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How to Quit a Job Professionally

Planning to quit your job soon? I hear from folks all the time on The Ken Coleman Show who are ready to move on from their current position. Some of their reasons for leaving are exciting, like being offered a great new opportunity from another company. Others aren’t quite so uplifting, like wanting to escape poor leadership or limited opportunities for growth.

But no matter their reason, these callers usually have one question on their mind: “How do I quit my job?” When answering that question, I always teach that your top priorities should be class and integrity—even if you hate your job and can’t stand the company you work for. That’s because the last thing you want to do when quitting your job is burn a bridge, especially if you’re planning on staying in the same industry (it’s a small world!).

So, if you’re wondering how to quit a job professionally, I’ve got eight tips that will help you limit the drama as much as possible. Here’s everything you need to know about how to quit your job.

How to Quit a Job Professionally in 8 Steps

  1. Make sure you have a place to land before you quit your job.
  2. Tell your leader before anyone else.
  3. Create a transition plan for your team (and follow through).
  4. Follow up with a formal resignation letter.
  5. Ask for references.
  6. Tell your teammates.
  7. Meet with HR to tie up loose ends.
  8. Ask for an exit interview.

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

When you’ve got a stable paycheck coming in, job hunting becomes a lot less stressful because you can take your time to find the right opportunity. So before you tell anyone at your company that you’re thinking about quitting your job, make sure you’ve accepted a job offer somewhere else. The hiring process can take weeks and sometimes months, so your best bet is to have somewhere to land before you quit the job that provides a stable income.

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 (and you should get out of those situations). But if your job isn’t putting you at risk, don’t quit until you’ve got a new job secured.

2. Tell your leader before anyone else.

Word of your plans to leave shouldn’t reach your leader before you’ve had an in-person conversation with them. Ask for a meeting with them first thing on the day you decide to give your notice.

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 to leave and have a new job lined up. That way, you allow as much time as possible for the transition.

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

How to Tell Your Leader You’re Quitting Your Job:

  • Be calm. I don’t care if you have enough complaints 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 extra time off. You also don’t need to launch into a 20-minute speech. Keep it simple and to the point, and let your boss know you’re willing to do what you can to help make the exit as smooth as possible.
  • Be transparent. It may feel awkward, but you should share your reason for quitting with your leader. When you do, be respectful by focusing on the benefits of the job you’re moving to instead of pointing out the negatives of the job you’re leaving. If you’re going to work for a competitor, be honest—but keep the nitty-gritty details to a bare minimum.
  • 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’ve 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.

Here’s a sample script you can use to cover all those bases when you’re ready to tell your leader you’re quitting your job: “I wanted to let you know I’m giving my official two weeks’ notice. I have really enjoyed and appreciated my time working here, but I’ve been offered a new opportunity that will allow me to earn more while also working in a role that’s more in line with my long-term career goals.”

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Now, I’m only sharing that script to give you some direction and clarity—it’s not intended to be a memorization exercise. You’ll want to make sure you honestly reflect on your specific situation when you tell your leader that you’re leaving. Don’t simply recite something you read here or anywhere else.

3. Create a transition plan for your team (and follow through).

Coming up with a clear transition plan is a big part of quitting your job professionally. Whether you create this plan on your own or in collaboration with your leader, think about how you can make your exit easier on your teammates. What transition steps make the most sense for your position? 

You can even go the extra mile by writing out the steps, along with the dates they need to happen by. 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.

Things to Think About When Creating a Transition Plan:

  • 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 can you train to fill in for you? 
  • 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 burden?

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.

No matter how long you’ve been at a company, you should spend time considering how to quit your job the right way. Be considerate of the people you’ve been working with since they spent time and effort interviewing, hiring and training you.

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4. Follow up with a formal resignation letter.

In addition to giving your notice in person, you should follow up with a formal notice stating when and why you’re quitting. (Some companies even require that.) These notices don’t have to be overly complicated. Here are some basics:

  • Start by saying clearly that you’re resigning from your position.
  • State your reason for leaving.
  • Mention when your last day will be.
  • Close with a statement of gratitude for the opportunity and the learning experience.

Even if your company doesn’t require a resignation letter, I’d definitely recommend writing one anyway. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s all part of quitting your job with integrity.

5. Ask for references.

If you’re leaving on good terms, ask your leader for a letter of recommendation. Because you already have your next job lined up, this letter will serve as a recommendation for any future job transitions.

As years pass, it’ll become more difficult for a previous leader to write a solid letter of recommendation for you. They may not remember all your wins at the company or may have even left the company as well. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask for a letter that you can take with you and keep for any future job opportunities.

6. 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.  

7. Meet with HR to tie up loose ends.

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

Here’s a brief checklist to help:

  • Ask what will happen to your ex-employee benefits like accrued vacation time and unused sick pay.
  • Get up to speed regarding your 401(k) rollover options.
  • Find out when you’ll get your last paycheck.

8. Ask for an exit interview.

An exit interview may already be part of your company’s standard exit process. But if it’s not, it doesn’t hurt to ask for one—as long as it’s appropriate for your situation.

That’s because exit interviews can be a great time for you and your leader to exchange feedback.  Just make sure the two of you aren’t yelling at each other and creating a hostile work environment in your final hours.

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.

Quitting a Job Can Be the Right Move

There you have it, folks—that’s how to quit a job professionally. I know quitting can be stressful, but it can also be the right move. 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 come alive. That’s cause for celebration! So, when you walk out that door for the last time, take a deep breath and remember—you’re on the path to work you’re truly passionate about. 


Next Steps

1. Ready to quit your job? If you’re looking for guidance on what to do next, grab a copy of my book From Paycheck to Purpose. I’ll walk you through seven proven steps you can follow to land a job you’re passionate about—one that lets you use your talents to create results you care about.

2. On the fence about whether you should quit your job? Take our free Should I Quit My Job quiz. It takes less than five minutes, and it’ll give you the clarity you need to make the right decision.

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Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is the author of the national bestselling book From Paycheck to Purpose and the #1 national bestseller The Proximity Principle. He hosts The Ken Coleman Show, a caller-driven show that helps listeners find the work they’re wired to do. Ken also co-hosts The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk radio show in America, and makes regular appearances on Fox News and Fox Business. Through his speaking, broadcasting and syndicated columns, Ken gives people expert advice, providing strategic steps to get clear on their unique purpose and grow professionally. Learn More.

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