Career Corner: July-August 2008

In about a year, I will have learned all I can from this job and plan to leave for a higher-level position. My boss is very well regarded in the community. How can I leave while still maintaining our excellent relationship?

Your question is timely, since to leave a job well requires significant planning. You'll want to do everything possible not to burn bridges—both within and outside the organization.

First, observe what happens when other people leave. If they give the minimum amount of notice required by the company, is that considered satisfactory, or inadequate? Unless there is a huge backlash to resignation announcements, try to err on the side of giving as much notice as you can. Your new employer will not wait forever, but the more you can accommodate your current employer's needs, the better.

Second, do everything you can to leave your position in good shape. Go through files before you leave and discard anything that is unimportant. Keep a "successor file" with critical documents and decisions to be made. Make it easy for someone to pick up where you left off.

Third, don't take your employer by surprise. If you trust your boss, involve her in your career plans as soon as possible. Tell her your ultimate goal and ask for help in developing the skills and experience to get there. Ask for feedback and make sure you pay attention to her advice. Expect to be very busy. Expect to have to go above and beyond. But expect, also, that your hard work will pay off in the end.

If you're successful, your boss' connections will become your connections, and she'll likely become your biggest supporter. She may even decide that you're ready for a promotion right where you are.

Curran is the former Fannie Mitchell Executive Director of the Career Center, and coauthor of Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career.

Send questions to

The Career Center, in association with the Duke Alumni Association, provides career advice to alumni.

Call 919.660.1050 for more information or an appointment.

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