How to Quit Your Job

Everything You Need to Know to Resign From Your Job

Image by Katie Karpel. © The Balance 2018

Quitting isn't always easy, even if you hate your job or boss or can't wait to start a new position. Even if you are about to be fired, it can be difficult to resign tactfully. If you are thinking about leaving your job, here are some important points to think through before you turn in your resignation.

First of all, be sure that you really do want to quit. There are a few warning signs that it's time to go, including reduced productivity, physical complaints, and finding your conversation at home dominated by work-related issues. (Note that you may want to keep these issues to yourself at your next job interview. The hiring manager doesn’t need to know how much you hate your old job – just how enthused you are about the new job in front of you.)

Even if you have every reason in the world to resign, it might not be a good idea to quit your job right away. Make sure that you're leaving for the right reasons, rather than quitting because you're having a bad week and it seems like it won't get better any time soon.

Once you’re certain that you want to quit, handle your resignation as carefully as you would handle any other business endeavor. It's always wise to not burn bridges. You never know when you will need your past employers for a reference.

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Review Resignation Pros and Cons

Before you make the decision to quit, be absolutely sure that this is the right decision. You don't know how long it will take for an employer to move on and fill your position if you change your mind.

If you're still on the fence about the next position you are considering taking, ask if you can spend a day in the office "shadowing" the staff. It may reinforce your decision to take the position or help you decide you don't want the new job after all.

Weigh the Options

Do you have another job offer? If so, weigh the pros and cons of the new position versus your current position. Consider the work environment, flexibility, salary, and benefits in addition to the job responsibilities. How about opportunities to advance? If the new job comes out ahead on all counts and you feel sure that this is the right change to make, don't hesitate.

If you don't have another position lined up, consider the basics before quitting. It will take about three to six months, sometimes longer, to find a new job. Unless you quit for a good cause, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Do you have enough savings or other income to manage financially? Even if your employment situation isn't the best, you might want to consider hanging on to the job you have, as well as your paycheck, and start your job search before you resign. That old saying that "it's easier to find a job when you have a job" does hold true.

Give Adequate Notice

If you have an employment contract that states how much notice you should give, abide by it. Otherwise, it's appropriate to offer two weeks notice.

However, in some cases, you may feel that you are unable to stay for another couple of weeks. When that happens, it’s important to conduct yourself professionally in every other way – send a formal resignation letter, offer to help to the best of your abilities, and keep things positive until you go.

You Have No Obligation to Stay Longer

If your employer asks you to stay longer than two weeks (or the time period in your contract) you have no obligation to stay. Your new employer will be expecting you to start as scheduled, and in a timely manner. What you could do is offer to help your previous employer, if necessary, after hours, via email or on the phone.

How to Quit Gracefully

The formal way to resign is to write a resignation letter and to tell your supervisor in person that you're leaving. However, depending on circumstances, you may need to quit over the phone or to quit via email.

Write a Resignation Letter

Regardless of how you resign, write a resignation letter. A resignation letter can help you maintain a positive relationship with your old employer, while paving the way for you to move on. You never know when you might need that old employer to give you a reference, so it makes sense to take the time to write a polished and professional resignation letter.

What to Say to Your Boss

Don't say much more than you are leaving. Emphasize the positive and talk about how the company has benefited you, but also mention that it's time to move on. Offer to help during the transition and afterward.

Don't be negative. There's no point – you're leaving and you want to leave on good terms. Regardless of why you quit your job, be sure to say the right things in your resignation letter: offer a brief explanation of why you’re leaving, thank them for the opportunity, and let them know when your last day will be. Also, do your best to not put your foot in your mouth. Be prepared, as well, to handle an exit interview.

Ask for a Reference

Before you leave, ask for a letter of recommendation from your manager. As time passes and people move on, it's easy to lose track of previous employers. With a letter in hand or a LinkedIn recommendation online, you'll have documentation of your credentials to share with prospective employers.

Don't Forget the Details

Find out about the employee benefits and salary you are entitled to receive upon leaving. Inquire about collecting unused vacation and sick pay, and keeping, cashing in, or rolling over your 401(k) or other pension plan.

Note: You may be asked to participate in an exit interview prior to your departure. Review sample exit interview questions to get an idea of what you'll be asked during an exit interview. Before you turn in your resignation, review these resignation do's and don'ts and resign as gracefully as possible.

Return Company Property

Return any company property you have – including keys, documents, computers, phones, and anything else that doesn't belong to you. The company doesn't want to chase you to get it back, and you don't want to be held responsible if it's not returned in a timely manner.

The Bottom Line

Be Sure You Really Want to Quit: Don’t leave after one bad day or week, and make sure you line up another job or secure savings.

Give Appropriate Notice: If you don’t have an employment contract that says otherwise, two weeks notice is standard.

Be Professional: Write a resignation letter and leave on the best terms possible.

Don’t Provide Too Much Information: You needn’t provide a great deal of detail about why you’re resigning.

Tie Up Loose Ends: Ask for a reference, find out about benefits and earned time, and return any company property.