Quitting a job can be cathartic. Burnout, bad bosses, crazy coworkers and / or new exciting opportunities can make quitting a job feel like the ultimate empowerment. Whether it is a move up, over or just simply out - you are on your way! When making that step, be careful of the footprint you leave behind. The National Labor Bureau calculates the average number of jobs in an individual's career path to be eleven or more. Like it or not, that job you are ready to quit, may (inadvertently) be an influence on the rest of your career. A few key steps integrated into your career management can avoid "quit" from becoming a four letter word to your professional future.

Step One: Career Map "Quest"

Your career is your own. What happens in your career, reactive or proactive, is yours - own it. Make a career plan for yourself that accommodates change, obstacle and opportunity. What does that have to do with quitting? Your intended career map should be the navigational tool for when to exit, different routes to take and a point of reference for managing career u-turns, short cuts and side roads.

Step Two: You are HERE, Be HERE

Be open about your future goals, while maintaining focus on where you are. Keep in mind that your boss / manager / CEO want people they can rely on. There is business to be done that you were hired for. Definitely communicate your goals, but do not make the mistake of looking for your next opportunity to the point of distraction. Employment should be a two way street. Your current job is a step in your career path, in exchange for your hard work and performance. Failure to perform well, before quitting, leads to career damage that can take years to recover from.

Step Three: Timing is everything

What does the calendar look like? In other words, leaving during a peak season or known deadline can be just as bad as just walking out. Are you responsible for a unique deliverable that will take considerable lead time for someone to take over? Is someone currently trained to cover for you? Allot time for training and transition. In many cases, four to six weeks is greatly appreciated.

Step Four: Manage the news

Remember that coworkers are not necessarily career copilots. That close confidante may feel happy for you, but also angry at being abandoned etc. and innocently (or not) share your news for you. Management needs to hear from YOU and you alone. Communicate that you are quitting in sequence of hierarchy: manager first, staff and then coworkers. Do not allow room for speculation, be clear and have your exit plan agreed to with management to minimize impact on others.

Step Five: "Leave them wanting more"

This quote applies to every job you may ever have. Even one that you are ready to leave may prove to be the deciding factor in a position down the road. Also, never say "never". Returning to a company in a different area, role, rank etc. is quite common. Make sure performance and professional relationships are stellar. One of the best references anyone can get is: "I would hire them back in an instant".

Step Six: Post-Position Perceptions

Communication is the key to perception. The communication before and after you quit your job can impact an entire career. Be clear with everyone about when you are leaving, what you will be delivering, and where you will be afterwards. The only emotion you want to demonstrate is gratitude for the opportunity that you have had. Be aware of how you use your social media. Remember, words said online or off are heard, seen, saved and searchable. In fact, include your social media strategy with your overall career plan. Maintaining contacts and connections is the key to new opportunities and demonstrating capabilities. Whatever the platform, know who you are connected to, why and maintain a level of communication appropriate to the relationship.

Quit a job as part of a logical step in your career path, and avoid the damage that drama can cause. Focus less on the "quit" and more on managing the "next" steps in path and you will get to where you want to be the on fastest route possible.

by Denise Wargin