues who have become your work family. Whether you’re happy or sad about the new adventure on your horizon, you have to be cognizant of the way you’re leaving your old life behind. How you make your exit should be graceful if you want your professional reputation to remain intact.

The Dangers of a Drop and Run Exit

It’s tempting to avoid the emotional entanglements altogether and do a “drop and run,” where you drop the news at the last minute to someone, pack your stuff, and don’t come back. This may work in jobs where the turnover is regularly high, but it’s not acceptable in professional careers. You’ll need the recommendation of the previous administration, and you may end up in a working relationship with them again in the future.

Even if you’ve already been hired in your new position, keep in mind that unforeseen circumstances happen. The new job could fall through, or not be what you had envisioned. If you find yourself looking for another position before you can create a relationship with your most recent supervisors, you’ll have to rely on your previous employer for references. By then, your reputation for dropping and running will be widespread on the campus, and it will be hard to get that recommendation, even from past colleagues.

One more thing to consider: If you’re leaving without notice, your contract may stipulate that you lose benefits like unused sick and vacation days. You could also lose your insurance until your new policy kicks in.

How to Exit Your Current Role Gracefully

It’s time to leave the old behind and start fresh in another work environment. This decision is rarely clearcut and simple, but now that you’ve made the choice, the action steps begin. To ensure you’re not burning bridges (a very dangerous thing to do in academics), follow these tips as you exit one position and enter another:

●      Don’t do anything until the next position is secured, which doesn’t happen until you’ve signed a contract. You can let your current administration know that you’re considering your options. That’s a common positive step that helps them prepare for the fact that you may be leaving, and cushions the blow. This is up to you, but regardless, do not officially quit your current job unless you’ve signed the contract for a new one.

●      Give your current administration notice. Read your contract to ensure you’re giving at least the minimum adequate notice for leaving before you agree to a starting date with the new institution. You’ll need a formal resignation letter, which can serve as your notice. This should include the effective last day of work in your current position. Keep the tone professional, but personable and cordial, letting them know you’re appreciative of the experiences and the skills you’ve learned, but that it’s time to expand your career.

●      Give the letter to your immediate supervisor in person. Text, email, and phone resignations are often unprofessional. At the least, schedule a video meeting to inform them of your decision. They may ask you why you’re leaving. Stick to the facts, and don’t let it become a “bashing” session where you tell them all the things the campus or faculty are doing wrong. That may burn bridges, which, again, is not a good thing in a tight-knit field like academics.

●      Consider who should hear your resignation from you directly. Word gets around quickly on a campus. There are some people, like your colleagues and department heads, who should get the news from you, not a rumor.

Do your best to help make your transition out of your current role a smooth one. Pack neatly, leave a clean office and classroom behind and make a list of your responsibilities, guides, and basic training for the person filling your role. This is a professional courtesy, and it goes a long way toward your scholarly reputation.

Update Your Impactio Profile With Your New Role

You’re officially ensconced in your new position, so it’s time to update those who need to know, like your Impactio network. Don’t forget to update your profile on Impactio, and reach out to your community. Your new role could provide you with a host of opportunities to further your research career with someone on the Impactio network!


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