How to Quit Your Job Professionally
There are few pleasures greater in life than saying farewell to a dead end job or an abusive boss. The liberating feeling of knowing you never have to go to that office again can be so tempting, that you might want to simply scream “I QUIT!” and storm out the building.
However, there are some steps you will need to take prior to declaring your departure from any company. This isn’t just for the business’ benefit; it’s for your benefit as well. No matter what your plan is after you quit your job, you will want to make sure you have everything in place to ensure a secure and graceful exit.
Let this guide help you master the art of quitting!
Table of Contents
Don’t Just Say “I Quit”
Quitting your job is never an easy decision. There are plenty of factors that might go into the decision, including how you were treated by your superiors, the direction of the company, or the direction of your career. For some, the decision might be easy, but acting on it might be more difficult.
Regardless, it’s important to remember that to quit gracefully, you have to quit the right way. This means you can’t simply march into your boss’s office and proclaim “I quit!” prior to storming out. As satisfying as it may be to proclaim your leave, it’s dangerous to quit suddenly and unexpectedly.
Why, you might wonder? There are a few reasons:
- You want to have a backup for both income, as well as additional needs (such as healthcare and retirement savings). Quitting without planning ahead could turn into a financial emergency.
- Leaving on the spot doesn’t look great on your resume: it makes you look unreliable, and like you’ll leave at a moment’s notice when you’re fed up or frustrated.
- Past employers — even if they didn’t treat you well — could be excellent references for job hunting. You don’t want to ruin your chances of having a great reference.
- Future interviewers or employers will want to contact past employers, and telling them not to contact past employers (due to a dramatic departure or potentially bad reference) could raise some concerns.
Traditionally, the most professional way to exit a company is to provide them with a two-week notice. This allows the company to be prepared for your departure in case they need to train someone to fill your position, and allows you the chance to finish up any projects you may have been working on. Additionally, it gives you a chance to leave one last good impression on the company.
Most importantly, once you’ve made up your mind that you want to quit your job you will want to start job hunting. Making sure you have a plan or another job already in place before you put in your notice can help you avoid gaps in your resume, and will help you be financially secure while transitioning between jobs.
However, it should be noted that not all companies treat employees equally, and some companies might see a two week notice as an opportunity to fire you or rush you out the door. If you’ve heard stories from past employees that might suggest the company doesn’t react well to quitting employees, then be prepared to have a more rapid transition. Unfortunately (or fortunately) you might be faced with a two week surprise vacation before you start your new job.
Quitting For the Right Reasons
When you’re trying to decide if you should quit, there are some important factors to consider. Are you acting impulsively, or are you making the best decision to advance your career? Is your environment or office culture unhealthy, or are you simply clashing with one employer?
There are some other questions you should ask yourself, but also there are some important signs that can help you identify when it’s the right time to quit.
Signs You Need to Quit
Every job can have its good days and its bad days. The ups and downs of life can very easily carry over into our daily careers, and just because you’ve had one bad day (or a dozen) doesn’t mean you should quit your job. However, if you are finding there are more bad days than good days, then it might be time to consider switching it up. Here are some other scenarios to consider if you’re contemplating leaving your job:
- Your skills are not being utilized by the company (despite any requests to focus more on your strengths).
- You are constantly bored and not stimulated or engaged while working.
- The goals of the company do not align with your own (this can be in the sense of the politics of the company or the long-term mission)
- You are emotionally, mentally, and physically tired after the job almost every day. Running yourself that hard for so long can be extremely detrimental to your mind, mood, and body.
- You are never properly acknowledged or compensated at your job. Say you completed a massive project that took you multiple weeks, but no one congratulated or thanked you for your hard work. This might show that employees are not valued highly in the company, and thus the company is no longer worth your hard work and time.
- You’re in a dead-end position, and not learning anything new or not able to advance to a new position that maximizes your strengths.
- You’re struggling financially, know that you are underpaid for your labor, and are unable to get a raise from your boss.
- You start to dread coming into work, are unable to see yourself at the company in a year from now, and are daydreaming about your dream job. Whether it’s your boss or your workload that you’re dreading, there’s no reason you should be working at a company that you hate.
- If a better opportunity has fallen into your lap; such as the chance to open your own business, or perhaps a better position at another company.
- Lastly, if your company appears to be clearinghouse, or there are rumors that layoffs could be in the future, then start job hunting as soon as possible.
Question to Ask Yourself
However, there is still two important questions you need to ask yourself before quitting your job:
- Are you quitting for the right reasons?
- Are you capable of quitting right now?
The first question you can answer by going over the different reasons to quit. If you can identify with more than one of those statements, then you will be quitting for a valid reason.
The second question, however, requires a bit more consideration. Primarily, you will want to make sure you can financially afford to quit your job right now. If you already have another job lined up that can offer competitive salary and benefit options, then you should be safe. But if you don’t have a plan worked out, or you simply need to get out as soon as possible, then you will want to make sure you can still fall back on some safety nets. Do you have enough money to get you through your job hunt? Do you need medical insurance during that time? How can you explain your gap in employment to any future interviewers?
Once you have a better understanding of how prepared you are to quit, then you can make a more informed decision on if you should quit now, or wait it out a little longer.
Writing a Resignation Letter
One of the most important aspects of quitting a job is crafting and presenting a letter of resignation. The letter you craft will help set the tone for your final time in the office, as well as provide you with a sincere and professional exit to the company. It will also shape your relationship with the company going forward.
However, prior to presenting the letter, you will want to have a positive one-on-one conversation with your manager. Having an in-person discussion might be difficult, but it is the best way to set up a professional departure. It also shows a level of professional respect that will help make the departure easier for everyone.
Once you’ve notified your boss in person, you can present the letter and formerly declare your two week notice. Two weeks is the generally acceptable time frame, but keep in mind that if you have a more specialized skill set, then you might want to give a more advanced warning.
There are a variety of different options for crafting a letter of resignation, including those that range in tone (heartfelt to more polished) or intention. For a list of different varieties for different circumstances, check out the list of best examples compiled by The Balance.
Asking for a Reference
Sometimes the hardest step can be the most important one. When it comes to quitting your job, getting a reference from your employer can be tricky but is extremely important for securing a new job. Many hiring managers will not even offer up the position you’re apply to until they’ve received a reference from your previous employer.
As long as your boss and the company (as a whole) are not complete scoundrels, you should be safe to ask for a character or performance-based reference. In most scenarios — despite any hurt feelings — managers will be able to set any personal emotions aside to give you a glowing review of either your character, your work ethic, or both.
When presenting your letter of resignation, acknowledge that you would like to receive a reference letter from your manager. This way they can craft a letter that includes current information that better reflects your performance in recent months at the job. Additionally, getting a reference letter at the time of exiting the company will save you the trouble of having to track down your manager in the future.
Once you have the reference, you can provide it to hiring managers (if they’re waiting on a reference), or keep it for any future job hunts you may perform down the road.
You’ve Quit Your Job: What Next?
In summary, the process of quitting your job will go something like this: you’ll consider why you’re quitting, determine it is the right decision, hopefully start applying to new jobs (or already have one lined up), meet with your boss to discuss your departure, present a letter of resignation, ask for a letter or recommendation, and work out your final two weeks (or longer if needed) with the company.
Once you finish out your time with the company, what happens next? How can you set yourself up for success as you make this transition?
Prepping for Unemployment
If you were unable to secure a job prior to quitting your current position, then you will need to prepare for unemployment. This means you can either rely on any money you have saved up (if you’re retiring, then go have some fun!) or you will have to apply for government benefits. Additionally, you will need to make sure you have a contingency plan in case your job hunting plan falls through. Long term unemployment can be difficult to get out of, but it’s not an impossible hurdle to overcome.
Prepping for a Job Transition
If you have a new job waiting for you after your current one, then you will need to start studying up and prepping for a job transition. Read everything you can about the new company — from their website to employee reviews on sites such as Glassdoor.com — and learn all you can about any new skills you might need to perform the job, and what you can expect to be paid. Start off this job on the right foot by making an amazing first impression and showing up ready and eager to prove yourself.
Quitting a job is no easy decision to make. There are many factors that might influence your decision, but only you can know what is best for your future, your career, and your health. No matter how your exit from a company plays out, make sure you are mentally and financially prepared for the next step. There’s a dream job out there waiting for you to find it. Don’t let your current job hold you back from greatness.
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Katie McBeth is a researcher and writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. Her favorite subject of study is millennials, and she has been featured on Fortune Magazine and the Quiet Revolution. She researches SEO strategies during the day, and freelances at night. You can follow her writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth
This post was updated February 28, 2019. It was originally published December 10, 2017.