By Janet Farley
It doesn’t matter whether you love your job, hate your job, or are completely indifferent to it. Chances are high, as a military spouse, you will eventually leave your job. Among the most often cited reasons for doing so in our universe include PCS orders sending us elsewhere or military-to-civilian career transitions, of the planned or unplanned variety. Of course, there are other reasons such as underemployment, under-appreciation, divorce, career, or other life-driven events.
Why you want to break up with your employer is not the point here.
How you actually do it, however, is.
The following suggestions could help you avoid having a bad breakup in your future.
Make the decision to leave, and stick with it. It’s one thing to daydream about leaving your job but another to actually go through with it. Regardless of your logic for leaving, make sure you are committed to the process. It might help to visualize what a typical day not on the job might be like for you.
Think forward. You have your reasons for leaving. If trading the daily grind of work for the luxurious life of being a kept yet-uncompensated spouse doesn’t figure into the equation, then try to think forward intelligently. Have your next job lined up already if possible. Your creditors will thank you. Your career will thank you.
Tell your boss first. Once you’ve made the decision, you might want to shout at the top of your lungs, “Take this job and shove it.” Don’t rush the big announcement. Timing is key. Judiciously tell your boss first and only your boss unless you are willing to accept the damning risks that often accompany office gossip. Be sure you give your employer adequate written notice, too.
Try not to gloat. You might be ecstatic you finally found a way out of your own personal brand of hell. Good for you, but do be considerate of the poor schmucks you’re leaving behind. Put on a brave face and fake the sorrow of leaving if need be. Your humble behavior will be remembered fondly here on earth and perhaps elsewhere as well.
Facilitate a smooth workload transition. You understand the responsibilities and challenges of your job better than anyone. Do your soon-to-be former organization a good turn and tie up all the proverbial loose ends on your desk. Make sure someone with continued boots on the ground is aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly of all that was yours.
Understand the next steps. If you’ve been an employee of your organization for any length of time, you may have been paying into and/or receiving benefits. What will happen to them as you exit stage right?
For example, will you be required to close or rollover your retirement account? Can you keep it open and just not contribute to it? Will health benefits, if applicable, continue for limited time, or are you out of luck on the stroke of midnight?
What if you have been receiving tuition reimbursement for college classes taken and you are in the middle of one class now or have yet to receive reimbursement from a previous class? Will you ever see that money?
Furthermore, if there were the chance you could work for the same employer at some future point, would you have eligibility or perhaps even a hiring preference to do so? How should that be documented to clarify the point?
Will you actually be resigning your position or going on a leave without pay status? Is there the chance of a company transfer if you haven’t already lined something else up?
In other words, set up an appointment with your human resources representative and get the answers to these kinds of questions.
Determine your eligibility for unemployment compensation. The majority of our states now support unemployment compensation for military spouses relocating because of a uniformed member’s PCS move. Depending on the reason(s) for your departure, you might or might not be eligible. You won’t know until you ask. Find out directly from the source, and contact the Department of Labor for your state here.
Bottom line: Ask the right questions. Get the correct answers.
Assemble your exit file. Now is the time to update your résumé. Include all those exciting skills you acquired in your job while they are semi-fresh in your mind.
Other good documents to gather on your way out the door:
- A copy of your job description
- Your most recent personnel action
- A copy of your latest performance appraisal
- Your latest payroll statement
- Letter(s) of recommendation from those you deem worthy
Finally, if you happen to be a federal employee, ask your personnel office representative to give you a copy of your SF 75 (Request for Preliminary Employment Data). If you ever go to work for the federal government again, your new human resources representative will thank you for making his or her job on-boarding you easier.
Janet Farley is a proud USMC military brat, an Army spouse and the author of several military career transition guides, most recently “Mission Transition: Managing Your Career and Your Retirement,”(Rowman & Littlefield, 2018).