How to quit a job (without burning any bridges)

How to quit a job (without burning any bridges)

Ben Temple
Ben TemplePublished on: February 25, 2021
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Figuring out how to quit a job is an important part of keeping your career on track.

Quitting a job politely and professionally helps you maintain a good reputation in your industry, helps you build a strong professional network, and ensures that the company you’re exiting isn’t left in a difficult position.

If you aren’t sure how to quit your job the right way, here are some important tips for leaving a role—and a good impression.

Before you quit a job

Even if you hate your job, you shouldn’t quit impulsively. Disappearing without notice (or with an explosion of foul language) might sound gratifying, but it won’t be great for your career. Think things through before you leave your job.

Have a plan

It’s important to be prepared when beginning a career transition. Before you quit your job, make a plan for how you’re going to do it and what you’re going to do next. Your life is about to change, and you need to be ready for what’s to come.

Your plan could be for the short term. Maybe your next role is already lined up, and you just need to give two weeks of notice to your current employer. Give yourself enough time to inform your boss, hand off your responsibilities, and say the appropriate farewells.

Your plan could also be for the long or medium term. Maybe you don’t have a job lined up and need to start looking. Maybe you’re planning to quit your job 6 months from now, and first need to finish some classes, update your resume and LinkedIn, or move to a new apartment. Whatever the case, ensure that you are working towards your goals so you are ready to quit your job when the time comes.

If your plan includes taking time off work, for example, make sure you have enough money to go without income for a few months. Establish a budget so you know what your spending limits are. If you don’t have a job lined up, budget for uncertainty. There’s no knowing how long your job search will take.

You can also prepare for your job search by upskilling, or by taking up a part-time job to maintain a cash flow until your new full-time role is secured.

Quitting your job is a big step, and you don’t want to be caught off guard by what happens next.

Be 100% certain

When you really hate your job, quitting is very tempting, but there’s no guarantee that your next role will be better. Before you officially pull the plug, be certain that quitting will make your life better, not worse.

Consider whether or not quitting will be good for your career. Your next role should be an improvement, whether it’s in compensation, responsibilities, or work-life balance. Make sure this change in your career trajectory is right for you.

Research the company and the people you will be working with to make sure there are no red flags, and if you have been offered a role, make sure it is a lock. You don’t want to quit your current job only for the offer to be rescinded.

Quitting is a big decision, so you shouldn’t leave any room for uncertainty.

Use up your benefits ahead of time

If you have benefits at your current company, don’t let them go to waste. Make that dentist appointment you’ve been putting off, and spend what’s left in the expense account. Even if your next role has benefits, you don’t want to leave money on the table.

Don’t tell anyone

Keeping secrets can be uncomfortable, but this is something you should keep to yourself.

Don’t tell any coworkers that you’re planning to quit unless you really trust them. If word gets out that you have a foot out the door, your boss might try to beat you to the punch. You don’t want to be let go because you decided to confide in a colleague.

When you inform the boss

You should inform your boss that you are quitting in person (or, if you work from home, in a video meeting). An email will do in a pinch, but delivering difficult news face-to-face is more professional and more personable. When the meeting arrives:

Pick the right time

There’s no perfect time to quit a job, but it’s best not to leave your company in a tight spot. If you aim for the slow season, or wait until you’re between projects, you’re more likely to leave on good terms.

Of course, you should put your own career first. Your current company can’t force you to stay if you don’t want to, and you shouldn’t ignore an opportunity just because quitting isn’t in your current employer’s best interest. But if the timing is up to you, it is best not to frustrate your coworkers when you leave.

Relatedly, you should give appropriate notice when you quit. It’s customary to give two weeks notice before you leave, but even more is acceptable. Giving lots of time to prepare for your absence and hire a replacement will help your team adjust when you leave.

Pack up

Before you head to your manager’s office, you may want to make sure your stuff is easy to gather up. Some employers won’t want you to finish the two weeks, and you might be asked to gather your things right then and there. You don’t need to box everything up, but you should make sure it can be collected quickly so you don’t have to make a scene taking several trips to the car.

You should know the office politics well enough to know ahead of time if you will be dismissed or asked to stick around two weeks, but it doesn’t hurt to plan for the worst.

Plan your speech

Plan out exactly what you are going to say before you meet with your employer. An important meeting like this isn’t a situation where you can wing it.

Your speech can be as simple as informing your employer that you are leaving, thanking them for your time in the role, and telling them the last day of your employment. You don’t know exactly how your employer will react, however, so it’s best to have a plan for more than one outcome. Try to think of what they will ask you, and come up with answers so you aren’t caught off guard.

Their response won’t necessarily be negative. If your employer likes you, they may want to keep you around. Be clear that the decision is made, and be prepared to fend off offers.

Remember that though informing your employer of your next role is typical, it isn’t mandatory. You don’t have to disclose anything, including what you’re doing next. You can simply say that it’s time for a change, or politely decline to disclose.

Be professional (and nice)

What you say as you quit should be formal, polite, and befitting of the relationship you have already established with your employer.

It should also be positive. Even if you hated the job, it’s important to leave on good terms. There is no need for you to suddenly reveal that you think your manager is a jerk; you may think that, but they could still be an important reference for you one day.

If you have real feedback about company culture or management, this probably isn’t the time to bring it up. If you hadn’t raised these criticisms before, your manager won’t take well to hearing them from you on your way out the door. Show appreciation for what you learned in the role, express your fondness for the team, and indicate that you have good things to say about the company. You want their last impression of you to be positive.

After the meeting

There’s a small chance that you will be escorted from the building as soon as you’ve quit. If that isn’t the case, however, you still have a few things you should do to make sure your departure goes smoothly.

Submit a formal letter of resignation

Even though you already told your boss that you were quitting, it’s wise to leave a paper trail. This will be useful for your records, and the company may want to keep a copy with their personnel department.

For many companies an email is sufficient, but you may want to write a more formal letter instead. For tips on writing a letter of resignation, check out our article How to Write a Resignation Letter.

Say goodbye

Now that you are officially leaving, you can let your coworkers know. You don’t need to make a big farewell announcement, but you don’t want them to be surprised when you suddenly stop coming in to work. Find time to let each of your coworkers know that you’re leaving, and say goodbye to them personally.

This isn’t just polite; it’s also good for your career. Your coworkers aren’t just work friends, they are part of your professional network. Make sure you have their contact information, and add them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and elsewhere. It’s important to make contacts throughout your industry, including at companies where you no longer work. These people could have opportunities for you one day in the future—or you for them.

Make the transition as simple as possible

As you close out your time in this role, make sure to be as helpful as you can. Hand over your responsibilities to your coworkers, offer to train or help find a replacement, and make sure all of your projects are in good hands. You may be gone soon, but you shouldn’t start slacking off.

Ben Temple

Ben is a writer and customer support specialist with 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume and the power of coffee.

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