Practical Steps When Leaving Your Job

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This is a list of things to think about when leaving your job.

When to leave

Leaving at the wrong time can have a substantial impact on your pay.

  • Is a large chunk of your salary part of a bonus? Some jobs will pay out 50%+ of wages as a bonus. If you quit in October, it's equivalent to leaving behind nearly half of your annual wages. If you're switching jobs you can sometimes get the bonus bought out by the new company, but that won't apply if you quit.
  • Do you have equity or options, and do you lose them upon leaving? If so, how often do they vest? Some options vest annually, biannually or quarterly, in which case it's a good idea to wait until they vest. In some companies you can "buy your way" to the vest time using accumulated vacation days.
    • If you do get equity/options, sometimes you need to accept those grants. Make sure you've done so for anything that will carry over in your a personal account after you leave.
  • Do you get benefits that accumulate by calendar year? If so, leaving in January or February can be substantially better than in December. Here's a few examples:
    • 401k & match. You may be able to max out your 401k in 1-2 months to hit the match. Pushing more money into the 401k where it can grow tax-free is generally good anyway.
    • HSA & match. Same as the 401k, you can put money in these tax-advantaged accounts early in the year. Some companies offer an HSA match or incentive.
    • Charity match. Some companies match your charitable contributions, typically up to some cap per year. You can double your charitable contributions at the expense of the company by donating in both December and January before leaving.
    • Some health care is on an annual basis. For example, a vision plan may give you contacts or eyeglass frames on an annual basis.

Things to do 6 months to a year before leaving

  • See doctors/dentists. Get any vaccines you think you may need, other checkups or less urgent surgeries, or any marginal dental work.
  • Figure out the corporate policy on vacation days. Do you get paid out, or are they lost? How many can you carry over per year? If they're paid out, is it equivalent to your pro-rated salary? If so, you may want to defer vacations until after you quit. For example, if you earn $50k/year, each vacation day is worth about $200.
  • Figure out whether you want to make charitable contributions. You need to figure out how much you want to donate, not to where. If you're donating enough, you can set up a Donor-Advised Fund (for example, through Vanguard Charitable, donate to that, and then only distribute later). Donating in the last year of employment allows you to take a deduction at a higher marginal tax rate.

Things to do soon before leaving

These are things to after your manager/HR knows that you're leaving.

  • Print out any agreements or contracts for reference after you leave.
  • If you have any documents justifying promotions/bonuses, print out a copy. If you are eventually working again, they can be extracted into eye-catching resumes or LinkedIn descriptions.
  • If your company does "360 degree reviews," where you get feedback from others (anonymized or not), print out that feedback if possible. Particularly the good stuff and also be fodder for resumes.
  • Some companies offer general coupon-style perks (through PerkHub, etc). In many cases you can print out coupons for movies at the time of your employment and use them later. Some of these perks are annual bonuses (such as Hotel memberships, car rentals, Vanguard Charitable discounts, etc), which will only expire a year after you sign up, even if you leave the company in the interim.
  • Figure out if there any business expenses you need to claim to be reimbursed for (hotels, taxis, dinners with clients), and submit a re-imbursement request.
  • If you haven't got a new job lead but plan to work at some point in the near future, tweak and update LinkedIn. Doing this out of the blue can be a little suspicious, so it's better to wait until you've given notice.
  • Add any coworkers who you're on good terms with to your LinkedIn acquaintances.
  • For the benefit of your co-workers, if you own any "cloud" documents, folders, shared accounts, transfer ownership to team members. Find appropriate owners for mailing lists, internal products, and other things that may require effort to untangle after you leave. Mail any important non-cloud documents to the appropriate co-worker for reference.
  • It's relatively common to have some personal stuff on a corporate account. For example, a corporate account where you've received Venmo/Paypal/Google Wallet payments from coworkers. Or a to-do list that also includes some personal stuff. Or you signed up for some digital service using your corporate account. Disentangle these. As with other things, make sure you're not transferring something suspicious that will raise IT's suspicions.
  • Send your farewell email. Aim to do it a few days before leaving so you can get a last cup of coffee/lunch/water cooler session. Make sure to include a way for co-workers to get in touch once you've left: LinkedIn, personal website, personal email all work. Follow the custom at your company, but it's generally more convenient to bcc everyone so they can just respond to you directly without spamming a mailing list. Cc your personal email address so it'll naturally get any late emails.

Things to do right after leaving

  • Update your LinkedIn summary to indicate you've left.