5 critical steps you must take before you quit a job

While the temptation is to play that Johnny Paycheck song or give a simple, "Bye, Felicia" on the way out the door, there are far more productive steps to take before you quit your job.

If you skip them, you risk lost income and a problem employment record. And on an emotional level, you really want to skip hurt feelings or any behavior you might regret, even if you're steaming mad at your soon-to-be-ex-company.

"With a little planning, anyone can make a graceful exit," noted entrepreneurial expert Michael Hyatt. "Life is short. The world is small—and cold. You don't need to create any unnecessary enemies. You've already made an investment in your job. Now make one in your career. Think of the future and keep the end in mind."

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Whether you've had the idea in the works for months, have a new, better position or just recently realized you can't tolerate this workplace anymore, there are essentials to cover before you tell you're boss you're leaving.

»Here are five things you absolutely must do before you quit, according to Hyatt and other business and workplace experts: 

Ask yourself, "Can I really afford this?" The feeling of waking up dreading going to work is all too common, but it can't be the basis for your exit plan, according to the investment advice blog The Motley Fool. "Before you pull the trigger, you'll need to figure out whether quitting is something you can manage financially," it advised. "Most Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, while 39 percent have no savings at all. If you fall into either category, then you're better off sticking out your lousy job until you're able to find a new one." If you let your desire to escape a bad situation overcome financial reason, you might damage your finances and rack up debt, which will only compound your misery.

Plan to exit with dignity and honor. "How you leave a job says way more about our character than how we start," noted Hyatt. He advised avoiding bad talk about supervisors, coworkers or the company, adding, "It will only make you look small and petty. It's amazing how negative comments have a way of spreading—and moving up the org chart. It's a small world."

Even if you don't have any sort of employment contract, you do have a "duty of loyalty," noted Hyatt. "Don't grow slack in your work or let things fall through the cracks. You want to turn your position over to your successor in tip-top shape. You don't want your successor saying, 'No wonder she left. It's a miracle she wasn't fired. She left us with a mess.'"

Take everything that belongs to you. Even if you anticipate an entirely friendly parting, it's wise to get all your personal items out of the picture before you announce that you're leaving, according to HR expert and Forbes contributor Liz Ryan.

This extends to personal leave, which she advised taking before you talk about quitting, and personal files on the hard drive of the company's computer. "You've got to remove them," Ryan noted. "Leave the company files alone, of course! Those aren't yours."

Other things to start bringing home, discreetly, of course, include swag from conferences and clients and contact details of customers or vendors who are personal friends. "Get your photos, music and other important information off the company laptop or desktop machine and store them on another device, one you own," advised Ryan. "Sometimes when people give notice, they're escorted out the door right away!"

Create a short-term coverage plan. Part of the "let's not burn bridges here" approach is making sure you have a plan for who can cover your work in the near term after you leave. "That is the responsible thing to do," Ryan said. "Before you give notice, think through the options. You won't be around to implement your plan, of course, and your boss might have different ideas about the way to cover your desk until she can hire someone new. Still, the more thought you can put into the question, 'What will happen after I leave?' the better!"

Tell anyone who should hear the news from you. You can expect that once you officially give notice, the boss or HR will take over the communication about your departure.

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