The Bottom Line on How to Quit Your Job

There's a right and a wrong way of how to quit your job, and being diplomatic is essential. Luckily, there are things you can do to secure your references and maintain your professional relationships before you move on to bigger, better career prospects.


How to quit your job is more of a science than an art. Don't want to read the whole article? Here are three tips:

Are you ready for a career change? Take our free career test to find out.

See If You're Ready

The Bottom Line on How to Quit Your Job

Although you might have dreams of making how you quit your job epic, it's usually a smart choice not to go all out like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. There's no need to set fire to the office building. You can make your exit with class and still feel satisfied that you're on your way out. There's some science behind how to quit your job, and there are things you can do to make your next career move easier and increase your chances of a smooth transition. Here are some key strategies to help you take the leap into a different and hopefully more satisfying position.

Quit When You Have Other Options

Do: Have something lined up, such as a new job, training program or school.
Do: Quit with a plan in mind for your future career.
Don't: Rage quit and hope for the best.
Don't: Quit, take a trip to the Bahamas and use up all of your savings.

You've probably heard that you should never quit your job unless you have another job lined up. It's a fact that hiring managers are more likely to recruit candidates who are actively employed elsewhere rather than those who have been unemployed for a while. Ideally, it is best to secure a new position before you quit, but that doesn't mean you absolutely can't jump ship until you have a job offer in hand. If you have some money saved up to keep you afloat while you attend a training program or additional schooling, quitting your job can be a viable option. The biggest key to acquiring a new job is proving to hiring managers that you're qualified, and educational programs that get you the skills you need for the position you want can be your ticket to success.

Bottom line: It's best to wait to quit your job until you have options or a concrete plan to make yourself a more suitable candidate for a new position.

Give Enough Notice

Do: Leave on a good note.
Do: Try to finish major projects before you leave.
Don't: Give your boss 24 hours' notice.
Don't: Completely ghost your employer and just stop showing up.

It's usually a good idea to give your supervisor at least two weeks' notice before you pack up your desk. If you have a decent rapport with the higher-ups and time allows for you to give a month's or three weeks' notice, you may decide that's the best course of action, particularly if you know your company needs more time for you to tie up any loose ends or hit benchmarks on major projects. Even if you're completely fed up with your job, you probably don't want to leave your employer in the lurch. Some companies have policies about how much notice is required – or that they escort employees out upon giving notice – so make sure you understand the protocol to prepare yourself and maintain your status as a respectable employee.

Bottom line: Be considerate.

Be Diplomatic (and Reasonably Honest) with Your Boss

Do: Note that you're quitting because of your career aspirations.
Do: Express gratitude for the opportunities you've been given at work.
Don't: Burn bridges by delving into all of your personal grievances.
Don't: Make a scene/take a bat to the copy machine.

Leaving your job on good terms is always preferable to the alternative. You may not have the most stellar relationship with your boss, but that doesn't mean you should air all of your grievances or make a scene when you quit. Try to be diplomatic when you resign from your position, providing your supervisor with some honest reasons why a career change aligns with your future career goals. If you believe the company could do some things to improve employee retention, you may also want to cautiously provide your boss or HR with constructive feedback when you meet to discuss your resignation. Be careful not to go overboard with criticism, though, and remember that you're on your way out, headed for bigger and better things.

Bottom line: Even if you hate your job or boss, keep in mind that you're on your way out.

In Most Cases, Put It in Writing

Do: Check your company's policy regarding resignation.
Do: Provide your employer with pertinent information in writing.
Don't: Go into excessive detail about why you're quitting.
Don't: Write a 10-page manifesto.

Twenty years ago, formal resignation letters were standard protocol, but nowadays, it can feel a bit stilted or antiquated to hand in a printed formal letter. Still, it's best to put it in writing in some fashion, unless you have a particularly casual and warm relationship with your boss and feel comfortable forgoing the letter and opting for a phone call or in-person announcement. You should also make sure you're aware of any company policies regarding how employees should give notice. Make sure you go back to the paperwork you signed when you were hired to remind yourself of any required protocol and see if you signed a non-disclosure or non-compete agreement.

It's becoming more and more common for employees to resign via email, and this might be a possibility for you, depending on your company culture. If your company is forward-thinking and tech-savvy, an email probably suffices in terms of how to quit your job in the beginning stages of the process. If you know it's more typical for employees to quit using a typed and printed letter, you may want to go that route. Gauge the company culture and standard practices before you decide how you want to deliver the news.

Whether you're writing an email or a formal letter, you'll probably want to include:

  • The date of your official last day.
  • A statement or statements of appreciation for what you've gained as an employee of the company.
  • An offer to help the company however possible during your final weeks as they transition to find your replacement or assign your responsibilities to current or new employees.
  • Any other pertinent information you feel comfortable sharing.

Don't be afraid to keep your letter simple. It doesn't have to be longer than a few short paragraphs. And don't feel obligated to go into great detail about why you're leaving. If you want, you can discuss that further when you meet with higher-ups about your departure. And, of course, be professional. No need to write “I hate my job!” in your letter, even if that's how you feel.

Bottom line: Even if you hate your job or boss, keep in mind that you're on your way out.

Share the News with Coworkers Carefully

Do: Be aware of company culture.
Do: Be open with coworkers you trust.
Don't: Badmouth your boss to coworkers.
Don't: Badmouth your coworkers.

If you've formed close relationships with some of the people you work with, you may decide to tell them about your resignation before you tell your supervisors. There's no harm in telling coworkers you trust about your professional transition before anyone else knows, as long as you know they'll be able to keep it under wraps until you make an official announcement. Typically, your supervisor will inform the rest of your company or team (if you work at a large corporation) that you're quitting after you formally meet with them to discuss it.

If your company culture is hostile, you may want to keep your plans to yourself until you officially put in your notice. You may also want to be careful about how much you discuss your new position or career path at the water cooler. If almost everyone at your company or on your team is hoping to quit soon, being too enthusiastic about your good news could cause some ripples of resentment or bitterness, which will ultimately make the work environment even more hostile.

Bottom line: Don't stir the pot.

Get Your Paperwork in Order

Do: Review employment agreements.
Do: Understand how your benefits will change.
Don't: Take a trip to the shredder and destroy the paperwork you need.
Don't: Ignore legal clauses regarding disclosure and competition.

Make sure you double-check all your paperwork regarding compensation for your last weeks at the company. Additionally, you should read all the fine print on your health insurance and 401(k) documentation to make sure you're aware of how your benefits will transition after your last day. If you signed any sort of non-disclosure or non-competition form when you started your job, it's best to understand what you can and cannot legally disclose or do at your next job that would conflict with your agreements. If you're leaving one job for another one, make sure the offer is official and that any related paperwork has been signed before you make any announcements. You don't want to lose both jobs on a technicality.

Bottom line: Know what you've signed.

Secure Your References

Do: Reach out to colleagues you'd like to use as references in the future.
Do: Ask for endorsements on LinkedIn.
Don't: Assume that you won't need references in the future.
Don't: Be afraid to ask for favors.

If you know your boss or coworkers think highly of you, ask if you can use them as references in the future. You never know when you might need them to put in a good word for you. Also, it's an excellent idea to ask for endorsements of your skills and recommendations on LinkedIn before you leave. Even if you're moving directly to a new position, it's not a bad idea to cover all your bases and prepare for the possibility that in the future you'll be looking for another new job. Good references, recommendations and endorsements of your qualifications can go a long way in terms of establishing your professional credibility.

Bottom line: Make the most of your professional relationships.

Are you ready for a career change? Take our free career test to find out. If you're still deciding whether or not to take the plunge and quit your job, researching the job market and how to enter particular fields is essential. If you're ready to put in your notice, good luck as you transition into your new career!