For many women, working up the nerve to hand in your two weeks’ notice is a long and terrifying process. There are a host of unanswered questions. How will your boss react? Will you finish out the two weeks or be asked to leave right away?  How will your co-workers behave? How should you behave? Should you wait until you already have a new job?

If you want to leave your job and pursue a new path with maximum confidence and minimum trouble, use our five strategies to make a professional exit that won’t damage your future opportunities.

Don’t make it personal

Remember, this is business. You have as much right to look out for the well-being of your career as your employer has to safeguard the interest of her company. Leave your emotions at the door–and don’t pick it back up until you’re out of the office. You don’t ever want to burn bridges as you leave.

If you hand in your notice and are asked to leave immediately, don’t argue or get angry. Simply thank your boss for the opportunity to work there and go clear out your desk.

Large businesses are often used to employees coming and going. If you work for a small business, it can be a little trickier for the owner to remain detached when you leave.  Have some sympathy for this–remember, this is her life’s work–but don’t let it change how you do things. Even if she reacts badly, or levels personal attacks at you or your work, remain professional.

Offer to train your replacement

If you haven’t already secured a new position, any new prospects may call your old employer for a reference. For this reason and others, it’s important to leave a good impression when you go.

Offering to train your replacement, whether your boss takes you up on it or not, shows that you have the interests of the company in mind. By trying to make the transition as smooth as possible for your employer and co-workers, you demonstrate that you are a team player to the end, and people will remember that.

Get what you need before you leave

If you want to keep any work-related files or email exchanges, make sure you have them before you hand in your notice. Of course, you should never take anything with you that is confidential or company property. However, there may be work samples that would be pertinent to your portfolio or important email exchanges that could turn out to be helpful. After you give your two weeks’ notice, you may lose access to the company network or your work email almost immediately.  Assemble important documents on a personal hard drive and forward email to a personal account.

Avoid explanations, or put them in writing

In general, it is better not to get into your reasons for leaving. Whether speaking with your co-workers or supervisor, keep your reasons neutral and non-confrontational. Even if you hated your job so much that you dreaded getting out of bed Monday morning, stick with a stock explanation like, “An opportunity has come up that is great for advancing my career, and I feel that now is the best time for me to pursue it.”

Don’t lie, but be non-specific when you can. Remember, you don’t want to say anything that could impact you negatively down the road.

If, however, you have legitimate complaints about your supervisor or work environment, those should be delivered to upper management. Lay your concerns out in writing, cite specifics, and keep a copy of the letter for yourself. The company may follow up with you or not, but you could be doing a huge favor to whoever has your job next.

Have a plan for what comes next

Ideally, you shouldn’t give your two weeks’ notice before you have a new job lined up. That way you keep getting a paycheck and your resumé doesn’t have any awkward holes in it. As soon as you start planning to leave one job, you should begin the search for the next one.

Sometimes, though, you just need to get out, even if the next opportunity hasn’t turned up yet. In that case, it’s still important to have a plan for what you will do until you get that next job.

What sort of job do you want to have? Who will you contact? Which networking events can you attend? Does your resumé need updating? Are there training classes you can take to develop new marketable skills?

Research charities where you can volunteer or non-profits where you can do pro-bono work to avoid any resumé gaps.

Having an idea of what sort of work you’re looking for and actionable steps you can take towards that goal will keep you motivated and busy while you’re searching for your next job.

Handing in your two weeks’ notice can be extremely stressful, no matter who you are or where you work. If you plan out how and when you will leave and maintain a high degree of professionalism throughout, you will not only experience less anxiety, but you may find even more opportunities than you expected coming your way.