How to Quit Your Job the Professional Way
Updated By Staff Writer on November 9, 2020
For one reason or another, we leave our current job in favor of a new one. There may be several reasons for leaving a job; maybe it’s because you work for the world’s worst boss, or maybe you just want a change of pace. There are certain protocols to keep in mind, however, if you want to protect yourself and ensure you have good references for future positions. The best way to quit your job is to do it professionally. To show how to quit your job the right way, here are some tips you can follow to make your transition less stressful.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR NEEDS
First and foremost, you should be taking care of your needs, as no one else is likely to do so. These needs aren’t just financial in nature. Your mental and physical well-being should be considered at your current job, as well as any future positions you look for.
HAVE SOMEWHERE TO GO
Except in the most extreme cases, you should have your new source of income already lined up and ready to go before you hand in your two weeks' notice to your current employer. That doesn’t just mean a verbal agreement from a new job, but actual legal paperwork.
The last thing you need is to leave a stable job just to have your new employer rescind their offer, stranding you without employment. Even signed offer letters aren’t guarantees that your new boss won’t change their decision, so tread carefully.
If you’re leaving a job for self-employment, be sure you have a rainy day fund saved up in the event things don’t take off right away.
PREPARE FOR THE WORST
While many jobs will want to keep you around to finish projects, train the new guy, and otherwise make the transition a smooth one, others take a more direct approach. Some industries (like IT) and some circumstances (such as going to work for a competitor) will necessitate your immediate removal from the company.
If you have any indication this may be the case for you, make preparations before you turn in your two weeks' notice: back-up any examples of your work you'd like to use for future employers, take home personal items from your desk, and make sure you clear off any personal information from your work devices. If possible, collect any commissions and bonuses you're eligible for. Try to be discreet about your preparations—you don’t want a coworker to spread gossip or be the one to tell your boss. The goal is to limit the number of loose threads so you don't need to come back for something if you're not allowed to.
NOTIFY YOUR BOSS BEFORE ANYONE ELSE
You don’t need the kind of catastrophe that might come from your boss finding out about your resignation secondhand. Notify your boss first, preferably in person if at all possible. Prepare a letter of resignation to hand in when you break the news. Not all bosses take it well, but they’re bound to take it worse if they hear it from your coworkers, or they read it on Twitter. They may make offers to keep you on their team, so be prepared to listen to those offers, or to stand your ground and move on.
GIVE WRITTEN NOTICE
Most companies are going to ask for a written notice, but even if they don’t, giving one is good form. The standard time period is two weeks, but depending on your role in the company and the skill set involved, you may need to give them more time.
Notices of as long as six months are not unheard of, and for senior technical positions, it may take as long or more to find and onboard someone to replace you. Choose an appropriate amount of time for your situation. Just be sure you can start your new job on time.
GET CONTACT INFORMATION
In many cases, you may want to keep in contact with supervisors or colleagues, whether that be in a professional sense (as a LinkedIn contact, for example) or in a personal one (via Facebook, etc.). Be sure you have the information for those people you want to keep hearing from, and don’t forget that you may find future job opportunities from those you have a good relationship with.
If you aren’t immediately escorted to the parking lot, you may have a few weeks to do this, but once you walk out on the final day, odds are you’ve lost contact with everyone you didn’t already reach out to.
GET A REFERENCE LETTER
Remember that the whole point of being professional when quitting is so that you can have a good reference for future jobs. Getting a reference letter is a formal method of doing this, and by acting in a professional manner, you’re more likely to get one. Supervisors switch jobs, too, and you don’t want to find yourself unable to contact your previous boss when the time comes for a reference. Ask for a reference letter before your final day if possible.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR EMPLOYER’S NEEDS
Fulfilling responsibilities for the job you’re leaving, at a basic level, is good form. That said, being a good person isn’t your only motive. You’re also trying to secure a good reference for future job applications. No matter how badly you may dislike your current job, or the fact that your boss has an attitude problem that makes work difficult, it is in your best interest to help out. Remember that your previous coworkers can be the ones to make or break your future careers.
DON’T MAKE PROMISES YOU DON’T WANT TO KEEP
Don’t overcommit to your soon-to-be-previous employer, however. If the relationship has been good, you may feel a debt of gratitude. Even so, it’s not your responsibility to keep the business afloat. Once you have left, you don't owe your former employer anything.
Some things to avoid doing after you've turned in your resignation:
- Don't stay longer than the standard two weeks if you don't need to
- Don't offer to answer questions after you've switched jobs
- Don't promise bosses or colleagues that you can get them a spot in your new company
The idea is to walk away from the responsibilities of your old job before assuming the responsibilities of the new one.
HELP WITH THE TRANSITION
Employee turnover costs businesses a lot of money. They have to find, onboard, and train a new employee to replace you, and then there’s an adjustment period as the new employee learns all the nuances of the job. Projects and assignments can fall apart during that time, making things difficult. You don’t need to feel guilty about the struggles of finding a replacement, but you should do what you can to make the process easier on everyone involved. Leave instructions on your tasks, train whoever might be replacing you, and finish as many projects as possible to make the transition easier.
DON'T SLACK OFF
Your last impression is a very important part of your reference. Even if you're counting down the days to your new job, do your best to keep the work momentum going. You don't want to ruin a good reputation by failing to give a strong effort in your last few days. Do your job and do it well, so that when future employers come calling, your boss will have only praise for you.
BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU SHARE
Last, but certainly not least, keep a tight rein on your tongue. You may want to give coworkers or your boss a stern talking-to about how they’ve treated you, but outside of the momentary satisfaction, you won’t really profit from it. In addition, this can be actively harmful if your boss is well connected. The same goes for exit interviews. There’s no need to tarnish your image by making yourself out to be a whiner who has nothing but complaints. This holds true for social media as well. Keep your responses positive, and don’t share any information you don’t need to.
No matter what your job is, if you quit in a professional manner, you’re more likely to have better contacts and references when looking for a new job. If you find that your dream job requires a degree, or you need a degree to advance into a career, Independence University offers career-focused degree programs, 100% online. Request more information here.