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How to Quit Your Job

by THEA kelley | June 24, 2021

Resigning from a job isn’t like that old hit song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” because if you care about your career, you can’t “just hop out the back.” In this post I’ll provide smart tips for how to quit your job in a way that will set you up for long-term success.

Consider staying on the job until you have a new one.

Believe me, I know this can be very difficult, especially if you’re feeling very stressed. But all else being equal, a job candidate who is currently employed looks more appealing to recruiters than one who isn’t, especially if the gap grows to several months.

On the other hand, if the job is so stressful that it’s harming your health or relationships, or if it’s so demanding that you can’t possibly search for a new role while continuing, then it may be necessary to leave sooner–if you can afford to do so.

Assess your finances.

Prepare a budget and figure out whether you can afford to go without income for the time it may take to find a new job. Also consider ways you can reduce expenses and/or pick up some extra money by free-lancing or selling unneeded items.

Gather resume fodder in advance.

Even if you’ve given two weeks notice, some employers may decline to keep you on the job once they know you’re quitting. You may be asked to leave immediately, without access to information about your projects and performance. The lack of that information can cripple your ability to prepare a persuasive resume and talk about your accomplishments in future job interviews. So before giving notice–if you can do so without violating any agreements–take home  details about your accomplishments and copies of your performance reviews. Note: The performance reviews may be considered confidential by your company, so use them only for your own reference, not to share.

Don’t burn bridges.

If you had a negative experience in this role, it might feel good to give certain people a perhaps well-deserved telling-off. Don’t. It’s not worth it. Even if you don’t put this boss on your references list, even if you don’t list this job on your resume (but wouldn’t that leave a worrisome gap?), people talk–whether company policy forbids it or not. Don’t give them any dirt to dish out.

Instead, write a letter to your boss, then shred the letter. (Don’t write an email! It’s too easy to hit “send” without meaning to!)

Give notice, for your own sake as well as theirs.

Give at least two weeks notice, verbally in a one-on-one meeting first, and then in writing. Take the high road here, keeping your comments positive. Thank your manager for the experience and learning you’ve gained, along with anything else you appreciated.

Create documentation for the person who takes over your job.

Leave a “how-to” guide. Do whatever you can, during your remaining time on the job, to ensure a smooth transition. After all, the new person coming into your job may have a lot of the same stresses you had. Have mercy on them!

Be skeptical of attempts to woo you back with offers of a raise or other enticements.

Once someone given notice, staying because they’ve sweetened the deal tends to turn out badly, for several reasons. 

If you’re planning a job search, do these three things ASAP after leaving:

Even if you’re planning on taking some time off before looking for a new job, the fact is that friends and acquaintances will ask you certain questions about your situation, and the answers you give now can affect your future job search. So prepare answers to these three crucial  questions: What kind of job are you looking for? Why are you looking (what happened to your job)? and Tell me about yourself (or “What is it you do, again?”).

Second, if you’ll need to seek resume help at some point, don’t wait until you see a job you want to apply for. When that happens, you’ll want to apply promptly, but alas! the better resume writers have turnaround times of at least a week once they start, and they probably won’t be able to start right away (some even have waiting lists). Decide now who you want to work with, talk with them about their availability, and consider getting an appointment on the calendar. You want to hire the person who will do the best job, not the fastest.

Third, read my post, “How to Avoid Toxic Workplaces in Your Job Search” so your next job won’t have you looking for the exit again.

Take these first steps early, and then you can take time out for some rest and recreation.

As you can see, “how to quit your job” isn’t quite as simple as you may have thought. You may also want to read this Job Transition Checklist.

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