How to Quit Your Job

You have a new job, or you’re just done. So now, like millions of others every month, you have to figure out how to quit your job.

It’s simple. You walk into your manager’s office, smile, and say, “I’m quitting my job. This is my 2-week notice.”

You can do it that way, but it’s better to protect yourself so you can:

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

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

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

10 Steps to Quit Your Job

How to Quit Your Job


Confirm All Details of Your New Job Offer

First, if you’re moving to a new job, be sure you have a firm offer before quitting.

Michelle Petrazzuolo, 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 if you will be asked to sign a non-compete agreement. Companies often spring them on new employees after they start.

Get Your Money Before You Quit

Next, Jeff Altman, a recruiter and career coach, reminds you to collect all outstanding pay. Then quit.

If you’re due a hefty commission, don’t give notice until the funds have 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.

Create Your Career Archive

Matt Franks, an entrepreneur, reminds you to collect the information you’ll want in the future.

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 significant 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.

Also, be aware that your boss might be expecting you to quit. Some firms use services that collect internal and external data to predict resignations.

That is often done to amp up retention efforts. However, it can also trigger surveillance on people with access to confidential information.

Create a “Turnover Report”

Before you resign, Valerie Streif, a job search advisor, says to create 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 2-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 2-week minimum. 4 weeks is typical at senior levels. I’ve seen transitions of up to 2 months.

Whatever your choice, 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 sharing the information with anyone else.

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

She says:

  1. Take the high road.
  2. Stay positive and fact-based.
  3. Emphasize your commitment to a great transition.
  4. Talk about what you’re going to, not why you’re leaving.
  5. 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 to kill them with kindness. No matter what they did, establish a professional tone. It will pre-pave better interactions.

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

Be Prepared for a Call to Security

Worst case, you might be cut off from all systems with an escort taking you to the door.

If that happens:

  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.
Be Prepared for a Counter-Offer

At the other extreme, Colin McLetchie, a career coach, reminds you to expect a counter-offer.

Repeat your explanation about why you’re leaving to your manager when they ask, “What will it take to keep you?”

If you’re tempted to accept a counter-offer, don’t say I didn’t warn you. That’s a big topic worthy of a separate 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 one out with your boss. Try to support them in any face-saving they want — 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 10 years to give anyone the “real” story. It won’t matter then, and your anger will probably have subsided.

Send a Last-Day Email

Then, consider sending your colleagues a last-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.

Send an email if you don’t have a group site.

Stay in Touch with Former Colleagues

Finally, stay in touch with your colleagues. They’re a great source of future job opportunities.

Because of that, send an occasional email to stay in touch.

Here are more options Lisa and I identified:

  1. Add key colleagues to your personal “Board of Advisors.”
  2. Reach out to your 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 your friendships.

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. Writing a blog post is one thing, but it’s even better to start a conversation.

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Featured by: 3Plus International
Image: Fotolia/AntonioGuillem
Updated April 2022

© 2017 – 2022, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 6

  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.

  5. Hi Donna, very nicely done and written! It’s sometimes underestimated how ‘important’ it is to quit your job the right way and how this can influence the next step in your career. A next employer will definitely ask you why you left your job or even ask you during your job interview what your former coworkers or boss would say about you. Needless to say, I totally agree with your views on planning your exit in detail because you never know what the future might bring :).

    I will read more of your blogs and hope you will post more of these gems!

    Thanks, Jamie! Donna

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