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How to Quit a Job Professionally

If you’ve typed “how to quit a job” into your search bar recently, you’re not alone. In fact, more and more people have been doing the same thing lately. According to a recent Microsoft study of over 30,000 workers worldwide, about 41% are thinking about quitting their jobs this year.1 And the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported that more than 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July of 2021 alone!2

Now, there are plenty of great reasons to quit. Poor leadership, limited opportunities for growth, a need to earn more money for your family, hating your job—the list could go on for days. But no matter your reason, you should always quit your job professionally. The last thing you want to do 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 with class and integrity, I’ve got eight tips that will make this a drama-free experience. Make sure you read all of them before you pop that champagne and join the other workers who are part of what economists are calling The Great Resignation. Here’s everything you need to know about how to quit a job professionally.

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

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.

Job hunting is a lot less stressful when you can take your time to find the right opportunity because you’ve got a stable paycheck coming in.

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, I recommend not quitting until you’ve got a new place to land.

2. 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 with them.

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.

How to quit your job by having a conversation with your leader:

  • 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 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. You may even want to have them create a transition plan with you.
  • 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 quitting, 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.

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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.

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

Whether you create this plan on your own or in collaboration with your leader, coming up with a clear transition plan is a big part of quitting your job professionally. Think about how you can make this process easier on your teammates and 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 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.

Here are some 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 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.

Even if you haven’t been at this company long, you should still spend just as much time thinking about and planning how to quit your job the right way as you would if you’d been at the company for years. Be considerate of the people you’ve been working with since they spent time and effort interviewing, hiring and training you.

4. Follow up with a formal resignation letter.

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

  1. Start by saying clearly that you’re resigning from your position.
  2. State your reason for leaving.
  3. Mention when your last day in office will be.
  4. Close with a statement of gratitude for the opportunity and 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 will 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 when you leave that you can take with you and hold on to 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 logistical details that are annoying to deal with but still important. 

Here’s a brief checklist to help:

  • 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.
  • Find out when you’ll get your last paycheck.

8. 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: you don't want to yell at each other and create 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.

So, there you have it, folks—that’s how to quit a job professionally. 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 come alive. 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. 

For more career advice, including how to quit a job and find a better one, check out this Ultimate Career Bundle! You’ll get my new book, From Paycheck to Purpose, which will walk you through the seven-stage clear path to finding work you love, along with my new online Career Assessment that will give you customized results to help you find the work that’s the best fit for you.

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Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is a career expert and 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 nationally syndicated, caller-driven show that helps listeners discover what they were born to do. Ken makes regular appearances on Fox News, and he co-hosts The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk show in the nation. Through his speaking, broadcasting and syndicated columns, Ken gives people expert career advice, providing strategic steps to grow professionally, land their dream job, and get promoted.  Learn More.

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