How to quit your investment banking job gracefully

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No matter how frustrated you are with your current position, it’s important to be seen as a ‘good-leaver’. Financial services might seem like vast to those on the outside, but it’s a connected – even incestuous – industry where maintaining the right network is key.

“If you’re working under a cloud, it’s tempting to quit in dramatic style and tell your manager or team what you really think of them,” says Andrew Pullman, a former head of HR at Dresdner Bank and managing director of careers consultants People Risk Solutions. “The reality is that this will come back to bite you.”

In fact, large investment banks tend to view alumni favourably if they move on to a new employer that could broaden their skill-sets and often hire them back later. A number of former Goldman Sachs employees who left for now defunct hedge fund Decura Investment Management have since returned, for example, while Credit Suisse hired former traders back from the buy-side.

So, how should you quit without burning your bridges?

1. Don’t make it about the bank

You may be working for a second tier bank, your team could be lagging its rivals, your manager may be a complete tyrant, but none of these negative thoughts should pass your lips.

“Create a compelling narrative for your exit,” says Chris Roebuck, the former head of HR at UBS investment bank and now visiting professor of transformational leadership at Cass Business School. “You will ultimately be gaining more experience and skills that you couldn’t get at your current employer. People understand these reasons for going."

2. Stick to your guns

Counteroffers don’t work – so say recruitment consultants and HR professionals. “I would never advise accepting a counter offer,” says Pullman. “Invariably the issues at the heart of your resignation are never addressed and people leave a year or so later anyway. Using a job offer as leverage is a bad idea.”

3. Leave on a high

Don’t check out as soon as you hand in your notice; ensure a smooth handover and that everything is in line before you exit. Ultimately, people remember you for your last few weeks rather than your track record before this, says Roebuck.

If you’re in a client-facing role, the chances are that you’ll be placed on gardening leave for three months and assured out of the door on the day you quit. Even here, you can be helpful. “You’re officially still an employee, so help out with any admin or handover issues if asked,” says Pullman. “The fact is, though, that most people are happy to put their feet up for a few months.”

4. Vent in the right places

If you want to express your frustration at a bad boss or the way you’ve been treated, head into an exit interview. A detailed exit interview scores some brownie points in HR and is kept entirely confidential.

“You have to trust in the system,” says Roebuck. “If there’s an unusual amount of attrition around a particular manager, this – combined with the exit interviews – will alert the attention of the HR team.”

5. Don’t be a diva

Assuming that you’ve made up your mind to quit, making demands to your manager when handing in your notice is a mistake. “You’re in no position to be making demands and your manager is not going to appreciate you getting anything off your chest,” says Pullman. “Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re talking to and just remain professional and reasonable.”

6. Stay in touch

If you’re good investment banks will make an effort to keep you connected to the organisation, says Roebuck. Alumni networks, company events or even just maintaining contact with former mentors – all of these are methods to lure you back when the time is right.

“There are key motivations for your former employer to stay in touch,” he says. “You’re a known entity and former staff are a good source of new recruits.”

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