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Personal Development

How to Quit a Job Professionally

How to Quit a Job Professionally

8 Minute Read

Maybe you just read my list of reasons why people leave their jobs and realized that your work environment isn’t the healthiest. Or maybe you’ve been offered an exciting new opportunity and want to strike while the iron’s hot. Or maybe you feel zero passion about your current company and sense it’s time to move on. Regardless, you’re thinking about quitting your job.

Quitting A Job Doesn’t Have to Be The Worst Experience Ever

Whether you hate your job or not, you want to exit with class and integrity and leave a lasting impression (in a good way).

I know quitting can be stressful, but don’t worry. This is cause for celebration! Leaving a job that’s no longer a good fit means you’ll be free to step into your sweet spot and start doing work that makes you feel alive. 

But before you pop the champagne, use these tips to cover all your bases so this process can be as painless as possible. 

1. Make sure you have a place to land before you quit your job. 

This step should come before you even consider having that uncomfortable, tearful, or secretly-doing-cartwheels-on-the-inside conversation with your leader. Give yourself some time to reflect on whether or not you’re really making the best choice for right now. Quitting a job on the spot might seem super satisfying in theory. We’ve all seen those movies that show the underdog employee telling off their boss and marching out of the office to live happily ever after. But that’s not the wisest option. And if you have a union agreement or employment contract, you can’t do that anyway. Sorry.

What if you’re desperate to quit?

In some work scenarios, you have to get out of a bad environment as quickly as possible, like in cases of abuse or other unethical behavior. But as long as you’re not putting yourself at risk by staying at the company a little longer, I strongly recommend becoming debt-free and saving six to 12 months of expenses before you quit—especially if you don’t have a place to land. Those of you who follow Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps know that a fully funded emergency fund has three to six months of expenses. But that’s for someone who also has a steady paycheck coming in. If you don’t have that guarantee, it might not be time to take the leap just yet.

2. Think through the transition (and follow through).

Once you are totally sure that this is the right choice for you, it’s time to think about your leaders and teammates. How can you make this process as easy as possible on them? What transition steps make the most sense for your position?  You can even go the extra mile by writing out those steps, along with the dates they need to happen. Do this before giving your notice, so you can go to your boss with a plan. Just make sure your plan is realistic for the amount of notice you’re giving—and follow through on those promises once you make them.

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Some things to think about before your transition:

  • Who relies on you right now? 
  • What projects or processes would stop completely if there was no one to fill your spot (and how can you make sure they keep rolling without you)?
  • Who do you need to train? 
  • Do you know anyone who would be a good fit for your position and can you refer them?
  • How can you work ahead before you leave to ease the lift?

This might seem like a lot of effort, but trust me, people will remember that you went above and beyond to make their lives easier—and that can only help you in the long run.

What if you just started the job you’re quitting?

It happens—and all of these tips still apply. You should put just as much thought and planning into quitting a new job as you would if you’d been at the company for years. Be considerate of the people you’ve been working with since they did spend time and effort interviewing, hiring and training you. Do all you can to help with the exit process.

3.    Tell your leader . . . before anyone else does.

Your leader shouldn’t hear whispers from your coworkers about your plans to leave before you’ve had an in-person conversation. Wondering about the appropriate amount of notice to give? Two weeks’ notice is the minimum, but check your company’s policy because they might require more. Ideally, you should give your notice as soon as you’ve made the decision. That way you allow as much time as possible for the transition.

How to have the conversation:

  • Be calm. I don’t care if you have enough grievances to write a novel. This is not the time to lead with your emotions! Focus on facts—not feelings—in this meeting. 
  • Be clear. Don’t beat around the bush. Your boss shouldn’t have to guess whether you’re quitting or asking for some extra time off. You also don’t need to launch into a 20-minute speech. Keep it simple and to the point, and remember to walk your boss through your transition plan.
  • Be firm. Your boss might try to bargain with you or even guilt-trip you into staying with the company, but stick to your guns. Keep in mind why you’re leaving and where you’re going next.
  • Be thankful. Regardless of how you felt about the job, there’s always a reason to express gratitude. At the very least, it was a learning experience and a source of income, which is more than a lot of people have. 

Know that even after hearing your reason for leaving, your boss may ask you more questions about your new venture. If you’re moving on to work for a competitor, you may want to keep the information to a bare minimum while still being honest.

You should also be prepared to leave that day if that’s what your boss wants. That’s a rare scenario, but it does happen, so just keep your cool and pack up with professionalism.

4. Follow up with a formal resignation letter.

In addition to giving your notice in person, some companies require that you email a notice stating when and why you’re quitting. These don’t have to be overly complicated. Here are the basics:

  • Start with the positives in a brief introduction (e.g., “It has been an honor to work for this company . . .”). But no need to lie if there’s no positives to mention. 
  • Say clearly that you’re resigning from your position.
  • State your reason for leaving.
  • Say when your last day in office will be.
  • Close with a statement of gratitude for the opportunity and learning experience.

5. Tell your teammates.

Now you can finally tell your coworkers what you really think of them! Just kidding. Try to explain the situation to them in person if possible, and send an email on your last day thanking them for the experience. You never know who you’ll end up working with again in the future, so keep those bridges intact.  

6. Take care of the “small” stuff.

Whew! At this point, you’re past the hardest part of the process. Now you just have to take care of a few final logistical details that are annoying to deal with but still matter anyway. 

Here’s a brief checklist:

  • Talk to someone in HR about your ex-employee benefits.
  • Get up to speed regarding your 401(k)—if and how it can be transferred.
  • Use my free resume guide to update your resumé.
  • Get references and/or letters of recommendation (if you’re leaving on good terms).
  • Find out when you’ll get your last paycheck.

7. Ask for an exit interview.

This might already be part of your company’s exit process. But if it’s not, it doesn’t hurt to ask, as long as it’s appropriate for the situation. An exit interview can be a great time for you and your boss to exchange constructive feedback (note: that’s not code for yelling at each other one last time). In a typical exit interview, you might be asked questions like, “What did you like and dislike most about your job?” and “What was the biggest factor that made you want to take the new job?” It’s best to keep your answers honest yet positive, and—once again—focus on the facts.

Are you ready to take the next step toward your dream job?

When you walk out that door for the last time, take a deep breath and remember you’re on the path to something you’re truly passionate about. There’s never been a better time to start your dream job. 

And if you’re still on the hunt for that job, download my Get Hired Guides to help you fix your resumé and win your next interview.

About Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman, career expert and Ramsey Personality, is the host of The Ken Coleman Show and the top-rated EntreLeadership Podcast.

An acclaimed interviewer and broadcaster, Ken equips, encourages and entertains listeners through thought-provoking interviews, helping them grow in their careers, pursue their passions, and move toward a fulfilled purpose.

Listen to The Ken Coleman Show on SiriusXM or wherever you listen to podcasts and connect with Ken at kencoleman.com.

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