Let me start by saying a few things: you do not have to quit your job in order to travel, and quitting is not the right/best move for everyone. You can travel with a full-time job, in fact many amazing people do it and do it well, and there are plenty of other options like asking for a sabbatical or finding a way to work remotely.
This article is not focused on deciding whether or not to quit (only you can decide what’s right for YOU), but rather what to do once you have made the decision.
In my case, I had been at my corporate job for 5 years and had burnt out to the max – my health and relationships were suffering, I was mourning the loss of a close friend, and I desperately needed a break. I decided to quit my job to invest in my health, spend more time with friends and family, learn new skills (like how to surf!) and travel to new places around the world. It goes without saying that it is also important to sit down and determine whether quitting your job to travel is fiscally responsible and possible, and how long your savings will last.
If you’ve made the very difficult decision to quit your corporate job, it may be tempting to show up to work and shout “I quit, sayonara bitches!”, pull a mic drop and ride out on your unicorn, but here’s what you need to know to leave a job properly without pissing off everyone around you and potentially jeopardizing any future opportunities. It’s fairly crucial to be professional and leave on good terms, even if you have zero plans to return to the company after your travels.
1. Be honest
If you are fortunate enough to be in a team with people that you love working with and respect, then speak to your boss and the human resources department and be upfront about the reason why you are leaving. If for some reason your job is horrible and your boss makes your life a living hell, make sure that you act diplomatically and in a professional manner. Let them know that you are looking to transition, and always thank them for the opportunity. The best way to do this is face-to-face but if you are located in a different country then you may need to schedule a time to do this over the phone or do it via e-mail.
2. Put it in writing
Whether you resign in person, over the phone or over e-mail, prepare a one-page resignation letter and submit it to your boss and to HR. This is for your records and for theirs as well, and does not need to be much longer than 2 paragraphs – just Google “resignation letter template” and you’ll get thousands of results.
3. Provide ample notice
Refer to your employment contract and determine if it stipulates a notice period – it can range from anywhere from 0 days (at-will employment) to 2-3 months. Ensure that you fulfill this obligation, and even if you are not required to give any notice at all, I would personally recommend that you give 2-4 weeks. Obviously this varies across industries, companies, seniority of the position and so on, so determine what is right for you.
4. Don’t gossip
If you’re going to quit, keep your mouth shut and don’t broadcast to the world that you’re going to quit. Once you have handed in your resignation, work with your boss and HR to determine your last day and how your colleagues will be informed. Until then, keep the news to yourself and close friends and family. There’s little point to being negative and talking badly about your boss or company – try to focus on the positive – you can always just say that you’re leaving “for personal reasons”.
5. Offer to help interview and find your replacement
Obviously not compulsory, but almost always appreciated.
6. Help with the handover
If you work at a medium to large-sized company, it is (extremely) unlikely that your department and company will fall apart without you. Nevertheless, this is something I truly think makes a difference: make sure that things don’t fall by the wayside when you leave, and help your team through the transition period. This may mean lining up meetings before you leave to help reassign work and projects, and making yourself available after your last day to answer any questions that arise.
7. Notify your key internal and external contacts
Once your team has been notified of your departure, start reaching out to your key contacts (colleagues from other departments, clients, business partners, customers etc.) in the week or two before you leave. Be brief with regards to your move (you probably want to avoid saying “I’m leaving as I can no longer work for my boss”), it’s often best to just let them know when your last day is, who they can contact going forward, and if you’d like you can offer your personal e-mail address to keep in touch.
8. Don’t slack
While it can be tempting to slip and slack once your last day has been set, try not to. Treat your job the same way you would before you resigned – sauntering into work at 11 am and leaving at 4 pm is probably not a good impression you want to leave before you, well, leave. While I don’t advocate slacking towards your last day, it’s also important not to get yourself involved in any new projects and tasks that you won’t be able to see through.
9. Tie up any loose ends
Work with HR to figure out if you have any unused annual leave and find out what happens to your benefits and 401(K)/pension fund after you leave. Did you sign a non-compete agreement? Make sure you understand how long the clause is effective for and how it may affect you if you decide to begin job hunting again. Also delete all personal documents from your company-assigned computer and devices so you can return them – leave no stone unturned!
These are just some important things to bear in mind so that you can start your travels off on the right foot. Do you have any other morsels of advice to share?