Leaving a job involves many different steps: giving two weeks notice to your boss, handing off work to your colleagues, eating too many cupcakes at the goodbye party.
But one common predicament is whether you need to let people know where you’re going. It’s normal for people to ask, but there are many occasions when you’d rather not tell.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s always OK not to tell people where you’re headed. It’s your business, and you can keep it to yourself for any reason you like. That said, it can come across as rude or weirdly secretive if you avoid the topic and create negative feelings that might have an impact down the road.
Like so many things at work, whether or not to tell depends mostly on your relationships with your boss and with your co-workers.
Here’s your guide to deciding if you should share.
Yes if: Your Boss Is Trustworthy
Are they the sort of boss who’s demonstrated that they’re happy to see you succeed and want you to advance your career? If so, feel free to tell them where you’re headed (and be sure to stay in touch for future networking and references).
No if: Your Boss Is Vindictive
A vengeful boss can use their influence to sabotage you at a new place, either by spreading industry rumors or going to your new employer and telling them not to hire you (terrible, but it happens). If your boss is like this, be vague: “I’m considering a couple of different options” you can say.
Yes if: You Have a Good Relationship With Your Co-workers
If they’re not the type to gossip and you know they won’t spread private information all over the company, go ahead. And enjoy their congratulations!
No if: You’re Going to a Direct Competitor
Unfortunately, some companies will ask you to leave immediately if you’re going to work for a competing business, and you won’t get to work out your notice period. If you’ve seen things play out this way before, keep it to yourself.
Yes if: You’re Going Freelance
Staying in the industry but planning to work as a freelancer or consultant? If there’s a chance your current company might hire you as a contract worker, spread the word! It’s a win-win.
No if: You’re Quitting Without a Backup Plan
Even if your plan is to be happily funemployed for a while, it’s not a good idea to spread that around. If you’re aiming to re-enter the industry at some point you want to leave the impression that you’re continually improving your skills and staying valuable.
Tell people you’re going to be freelancing, consulting, or something along those lines: it signals that you’re still a player and they shouldn’t forget about you when and if new opportunities come along.
The majority of the time, deciding whether to tell people where you’re going depends on them—their trustworthiness, their usefulness in the future (maybe you’re going freelance and they’re in charge of hiring contractors), and how they’ve handled similar situations in the past.
Protecting yourself should come first—if there’s any doubt in your mind as to whether sharing this information could be damaging, then keep it to yourself.