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How to Quit a Job Professionally

There are many great reasons to quit your job. Poor leadership, limited opportunities for growth, a need to earn more money for your family—the list could go on for days. But no matter your reason—seriously, no matter how much you hate your job—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.

Read each one before you pop the champagne and celebrate quitting your job. You’ll be glad you did when it’s all said and done. 

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.

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

2. Create a Transition Plan for Your Team (and Follow Through)

Once you’re ready to start the quitting process because you have a new job lined up, it’s time to think about your leaders and teammates. Think about how you can make this process as easy as possible on them 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. 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.

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 put just as much thought and planning into quitting 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.

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 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 have the quitting 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 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 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.

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 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.

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 of 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: 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.

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 right path—the path to work you’re truly passionate about.

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Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is America's Career Coach, the nationally syndicated radio host of The Ken Coleman Show and #1 national bestselling author. He has been featured in Forbes and appeared on Fox News, Fox Business Network, and the Rachael Ray Show. Since 2014, he has served at Ramsey Solutions, where he offers expert advice every day to help thousands of people discover what they were meant to do and how to land their dream job. Learn More.