By Jeff Gillis
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There comes a time in every employees life when you have to take a good long look at what you’re doing and decide if it’s something you really really want to keep doing, or if it’s time to throw in the towel and figure out how to quit your job and move on.
Maybe you’re stuck in a dead end job with no chance for advancement and you realize your skills and talents would be better utilized at a different company.
Maybe you’re doing a job that, while it was the right fit at one time, is no longer the job you want to be doing and it’s time to switch things up.
Maybe you’ve got a personal situation that requires you to relocate and you can’t do the job you’re currently doing remotely.
Then again, maybe you’re just trapped in a job that is so absolutely bone chillingly awful that it’s a struggle just to make it through each day without literally ripping your own hair out or ending up on an episode of “COPS.”
Sounds like no matter what, it’s time to go see your hiring manager and tell them those two sweet little words that are so intrinsically linked to personal freedom:
Quitting your job can be both terrifying and exhilarating.
You’re essentially putting yourself in charge of your own destiny when you leave a secure position and venture into the unknown…
That’s right, this blog post is all about how to quit your job…the right way…and trust us when we say there is definitely a right way to quit and a wrong way…a very very very wrong way…
Going out in a profanity ladened, drama-wrapped blaze of proverbial glory might make for amazing bragging rights and certainly might get you a drink (or two) at the bar, but before you go into your HR office swinging, take a step back, take a deep breath, and let’s do this together the right way, starting with when to quit your job.
Knowing When to Quit Your Job
First off, simply hating your job might not be the best reason to just up one day and quit.
Yes, it’s tempting to tell your boss exactly where to go and how to get there after a particularly rough day…but it’s always a good idea to make sure you are fully prepared to face any and all consequences that might arise from a hasty decision like that before you storm into your boss’ office and raise holy hell.
It’s also tough to get a good recommendation for future work from someone you’ve just told to go stick their head where the sun don’t shine!
Now before you think we’re masochistic jerks who are saying stick with your horrible job and horrible boss because we like to see you suffer…hang on…and let us finish what we’re saying.
We’re not saying DON’T quit your job…we’re saying don’t just up and quit one day…have an exit strategy in place that makes leaving easier on you…and safer on your future ability to get work.
To make things easier on you, we’ve compiled an easy step-by-step guide for how to quit gracefully:
How To Quit Your Job In 5 Easy Steps
STEP ONE: ASK YOURSELF THESE TWO TOUGH QUESTIONS.
1. Am I doing this for the right reasons?
Everyone has a bad day (or two, or more) but allowing your emotions to ramp you into a decision you might later regret isn’t going to do anything but frustrate you and potentially hinder your future job searches.
If you’re thinking of quitting, take a good hard look at why.
Is it due to a series of events that have no foreseeable solution such as company policy you conflict with or coworker issues that just don’t seem to be resolvable via HR?
Is it due to financial limitations and you know you would be making more elsewhere?
Are there alternatives to quitting that will enable you to find more satisfaction in your work without leaving the company?
Can you reach out to your manager or HR and explore options that would allow you to stay where you are and be happier/make more money/do more rewarding work/leave behind that horrible coworker/boss/manager you hate?
There are a billion reasons why someone would quit, but what you need to do is make sure the reasons you’re quitting are reasonable and right for you.
If you’re quitting over an issue that can be easily fixed, future employers might want to know why you decided to exit rather than work out a solution. Make sure you’re doing this for the right reasons, not just the easy reasons.
2. Am I okay quitting right now?
Are you financially able to quit right now?
While quitting might make your soul and mind feel better if you’re in a difficult situation, your bank account might argue sticking it out until you get something better lined up is a smarter course of action.
Can you afford to quit right now?
If you quit, is your decision one that is going to just affect you or do you have an entire family relying on you as the breadwinner? Don’t forget to keep other things in mind like health insurance. Once you leave your job, those benefits usually stop.
Ask yourself these questions to really drill down and make sure you’re in a position where walking away won’t be a problem. Quitting only to turn around and have to crawl back and beg for your old job isn’t a scenario anyone wants to live through.
STEP TWO: GETTING READY TO QUIT
Okay, so you’ve made up your mind…it’s time to go.
In order to make this transition as easy and professional of possible, there are a series of tasks you should undertake before you turn in your notice.
Yes, it might mean sticking around a little longer at a job you’re ready to leave forever, but trust us, these tasks will make your transition into whatever else you plan on doing next much easier.
If you’ve sat down and really reflected on your situation and answered our two critical questions and still see quitting as the only answer, then it’s time to move onto the next phase…getting all your ducks in a row before you go.
While some employers might be okay with you quitting and allow you the time you need to wrap things up, some consider quitting to be an insult and might even insist you leave immediately…so make sure you’re ready before you go in.
This means making sure you’re tying up any loose ends that might hinder your exit.
Do you use a company computer? Make sure you clean off all your personal files and back up anything you think you might need including contacts and important information (Don’t forget emails either!)
Start streamlining your personal space/office/desk. Take home personal touches and make sure that you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Do you have samples of your work or a portfolio that you’d like to show to potential future employers? Make sure you get whatever you need before you turn in your notice.
Speaking of copies and contacts and backing up files, make sure that whatever you’re doing is legal and ethical. The last thing you want to do is to get busted for corporate espionage or intellectual property theft.
STEP THREE: DRAFT YOUR LETTER OF RESIGNATION
While sending your boss a “See ya” email, or worse, a text, might seem like a good idea, resist the temptation to do things the easy way and instead do them the right way. Ideally you should write a formal letter of resignation and deliver it in person, but at the very least make sure you get in a personal phone call and then send in your letter.
Okay, just so we’re clear…no matter how you quit, you need to make sure a formal letter of resignation is included in that plan.
A formal letter of resignation is more than just a courtesy, it’s also a legal document and should be treated as such. Most jobs have employees sign formal contracts when they’re hired and your letter of resignation is a document clearly outlining that you are leaving and when you are leaving.
It’s also one more opportunity to leave on a good note, so make sure your letter is well thought out and well written.
Need inspiration? We’ve actually got an entire article dedicated to making sure your resignation letter is perfect! Click HERE to read.
Once you’ve got your letter of resignation ready, make sure you’re delivering it to the right people in the right order. Speak with your direct supervisors first before moving your way along the chain of command before finally ending with HR.
While it might seem easier to go the other way around, having someone you’ve worked with closely for months (or even years) hear through the grape vine that you’re quitting can often result in feelings of betrayal and frustration.
STEP FOUR: MAKE SURE YOU’RE COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR EXIT TIMELINE
Industry standard is to give your employer at least two-weeks notice before your last day for most jobs, but in some instances and industries, you might be asked to stick around for one reason or another.
If your job takes extensive training, your employer might ask you to stay to help ease the transition with whoever is replacing you.
Sticking around to finish out a project you’re working on might also be expected.
No matter what the reason, make sure when you quit that you’re prepared to potentially stay longer, or at the very least have a plan in place in case you are asked.
Not only will it do wonders for bridge building with your soon to be former boss, but word might get to future employers that even under difficult circumstances, you are a team player.
In the event you already have another job lined up and they expect you to be there at a certain date, make sure you communicate that to your now former boss.
Offer to work with them in a way that is beneficial to both parties.
You might not be able to be there physically but being reachable via phone and or email (within reason) might help soften the blow of you leaving.
Make sure, however, that all this is done within reason and that there is a firm stop date. The last thing you want to do is end up being a free consultant long after you’ve left your job.
Speaking of that long goodbye, make sure you’re continuing to do the work you were doing before you turned in your notice.
Now isn’t the time to slack off or cut corners. Instead of taking these two weeks (or longer) as an opportunity to fluff off, keep your head down and push through with the same level of professionalism you were delivering before.
Not only will the transition be easier, but leaving your former employers with good memories of you will make any future references easier to secure and more positive.
STEP FIVE: BE READY FOR TOUGH QUESTIONS AND POSSIBLE COUNTER OFFERS
As we said earlier, some companies can see an employee quitting as a personal insult which can result in an uncomfortable conversation (or two). Your employer might want to grill you about why you’re quitting.
Make sure you keep your cool and maintain a professional position no matter what. Be candid and honest, but don’t forget to also be mature. Keep your criticisms constructive and don’t assign blame or issue ultimatums or threats.
This isn’t the time to focus on what’s happened in the past, but rather, what’s happening in the next two weeks. Try to stay positive and focus on the good times and experiences you’ve had. Reiterate how working for the company has benefited you but also remain firm in the fact that it’s time to move on.
Remember, today’s boss is always potentially tomorrow’s job reference…
Of course, there’s always the possibility that your employer sees you quitting as a bad thing (you were the perfect candidate for the job, and thus the perfect employee…right!?) and rather than let you go, will make you a counter offer in order to keep you.
If a counter offer is made (promotion, raise, responsibilities, company car, etc.) make sure you really think about it before blindly accepting it. You were planning on leaving for a reason…don’t get seduced into the same situation again.
Getting a raise might be exciting, but in six months when you’re still dealing with the same situations and people who made you want to quit in the first place, is that bigger paycheck really worth it?
Okay, we know we’ve thrown a lot at you really quickly, so in order to help make this easier, here is a quick recap:
Our Top 5 Tips For Quitting Your Job
1. KEEP CALM AND COOL
Quitting in the heat of the moment might make for compelling television, but in real life there are serious consequences to every action. Before you quit on an impulse, sit down, take a breath, and really make sure what you’re doing is right in the long run…not just in the immediate.
2. PHYSICALLY PREPARE TO WALK OUT THE DOOR BEFORE YOU EVEN QUIT
Get everything in order before you drop the 2 week bomb on your boss. Clean up your computer and work space and make sure any and all company property is accounted for. When it’s time to go it will make the transition much easier as well as help ensure that you are not responsible for any missing items.
3. PUT IT IN WRITING – DELIVER IT IN PERSON
Draft a professional letter of resignation ahead of time and really put thought into it. Not only is it a clear outline of your exit strategy to your employer, but it’s also a nice way to make sure you leave on a good note.
Don’t forget, letters of resignation often end up in employee files and can be used later on when your former boss is called for a reference. Make sure they have nothing but the best things to say about you.
4. SET UP YOUR TIMELINE AND STICK TO IT
When you deliver your letter of resignation and speak with your boss, be prepared to discuss your exit timeline. Industry standard is 2 weeks, but in some cases an employer might ask you to stick around longer to help transition.
No matter how long you stay between delivering your letter and your final day, make sure it’s a stretch of time that works for you and your potential future employers.
5. TAKE IT ALL WITH YOU…IF YOU CAN
Do your exit interview and make sure you discuss not only why you’re leaving, but what sort of benefits come with you.
Employee sick days, unused vacation days, signing bonuses, health and retirement benefits…these are all perks you should make sure you’re not missing out on and sometimes the only way to ensure you get what you deserve is to make sure you ask for it.
Now that we’ve given you some tips on what to do before you quit, let’s look at what NOT to do.
Top 5 Things to Avoid When Quitting Your Job
1. Leaving Without Doing Your Exit Interview
Saying goodbye is painful, but it’s even more painful when you realize six months down the road that you neglected to get any details about your former employer’s benefits and salary packages you were entitled to.
Try to schedule an exit interview before you leave. Not only will it be a final chance for you to tie up any loose ends, but you should be able to discuss things like unused sick/vacation days, your retirement plan/pension, what happens to your health benefits and any other company benefits that might help you out down the road.
2. Taking Things That Don’t Belong to You
Company property is just that…company property. If you have a company issued laptop, phone, keys, ID cards, car, staplers…anything, make sure you turn it back in and get proper documentation stating that you’ve returned it. The last thing you want is someone claiming you’ve stolen something.
3. Bragging About Your Next Gig
It’s tempting to brag about what you’re doing next, especially if you’re going to a new job that pays more/has better benefits. Not only do you come off as a jerk, but it makes the people you’re leaving behind uncomfortable.
4. Not Saying Goodbye
Hey, we get it, it’s not easy…and nobody really likes saying goodbye, but making sure you’re leaving on a positive note is both good manners and good business.
Take a few minutes before you’re gone for good to say a personal goodbye to those people you’ve worked with directly…even if they’re not your favorite people. Today’s coworker might be tomorrow’s boss…
On top of that, make sure you leave your contact information so you can all stay in touch.
5. Blaze of Glory
Who hasn’t fantasized about catching a wild raccoon, shaving it bald, painting “HEY JERKFACE, I QUIT” on it in red paint and letting it loose in your boss’ corner office while playing “I Hate Everything About You” over the corporate PA system?
Everyone, right? No? Uh, okay. Well this just got awkward.
Regardless, doing something so epically…final…might seem like the right thing in the moment and certainly might earn you some serious bragging rights, but in the end, all you’re doing is hurting yourself and your future job opportunities.
Not everyone in this world is easy to work with, but it’s up to you to do your best to make sure you’re leaving on a professional high note. Resist the temptation to do damage on the way out and you’ll have far less cleanup to do when you start your job searching again in the future.
The raccoons will thank you as well.
Putting It All Together
Transition of any sort is never easy and saying goodbye is also tough, but hopefully we’ve given you information that will make it easier for you when that time to turn in your notice finally arrives.
No matter how perfect (or imperfect) a job is, there will always come a day when you will need to move on for one reason or another and now you know exactly how to do it with professionalism, grace, and above all…no angry raccoons.
As always, good luck!