How to Leave Your Job (Professionally!)

Congratulations on your new job!

Now comes what some believe to be the most agonizing part of the whole ordeal - quitting your current job. If you have ever worked for a company when someone quit, you’ll quickly realize that some handle it very well and some…not so much. So let’s talk about how to quit your job professionally!

But Why?

Why do you have to quit professionally? Well, there are many reasons but one of the most important is - opportunity. Quitting professionally can leave the door open for many opportunities down the road, even if you feel that you are moving on to your dream job. This is not just for future job opportunities for you, but also for your team.

I have found myself in a situation where I became a manager within an organization and needed to re-build a team. What better situation than to be able to handpick people whom I know are qualified and competent? On the flip side, about a year after I left my very first job, my old manager contacted me with much better opportunity.

Additionally, not every quits a job because they hate everything about it including the people. Chances are some of those very fine people are willing to write you recommendations letters or become a reference for you down the road. 

Before You Quit

If you have the chance to prepare for your departure, start slowly cleaning out your desk, files, email, and computer. You don’t have to tear down the camp prematurely, but if your employer does decide to walk you out for any reason, it makes it a lot easier when you are prepared and know your email about Sharon’s hair in all of her potluck contributions has been deleted.

How Much Time Should I Give?

If you are in a higher level position or if you signed an employment contract, check there first. Many employment contracts have a termination clause that can prevent the business from essentially falling apart when a high-level person leaves. If your contract has more than two weeks, do what you can to meet the amount of time set forth in the document as a courtesy. Otherwise, the standard two weeks will be plenty of time to get all of your affairs in order prior to your departure. 

There are two things I would like to point out before we go any further.

The first is that employers may walk you out prior to your two weeks. Do not take this personally. Some employers have this in their policy to walk certain levels of (or all) employees out. The second is that you are not at all obligated to do this if you are in an unethical situation. Not every employer is ethical and right in their business activities, so if you feel that you need to get out quickly, please do!

How Should I Tell Them?

Depending on the relationship you have with your boss, we recommend you sit down with them one on one first and discuss your decision to leave and your expected timeline for your departure. At this point, they may ask you to put it in writing, which you may have already prepared. 

There are certain circumstances in which quitting via phone may be more realistic, such as if you work remotely. If the situation is particularly hostile, it may be wise to quit with HR present or speak with them prior to resigning. 

This is also the point when you have to let your pride go. Airing out all of your grievances from the last three years will just make your time left that much more complicated or uncomfortable. If you have suggestions for improvement, make sure to think about a professional way to say them prior to submitting your resignation. On the other end of the spectrum, do not be offended if they do not ask for your suggestions. In any case, remember that you are on to the next better chapter in your life, so just let it go!

In any situation, ensure that you submit a formal written document outlining your departure timeline. 

What Should I Say?

To depart from a work environment in a professional way, it is important to outline what your boss and the team can expect from you in the coming weeks, to thank your organization for the opportunity and to establish your last day of employment. Outlining what your team can expect and your last day of employment will help your boss prioritize and training or transfer of duties and may make your remaining time a lot less chaotic. 

Thanking your employer can go a long way in a resignation letter with whomever you may be turning your letter in to. If you feel that it was a horrible company, remember that you learned something, even if that something is what you don’t want, so be as gracious as you can. 

You can always look up examples of resignation letters to help you craft a professional letter to submit to your boss, but we recommend tailoring it to yourself and your experience if you can. 

Be Prepared for a Counter

Depending on your position and situation, you find yourself with a counter offer to your new employer. To prepare yourself for this scenario, think through all of the possible outcomes in advance. (It may even help to make a list of what you would need to be offered to stay.) In any case, this is a hard discussion to have; some employers can make pretty enticing offers to keep you on their team! 

Whatever you decide, just make sure it is going to be the right fit for you and what you want out of your career! I have worked with some people that claim accepting the counter offer was the best decision they had ever made, and others where it may have been the worst. 

Refresh Yourself

If you have the opportunity, try to take even a few days off in between jobs! This time will help you decompress from your prior job and mentally prepare for your new wonderful opportunity. My last employment change I was fortunate enough to take over two weeks off, and by the end of it I felt completely focused for what was next. So if you have the time, I suggest you take advantage of it!

Regardless if you are leaving for a better opportunity or to get away from a bad culture, preparing yourself can help make the transition a more positive experience. Departing professionally lays the groundwork for future opportunities yet to come!