As the saying goes, nothing lasts forever…At some point in a person’s career they will have to go through the process of leaving a job. Whether it is on good terms or bad, it’s important that you leave the right way. Down the road, your future employers will inevitably check your references. You don’t want to burn any bridges and put your reputation in jeopardy by mishandling your exit from a job.

There is no way to guarantee your previous employer puts in a good word for you; but no matter what, you should always exit a company professionally. Here are a few ways you can do just that.

Make Sure Your Future is Set

Before you close one door, make sure the next one is open. Don’t let anything be up in the air or in question with your new employer. This means you have signed your employment contract, and you have an official start date set. Make sure all these things are in place before you notify your current employee that you are leaving.

Don’t Coast through Your Last Few Week

Allow the company’s transition from you to another employee to be as smooth as possible. You don’t want to leave without finishing important projects, making your boss have to hand it off to another employee or, even worse, your replacement, who may not be ready for important projects yet. Make sure all of your important work is finished before you exit.

Give Your Current Employer Enough Time

When leaving a company, it is expected that you’ll provide them with two weeks’ notice. This time frame gives you and the company the proper amount of time to transition. If you leave abruptly, it can affect your reputation and leave the company in a frenzy trying to figure everything out. Also, choose a day and time that is least disruptive to inform your boss. He or she will probably be surprised, so you want to inform them when things aren’t as busy to give them time to properly absorb the news and come up with a plan.

Have an In-Person Meeting

The last thing you want to do is tell your boss via voicemail, or through a text or email. Set a day and time with him to have a sit-down meeting to inform him of the news. Be upfront by telling him how much longer you will be working there and when your start date is with your new employer. Lastly, be appreciative. Tell your boss about how positive and rewarding your experience has been with the company. This will go a long way and start your exit process on a good note.

Make it Official in Writing

Create an official letter of resignation stating you’re leaving the company and when your last day will be. It is best to prepare this letter before your meeting with your boss so you can hand it to him in person. Having this letter makes your exit official and leaves little room for confusion. The last thing you want is to be ambiguous. You want the process to be black and white, cut and dry, so you and the company can begin acting accordingly.

Your transition from one job to another can have a lasting impression on your career. It is important to keep all bridges intact because you never know when you’ll need a reference down the road. Be professional, upfront, and leave yourself and your employer with enough time to handle the transition properly.