How to Quit Your Job Gracefully

How to Quit Your Job Gracefully

You have a new job, or you’re just done. You have to figure out how to quit your job.

It’s simple, right? You walk into your manager’s office, or HR, smile and say, “I’m quitting my job. I’m giving my two weeks notice.”

You can do it that way, but knowing how to quit your job, and doing it gracefully, will help you protect yourself financially and keep doors open to:

  1. Return to your company.
  2. Work with your boss and colleagues at other companies.
  3. Get good LinkedIn recommendations and references.

Because of this, it’s worth planning your exit in detail.

Check out the 10-step infographic below for the highlights of what your plan needs to include. Then drill down for more detail in the narrative that follows the infographic.

The Ten-Step “How to Quit Your Job” Program

How to Quit Your Job


Confirm All Details of Your New Job Offer

If you’re moving to a new job, be sure you have a firm offer before you quit.

Michelle Petrazzuolo, SPHR, an HR manager and career coach, cautions you to wait to resign until:

  1. All reference and background checks have been completed.
  2. You have received, signed, and returned a written offer letter.
  3. You have a firm start date from HR.

I would add finding out whether or not you will be asked to sign a non-compete agreement. Just because an employer doesn’t ask you to sign a non-compete along with your offer, doesn’t mean they don’t plan to insist on one later (more here).

Get Your Money Before You Quit

Jeff Altman, a recruiter and career coach, reminds you to collect outstanding, non-salary compensation before you quit.

If you’re due a big commission, don’t give notice until the funds have been deposited and cleared your bank. The same goes for bonuses.

Why does Jeff say this? He had an employer stop payment on a check after he had given his resignation. He then had to go through his state’s Department of Labor to get paid. Ugh.

Create Your Career Archive

Matt Franks, an entrepreneur, reminds you to collect information you’ll want in the future in your files and on your personal computer. That might include:

  1. Your employment agreement.
  2. Documentation that details money due to you at separation.
  3. Emails and other communications that praise your work.
  4. Copies of your performance reviews.
  5. Facts and data about your big accomplishments.
  6. Work samples and templates.
  7. Contacts.

Elements of a Career Archive

If I had a dollar for every resume client who wishes they had kept this type of information…

That said, don’t break laws or violate your employment agreement when collecting this information. Employers get angry about that type of behavior.

Also, be aware that your boss might be expecting you to quit. Some firms now use bots to watch changes on your LinkedIn profile to predict your resignation (more here).

While this is often done to amp up retention efforts, the same information can be used to implement surveillance on people who might take confidential information away with them.

Create a “Turnover Report”

Valerie Streif, a job search advisor, recommends creating a turnover report for your boss. It should include:

  1. A list and status on what you’ve been doing.
  2. Other information they need to know.
  3. A list of key contacts and an offer to make introductions.

How Much Notice Should You Give When You Quit Your Job? 

Your goal is two-fold here:

  1. You don’t want your new employer to think you would leave them in a hurry.
  2. Within reason, you want to ensure a smooth transition for your current employer.

Talk with your new boss about their needs and consider your current company’s situation. It’s usually pretty easy to agree on a schedule that takes care of everyone.

The experts I polled advised a two-week minimum. Four weeks is common at senior levels. I’ve seen transitions of up to two months.

Whatever you do, make your transition time count. Don’t check out. If you do, you’ll hurt your company and your reputation.

How Do You Tell Your Boss You’re Quitting Your Job?

It’s courteous to tell your boss you’re quitting before you share the information with anyone else.

Lisa Skeete Tatum, CEO of Landit, advises you to meet with your boss in person and provide a clear, concise reason for your resignation.

She says to take the high road, stay positive and fact-based, and emphasize your commitment to a great transition. Talk about what you’re going to, not what you’re leaving.

Beyond that, don’t forget to thank your boss for the opportunity to have worked for them and your organization.

Lisa suggests a short and sweet letter to share at your meeting:

This is my letter of resignation effective [date]. Thank you for the opportunity.

SaraEllen Hutchison, an attorney, agrees. She says, “Kill them with kindness. No matter what they did to you…if you can set a tone of professionalism and grace in your notice, it will pre-pave better interactions…from there on out.”

That turnover report and the intros described above? Excellent examples of killing them with kindness.

Be Prepared for a Call to Security

In a worst-case scenario, you might find yourself with a security escort, being taken to collect your things, and then accompanied to the door.

If this happens to you:

  1. Be polite.
  2. Congratulate yourself for all the planning and prep work you did.
  3. Don’t be offended. Your employer might have had bad experiences with other people that warrant this type of policy.

Be Prepared for a Counter Offer

Colin McLetchie, PCC, a career coach, reminds you to expect a counter offer.

If you’ve done a good job of explaining why you’re leaving, repeat those lines to your manager when they ask, “What will it take to keep you?”

If you’re tempted to take a counter offer, don’t say I didn’t warn you. That’s a big topic worthy of its own post. If you want more info, google, “Should I take a counter offer?”

How Do You Tell HR & Your Co-Workers You’re Quitting Your Job?

Work this out with your boss. Try to support them in any face-saving they want to do — even if it kills you to kill them with kindness.

Tell everyone the same story. Be consistent. Be honorable.

If you’re disgruntled, promise yourself you’ll wait ten years to give anyone the “real” story. It won’t matter then, and your anger will have subsided.

Send a Last Work Day Email

Consider sending your colleagues a last work day email to say goodbye.

I saw a client do that. He wrote a warm, funny post for his company’s employee Facebook group. He left everyone laughing and feeling good about themselves and him.

If you don’t have a group site to post to, send an email.

Stay in Touch with Former Colleagues

Recent research shows that your former colleagues are your best source of future job opportunities (more here).

Because of that, you want to send an occasional keep in touch email or holiday card.

Here are some more options Lisa and I identified:

  1. Add key colleagues to your personal “Board of Advisors.”
  2. Reach out to those Board members for the occasional coffee or a meal.
  3. Arrange to meet up with former colleagues at industry events.
  4. Join your company’s Facebook alumni group. Participate.
  5. Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn.
  6. Maintain the personal friendships you have with colleagues.

How To Stay in Touch with Former Colleagues

Sharing is Caring

If I’ve missed anything, or you have a question about how to quit your job, I hope you will mention it in the comments below. It’s one thing to write a blog post, but it’s even better to start a conversation.


I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Save time. Look good. Get hired.
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Image: Fotolia/AntonioGuillem
Updated October 2018

© 2017 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 5

  1. Start that Personal Career Archive long before you need it. Start today no matter where you are in your employment or career. Keep it updated daily, weekly, or monthly as it happens.
    Get a Brag Book mentality and build it out in a physical folder or electronic form.

  2. You need a Grab-N-Go list.
    Keep a list of all your personal items handy. Then when you leave the job you will not leave any thing at work. Include photos, desk supplies, your books, tools, CD’s, flash drives, etc.
    I once traveled an hour to return my recently fired boss his box of chef knives and tools. On my Grab-N-Go was a 16-extension ladder, not usual for a Food & Beverage guy.
    And if security escorts you out on the spot…you will be glad you have the list.

  3. Godfrey,

    Thank you for this! Very important if it would look weird for you to start emptying your office/cubicle before the big day.


  4. In my previous job, I had quit on not so good terms. However, in my current job, I wish to rectify this mistake. With the help of tips given in your blog, I got an idea about how to quit gracefully. Thank you so much.

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