Congratulations on making the tough decision to quit your job!
If you’ve gotten to this point, you’re probably sick and tired of your company, position or boss. But, as hard as it may be to resist the classic, “screw you guys I’m going home” approach, it’s really important to quit with grace and elegance.
To ensure that you can leave in a way that leaves your boss and colleagues respecting your decision, you must demonstrate that your decision is a well-thought-out and calculated one.
Hopefully, you’ve put a lot of thought into your decision to quit your job and have evaluated your position and options. If not, here are some effective steps you can take to make absolutely sure you’ve effectively evaluated your situation and are making the right decision.
Steps to take to make sure that quitting your job is the right decision
Make sure to research other positions available to those with your qualifications
Remember, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.
What this means is that everyone always wants what they don’t have.
If you’ve been working for the same company for a while, it’s only natural that anything different will appear better. However, a lot of the time, that is not the case.
If you can, start interviewing with other employers to get a taste of what other opportunities are out there for you.
There’s a good chance you’ll realize that you’re not really looking for something better, just something different.
That’s fine too!
But, keep in mind, there’s a chance you’ll be unhappy in a new position and long for your old one back; this happens ALL the time.
Long story short, do your due diligence, make sure there are better or more fitting positions out there before you quit. Finally, take the time to introspect and make sure you really want something different.
Take others into account, those who your decision may impact
You may not be the only one who depends on your job. If you have a family, spouse or kids that depend on your salary or health benefits, it would be irresponsible to quit without any prospects.
This applies to professional relationships as well. If you’re a part of a team or working on a project in a larger group or with other companies, it’s almost always best to finish and tie up the loose ends before leaving.
Keep in mind that your decision can and will affect those around you, sometimes negatively. Before you quit, take every action to minimize those effects and provide your dependants with sufficient notice.
Think through all the positives and benefits of your current job
A few rough weeks in the office can take a toll on your morale. Don’t forget, however, that you took the job for a reason.
Try to think back to the time when you were excited to accept this job. What did you think was so great about it?
Think through your daily routine and try to notice the little things you may be taking for granted and that may not be available in other jobs.
Do you like your coworkers?
How is your commute?
Are you learning skills that will be useful in the future?
Are you in a position to make great professional connections?
Is the office in a good neighborhood?
You’d be surprised how much the little treats in your daily routine impact your professional experience.
As they say, 100 compliments are always drowned out by 1 negative critique.
The same rule applies here, make sure you’re not ignoring all the positive things your current job provides.
Will quitting now hurt your chances with future potential employers?
The circumstances of your departure are very important. Ask yourself these important questions:
Do you have a history of short employment stints?
If so, you need to change that. Don’t make a habit of leaving after a few months, time and time again. Potential employers will take notice and it is, certainly, a red flag.
Ideally, you want to stick with positions related to your career for, at least, a year. Of course, there are always circumstances that prevent this. However, if your resume consists of a series of 3-month stints, you must work to change that.
If you’re nearing the 1-year mark and thinking about quitting, hold off. The bit of discomfort it may cause you in the short run will be well worth it for your career moving forward.
What would your current boss have to say about you when you’re gone?
If you’re not confident in the answer to that question, it would be smart to try and get a better understanding of your standing in the company and in the eyes of your superiors.
Networking is incredibly important. You don’t know who your boss knows and how he may have the influence to help or hurt your chances at a new position.
Establishing and maintaining a good professional relationship with your boss and coworkers can only help you. You never know when your paths will cross again, so don’t burn any bridges.
What will you tell your next potential employer when they ask why you left?
Of all the things that can hurt your chances with future employers, this is the most important. It is an incredibly common interview question so make sure you’re prepared to answer it.
To effectively answer this question, it’s important to understand why the employer is asking.
First of all, they want to know if you were fired or if you left voluntarily. If you’re quitting on your terms, you have nothing to worry about here.
Second, they want to know if you left on good terms. If you can demonstrate a positive relationship with your old boss, you’re golden. A good way to demonstrate this is through a story or, even better, using your old boss as a professional reference.
Finally, they want to know WHY you left. It’s important to put a positive spin on everything. Put emphasis on your desire for growth and expanded responsibility.
Explain your eagerness to take on more than your old company was giving you. Avoid complaining about your boss or coworkers, because that just makes you come off as hard to work with.
In short, positivity is key. If you put a positive spin on everything, you’ll be OK.
For more tips on those common, yet difficult, interview questions, check out our blog post here.
How to quit without burning bridges
Networking is the most important part of building a career. You don’t want dozens or even hundreds of connections to go out the window when you leave your current job.
Let’s go through a few things you can do to make sure your boss and colleagues still hold you in high regard, even after you’ve walked out the door.
Give adequate notice
Unless otherwise expressed, it is appropriate to give your employer two weeks’ notice before departure. This gives the employer time to prepare for your absence and time to find someone else to fill your spot.
It is almost always very disrespectful to quit on short notice. To maintain any sort of professional relationships, make sure to be respectful on your way out.
The only exception to this rule would be a personal emergency, abuse in the workplace or if your employer refuses to pay you for your work.
Tell your boss before you tell anyone else
You don’t want to chat with colleagues about your plans to quit weeks in advance. The chance that word will get back to your boss is pretty high, and they will usually take it as a sign of disrespect. Make absolutely sure that your direct boss is the first one to hear about your decision.
Talk to your boss in person (if possible)
Again, you want to leave on good terms and with respect.
Instead of sitting with your boss and listing all the things you disliked about working for the company, emphasize the positive.
Tell your boss about all the positive things that the company has done to advance your career. This can include skills, knowledge, and relationships.
Offer your help during the transition period and, if you feel it is appropriate, ask for a letter of recommendation.
But, make it clear that it’s time for you to move on.
Here are some polite ways to start that uncomfortable conversation with your boss. Remember, getting into relevant detail is also important, but these details vary case to case, so start with something like this (from business insider‘s blog):
Here is a basic script for a situation where you absolutely want to leave a job:
Here is a basic script for the situation where you would rather stay, but need some things to change in order to do so:
If an in-person meeting is not an option, a phone call is next best. Either way, you need to follow the same principles.
In short, the two most important things for a successful conversation are respect and positivity.
Finish what you started
If you are at a crucial position in the lifecycle of a project, finish it. If that’s not possible, give your boss all the important information needed so a qualified replacement can step in seamlessly.
If you’re managing a team, take the time to put together the necessary information needed for another manager to come in and help the team transition smoothly. Having a recommendation for a replacement, someone who you think has advanced knowledge of the team and its responsibilities, would help your boss greatly.
Whatever you do, do not leave the company in a position where they are doomed to restart anything you’ve been working on.
The point is, whenever there is employee turnover, a transition period is unavoidable. The most gracious way to quit is to make sure all your loose ends are tied up and the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
This one depends on the relationship you have with your boss. If you’re not sure, stick with keeping everything positive.
If you have a relationship with your boss that’s more conducive to honest criticism, it’s likely that they will appreciate your honest feedback on the time you’ve spent working for the company.
Tell them, honestly, about your experience. If they are a good boss, they will be happy to hear constructive criticism and appreciate the opportunity to improve.
Being honest can also improve your professional relationship moving forward.
Ask about the smaller details
Make sure you take advantage of all the relevant benefits your company may offer in your situation.
This includes things like unused sick or vacation days, transferring accounts such as your 401k, taking advantage of programs that may allow you to keep your health insurance in the meantime.
Don’t leave without getting everything you deserve for the time you spent with the company, and remember, there may be more than you think.
If you’ve spent a good amount of time with the company, you’ve probably made some friends.
Wait until you have the conversation with your boss, then tell your friendly coworkers. Talk about your experience together, give them your contact info and keep in touch.
You may even want to send out a mass email if you’ve worked with tons of people during your time there.
Again, maintaining relationships is the key here. Networking is more important than ever before and your relationships may be the key to your future success.
Write formal resignation letter
After you’ve had the conversation with your boss and made all your informal goodbyes, it is important to write a formal resignation letter.
This, at least, should state that you’re leaving, when you’re leaving and thank your boss for the opportunity.
It should not contain criticisms or complaints; it is to maintain a professional and formal relationship with the company.
If applicable, you can also include more details like:
- why you are leaving (in a positive tone!)
- ask for a reference letter
- offer your services during the transition period of bringing in your replacement.
Here is a great example of an effective resignation letter from Business News Daily blog:
See more at Business News Insider’s blog on resignation letters.
Stay in touch
This is important for the same reason, maintaining professional relationships (notice the trend here…).
Reach out to your old boss or colleagues every few months to see what they’re up to. Who knows? maybe they’re starting something new that you’d be perfect for.
Maybe they are working in a company you’ve dreamt about working for and now you have an “in”.
Keep your correspondence very casual. Limit it to congratulatory emails, inquiries about common company interests or friendly news updates.
Don’t make it public
It may go without saying but, DO NOT put the fact that you quit on social media.
This looks stupid and will be available for any future employer to see. It demonstrates a lack of seriousness and respect for your employer. No company wants employees like that so don’t make yourself one of those employees.
Quitting your job gracefully and respectfully is essential for maintaining professional relationships.
If you follow the guidelines we’ve talked about here, you will have no problem making a clean break from your company.
Remember, burnt bridges are just lost opportunities.