How to Quit Your Job: The Complete Guide to Do It Successfully

Colleague pondering about her workplace
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Overview

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.” When it comes to quitting your job, you face a similar dynamic. You’ll never get a second chance to make another last impression. If you’re planning to change jobs in the near future, you’ll want to make sure you leave your current position on good terms. What you need is a crash course on how to quit your job, what happens when you turn in your notice, and how to get your affairs in order before your last day.

We’ve got you covered.

Considering How to Quit Your Job

No matter how much you may love your job, there comes a time when you have to move on. This is particularly true with entry-level jobs. Though they got your foot in the door with your chosen industry, after a while, you’re ready to climb the next rung of the career ladder. 

When that day arrives, figuring out how to quit your job professionally can be tricky, especially if this is your first time leaving your job and you want to do it right.

According to Vincent D’Eletto, founder and CEO of Word Agents, when giving notice to your current employer, written notice is all well and good; however, an initial face-to-face conversation should always take top priority. 

Headshot of Vincent D’Eletto

Whether you’ve found a better role or you’re just ready for change, resigning can be a stressful experience. It takes care and great tact to leave on good terms and maintain your reputation – both with your former employer and within the industry you’re operating in. With that said, there is a right way and a wrong way to resign, and it’s not always as easy as giving adequate notice. Quitting a job over email, text, or phone call can be easily interpreted as callous and unprofessional. To ensure that your employer receives your resignation well, it’s best to give face-to-face notice and supplement the meeting with a letter supporting your leave. 

When the time comes to break the news to your boss, D’Eletto believes that while it’s important to be honest when you give notice, you should also be careful not to burn any bridges along the way. 

Take the time to thank your boss for the experience you’ve gained within the role, and do your best to leave things on good terms. You never know when you might need a positive recommendation later down the road.

The reminder that your current boss has yet to give you a written recommendation should be all the motivation you need to keep things positive. This sort of mindset will help ensure smooth transitions when you leave your current position for a new job. 

The Practicalities of Quitting Your Job

When you approach a season of transition that involves quitting your job, you’ll also want to consider some behind-the-scenes practicalities. Willie Greer, the founder of The Product Analyst, recommends that employees always take time to prepare both financially and emotionally for any upcoming job transition. 

Headshot of Willie Greer

Have an Emergency Fund

“You’ll never know what the future will bring,” says Greer, “and it’s better to be financially ready should any unforeseen circumstances arise.”

Keeping funds available in case there’s an unforeseen hiccup or your new job doesn’t pan out can remove a great deal of uncertainty from your job transition.

Take Breaks and De-stress

A job search is more like a marathon than a sprint. That’s why Greer recommends always taking time out to rest. This can prevent burnout and keep you more energized long-term. 

When you feel tired of running so long, or a marathon, the best advice they give you is to rest for a while, and I know it’s the same when it comes to dealing with life. We do not have to stop right away because a break will do so much already in recovering the energy we lost.

When considering how to quit your job, never underestimate the overall toll it can take. 

By having an emergency fund set aside and making sure you’ve scheduled intervals for rest and refreshment, you’re in a much stronger and tenable position from which to offer your two weeks’ notice. 

Is Two Weeks’ Notice Still a Thing?

While giving two weeks’ notice is not a law, and employers cannot require it of you, it is still considered best practice when leaving your job. 

This amount of time allows your employer to 

  • Conduct an exit interview
  • Put a transitional plan in place
  • Hire and train your replacement
  • Pivot strategies if necessary
Workplace environment

While there may be extenuating circumstances that prevent you from giving the full two weeks’ notice, this should definitely be the time frame you aspire to. This is particularly important if you’re hoping to stay on good terms with your current employer.  

Telling Your Boss “I Quit”

In most cases, it’s not easy to say the words “I quit.” That’s why some people would rather skip the face-to-face announcement and go straight to submitting a 2 weeks’ notice letter

Still, this is a pivotal moment. Requesting an in-person meeting and delivering the news within the context of your relational connection is an important step.

In order to stay on track during your meeting and keep from blurting out “I’m quitting because I hate my job or something else you might regret later, you should consider practicing the conversation in your head and imagining how things might go during the meeting.

Will you list your reasons for quitting? What questions do you think your boss is likely to ask? How can you answer those questions with the highest levels of professionalism?

If there are topics you’re hoping to avoid, picture how you might tactfully sidestep any tricky moments and stay in control of the conversation. 

For instance, if you don’t necessarily want your boss to know that you’re quitting your job without another job in place, consider how you might respond if your boss says something like, “We’ll be sorry to see you go. What’s next for you?”

Having a smooth answer ready at the tip of your tongue could keep you from stammering and flailing around for a suitable answer. 

Submitting Your Resignation Letter

Following best practices for how to write a resignation letter, compose a one-page letter that briefly states you’ll be leaving your job, cites the date your resignation will be effective, expresses your gratitude for your time in your current position, and outlines some of the next steps you and your employer can take as your time together comes to a close. 

After meeting with your employer face-to-face, officially submit your written resignation letter.

In some cases, it’s appropriate to submit your resignation letter via email. In other cases, you can hand over a paper copy of your resignation letter to your boss. In still other cases, you should allow your letter to go through the official postal system.

Submitting a letter of resignation

If you’re in doubt about how your company handles these matters internally, consult your employee manual or reach out to human resources. Your original employment contract may even contain information about what’s expected of you when it comes to submitting a resignation letter. Whatever else you do, take time to do your research and handle this step as professionally as possible. 

After you have undertaken the initial steps of informing your boss and turning in your two weeks’ notice, your next hurdle will be the exit interview. 

Crushing the Exit Interview

Toward the end of your time at your current job, you may be asked to sit down with human resources for an exit interview. 

In a typical exit interview, you will be asked to fill out some paperwork and be asked a series of questions. While some HR teams now send out surveys via email, many of these interviews are still conducted in person, requiring you to answer questions in real time.

It’s important not to speak off the cuff. To the best of your ability, prepare to answer some of the more common exit interview questions.

You’re likely to be asked questions about your time at the company, what you think about the management and leadership style, and how you would evaluate the corporate culture. You may be asked if you have any suggestions for improvements. 

You’ll want to be careful how you respond. 

While honest feedback is all well and good, you’ll want to be careful how you frame your responses. 

Instead of adopting a critical tone, consider how you can present your thoughts in a way that indicates you have the company’s best interests at heart, even during an exit interview:

“By framing your opinions to demonstrate that you’re thinking about what’s best for the company, you’ll have a far greater chance of having a real influence and of being remembered well.”

Being remembered well can lead to a great reference—which, in turn, can lead to even better opportunities down the road. 

Colleague at the workplace

Leaving Your Job with Grace

Leaving your current position with grace could be one of the hardest hurdles to quitting your job.

While you can’t always control whether you leave on good terms, by following best practices for turning in your notice, you can have a much better chance of doing just that. 

  1. Always give adequate two weeks’ notice
  2. Schedule a face-to-face interview to inform your boss
  3. Write a professional resignation letter
  4. Help smooth the transition 
  5. Leave on a good note
  6. Don’t burn bridges

Follow these principles, and you’ll have a good shot at leaving your job with grace.

Level Up With Lensa

Learning how to quit your job professionally is just the beginning. Here at Lensa, we have everything you need to scale the career ladder. Check out our tools, resources, and powerful job search engine. In no time at all, you’ll find yourself clocking in at your new dream job.  

Ruth Buchanan
Ruth Buchanan
Ruth Buchanan has spent the last decade writing for the business and corporate worlds. Blending careful research with insightful commentary, she seeks to help job seekers level up in their chosen career paths. A US-based writer, she currently works from the shadow of the Carolina foothills.

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