How to leave your job for your startup gracefully

If your dream is to work on your startup full-time, the day will come where you’ll have to have that conversation with your boss and leave your job. Whether you’re feeling nervous or exhilarated by the decision, giving in your notice should always be done gracefully – and this is even more important when you’re leaving to work on your own venture.  Who knows which contacts you’ve made throughout your career will become useful ones in your startup’s future? Here are ways to ensure you make the right kind of exit.

Is it definitely the right time?

Don’t quit on a whim – ensure you’ve spent plenty of time preparing from the transition from employment to working on your own venture. It’ll be a shock even if you’ve been working on your business in your spare time (which you should have been). As well as preparing yourself for the lifestyle change, ensure that you’re prepared for working life without any of the resources or benefits you enjoy in your job, even down to the use of a printer or a limitless supply of paperclips.

Review your contract and make sure you’re legally sound

Check your notice period and any other clauses in your contract, such as non-competes. Especially if you’re working in the same industry, you’re likely to have a stipulation that you can’t take clients with you, something that could have serious ramifications if you ignore.

When it comes to notice periods, working for the time you’ve promised to your employer is a solid goodwill gesture, making their life easier by smoothing the handover process and helping them find your replacement. If you’re really keen to get going, ask if you can forfeit your notice period in lieu of pay – but remember the key thing is to keep relationships as positive as possible. Unless you’re at a crucial, extremely time-sensitive stage with your startup, or your boss wants you to leave sooner, working your notice period might well be a strategic move.

Say it in person

Nobody likes resigning, and as tempting as it might feel to whack it all in an email or letter to your boss, telling them face to face will always go down much better. Schedule a meeting and resign in person, backing it up in a simple resignation letter afterwards.

Be positive

You’re resigning for your own startup, not a competitor or because you’re desperately unhappy, so emphasise this and keep things upbeat. It’s an opportunity for you and your career, and a good boss should recognise this and be supportive.

If there are negative things you’d like to air, it’s not the time to list every single grievance. Unless it’s something serious, such as something that affects the health or safety of other colleagues, a discreet silence can sometimes be the best approach.

Do a good handover

Keep that positive attitude going throughout your notice period – don’t feel tempted to phone it in or slack off. Ensure that your replacement will have a pain-free transition into your role. Going over your duties and tasks in detail can actually be beneficial by reminding you of where your skills lie and where you could do with a little work, even if your startup isn’t in the same industry as your job.

Don’t burn your bridges by being rude or seeming ungrateful;  it might feel tempting to walk out of the office holding a beer and yelling “I’m outta here to follow my dream!”  but you never know how things might work out for your startup. If you do approach your employer for a reference in the future you want your last impression to be a good one.

Keep in touch

Before you leave, make sure you have the contact details of any colleagues or useful contacts you’d like to keep in touch with (as long as that’s legally okay, as mentioned above). Set up coffee or a meeting when you’re ready to keep the connections strong and see how they can be beneficial to your new venture. As long as there’s no conflict of interest and you’ve got a positive relationship with them already, people are likely to be flattered that you want them to be involved with your new project, or even to just keep in touch. Don’t be shy!

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