14 Things Every Woman Should Do Before Switching Jobs

So you’ve finally decided to make the big leap and quit your job. Congratulations! That’s a lot on its own. Before you start at a new workplace, there are a few things you should do before switching jobs to ensure a smooth transition. Your goal should be to leave your current job with minimal drama, stay on good terms with as many people as you can, tie up any loose ends, and not go crazy in the process. Easy peasy, right? Ha.

OK, so maybe all of that is easier said than done. Depending on the dynamics of your workplace, leaving a job can be a bit of a minefield, but getting out of there and into a new, hopefully better, situation without too much fuss is possible. Just take a deep breath and keep your head up. As you make the transition, try to keep two major categories in mind: First, think about practicalities. How will switching jobs affect your finances, your insurance, your 401K? This stuff isn’t the most exciting (or at all exciting), but having a handle on how your new job will affect these things will help make sure your life keeps running smoothly as you take on the challenges of a new job. Second, think about how you can leave your current employer with a positive impression of you as a worker and retain useful contacts that may come in handy down the road. It’s a lot to accomplish, but these tips’ll get you started:

1. Think long and hard about why you want to leave your current job, and what your priorities are for your new job.


There are a lot of reasons that you may want to switch jobs. Maybe you feel like there aren’t enough opportunities for advancement in your current job. Maybe you want something with a more flexible schedule. Maybe you want to move closer to your family or significant other. Maybe you like your current job, but a job at your dream company has just opened up. Maybe you feel like if you have to listen to your coworker chewing gum and chatting on the phone for one more minute your head will explode. Maybe you want to switch careers entirely. It’s all valid.

It’s important, however, that you pinpoint just what it is about your current job — or about this potential new job — that’s driving your desire to make a big life change. Is it something that could potentially be fixed at your current job? For example, if you love your job, but you’d like to have a more managerial role, take some time to talk to your boss about potential opportunities for advancement in the future. Couldn’t hurt, right?

If, after a lot of consideration, you feel like switching jobs is the right move, give yourself some time to take a long, hard look at your potential new job. Will it actually fulfill the areas that you found lacking in your old job, or will it just be the same old problems? Changing jobs can be a great thing to do, but of course you want to do what you can to ensure that you don’t end up in the same unsatisfying cycles over and over. Being able to clearly delineate what does and doesn’t work for you in your current job will help you to avoid falling into the same position again.

2. Get advice from someone who is knowledgeable and trustworthy.


Switching jobs can be a really delicate thing; after all, you may want to avoid having your boss and coworkers know that you’re hunting for new work until you’ve gotten everything settled. But if you have a trusted advisor or mentor — or even just a smart, thoughtful friend — it may be helpful to sit down with him or her and game out your next step. Just ask them to keep things quiet until you’ve figured out what you want to do.

3. Tell your boss first.

As Marianne Hayes at LearnVest points out, if you’re switching jobs, it’s good to let your boss know about it first. Resist the urge to tell a coworker about your move, even with a promise of secrecy. The last thing you want is for your boss to find out through the grapevine that you’ve been planning to leave for a long time or that you’ve been blabbing about it to everyone at the office. Even if everything you’ve done has been on the up-and-up, finding out about your departure in this way can leave your boss feeling blindsided and may lead him or her to make incorrect assumptions about you and your reasons for leaving. When you know for sure that you’ll be leaving, talk to your boss first, and well in advance of your departure date.

4. Spend some time assessing how your current job has been valuable to you, and how you have been valuable to the job.


Even if you hate your current job, it’s worth spending and hour or two thinking seriously about how you’ve benefited from it. What skills have you gained? What have you learned? Did you get valuable experience working with clients/working with deadlines/working with a team/etc? Also think about how you have contributed to your job and the company you work for. Doing so — and keeping a record of your thoughts — can help you to leave your job with a sense of positivity and pride. Having these thoughts clear in your mind may also be helpful in future job interviews, as well as in your exit interview with your current employer, should you have one. In that final meeting, you want to be able to leave your boss with the sense that you were a valuable, solid employee.

5. Find someone who will agree to be a reference for you in the future.

When you’re looking for a new job, potential employers will want to hear from people you’ve worked with in the past. Before you leave your current job, think about who would be a good reference for you (both in the sense that he or she will have something positive to say about your work and in the sense that he or she has been well positioned to see you perform your job). Ask that person if they will be a reference for you in the future; it’s also a good idea to let that person know why you’ve asked them, if only to remind them of their experiences working with you (e.g. “You’ve seen me work with X number of clients and develop proposals for these projects...”).

6. Keep things positive!


There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you change jobs, but if you can only remember one thing, it should probably be this: Burn no bridges. If you are in a truly horrible, negative work situation, then there may not be a great way to retrieve any sense of positivity from it (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though). But, in general, when you walk out the door of your current job for the last time, you want your former employers and coworkers to have a good impression of you — after all, you never know when one of those people may crop up again as an important connection. However tempted you may be to rant about everything that ever drove you bonkers at your office, don’t. Keep a smile on your face and stay polite — even if, internally, you’re silently, gleefully counting down the days until you leave.

7. Ease the transition.

Talk to your boss about how you can help with phasing you out and someone else in. That might mean taking the time to train a replacement or creating a “transition plan” (a plan that outlines what projects and tasks you have in front of you and who will be taking care of them when you’re gone).

8. Don’t give into Senioritis.

When you’ve already been hired for your next job, and you’re just finishing up your final few weeks at your current job, it’s very tempting to start slacking off and go into “vacation mode” for a while (à la high school seniors who have already been accepted into college). But if you don’t want to burn bridges (and you don’t), keep giving your job 100 percent until you leave, so that your employers and coworkers are left with a feeling of “She’s so great to work with! How shall we ever replace her?” and not “Ugh, finally.”

9. Leave your clients and contacts on good terms.

If you’re in the middle of a projects with clients, be sure to let them know that you’re leaving, and give them a thorough explanation of who will be handling their projects in the future. Similarly, if you have certain contractors with whom you work frequently, it’s a good idea to let them know that you’re going, so that you don’t simply disappear from their lives. Because who knows? In a few years, you might be in a position to work with them again, and you don’t want their lasting impression of you to be that you’re prone to vanishing acts.

10. Look at your finances.


If changing jobs means that your income will be changing (for better or worse), be sure to put together a new budget so that you can continue to live within your means. Consider how your new job will affect more than just your income — will you be spending money on gas for a longer commute? Will your benefits be the same? If you’re moving for your new job, will housing be more or less expensive in your new city? Take all of these things into account when figuring out your new finances.

11. Think about health insurance.

Find out when your health insurance coverage from your current employer ends and when coverage from your new employer begins. You may find that there will be a transitional period in which you’re not covered. If that’s the case, you may be able to enroll in COBRA or apply for short-term health insurance for the period until your new insurance kicks in. It may be expensive, but that’s better than risking huge debt in the case of an unexpected health crisis.

12. Figure out what to do with your 401K.


When you switch jobs, you have four different options when it comes to your 401K. If you like your current employer’s 401K plan, you can leave your 401K there, although as a former employee, you may owe extra fees for managing the plan. If your new employer has a good plan and you prefer to have all of your retirement savings in one place, you may be able roll your old 401K into the new plan. If you want more flexibility in your retirement savings, you can roll your 401K into an individual retirement account.

The fourth option is cashing out your 401K, but this is generally a bad idea. Saving for retirement may not seem remotely sexy when you’re 26, but you’ll be really thankful for that money (which has earned compounding interest for a few decades) when you’re 70. Besides, when you cash out a 401K, you’ll also owe taxes and early withdrawal fees on that money, which means you’ll lose a lot of your cash right off the bat.

13. Make lots of copies.

As Leslie Moser suggests at The Muse, when you’re leaving a job, it’s a good idea to create an archive of important documents related to that job, as your access to work email, evaluations, and other documents may be cut off when you quit. Obviously, you shouldn’t keep copies of anything that you’re not supposed to have, like confidential documents, but having a collection of documents from this job — from project proposals to performance evaluations and awards — may be really useful in your future career. Say, for example, that you write for a website: Being able to include copies of your writing for that website in your portfolio may be key in future job searches.

14. Take a break (if you can).


Your ability to take time off from working will depend on your particular financial situation. But if you can take a few days off between leaving your current job and starting your new one, do. A break will give you time to wash away whatever stresses or negatives linger from your old job, and allow you to head into your new workplace with a positive outlook and fresh perspective.

Good luck with your new job!

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