Mastering the Art of Quitting Your Job

June 20, 2017 Steven Watson, PhD, CPRW Career Change

Quitting your job can be a very uncomfortable thing to do.

However, the days of holding onto a job for many years—even decades—are long gone. In fact, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that people, on average, change jobs an average of approximately 12 times during their careers with millennials doing so at a greater rate than baby boomers or Gen Xers.

While the decision to change jobs may not be as unusual as in previous decades, it can still have a significant impact on your professional and personal life. For this reason, the decision needs to be planned carefully.

Here are 5 things to do when quitting your job.

Proper Planning is Critical.

It may be tempting to move forward quickly once the decision has been made to quit your job. However, taking the time and effort to plan out the process will pay important dividends. This can include analyzing your finances and, if no new job is insight, determining how long you can support yourself with no or reduced income. Can you hold onto the job until finding a new one? If so, this is definitely the best approach to take. If not, then be sure to think through the short- and long-term consequences before acting.

Don’t Quit Your Job When Upset or Angry.

One of the worst things you can do is quit your job when under stress or after a specific incident that is not an indication of an ongoing trend. Quitting your job will relieve short-term anxiety, but create long-term problems. If upset, take the time to calm down and think through the issues before acting. It is never a good idea to make important decisions when driven by emotions and quitting your job is no exception.

Remain Respectful to People at Work.

Movies and other media are full of examples of people quitting their jobs in humorous ways—making the boss look like a fool, disrespecting co-workers, etc. While this makes for good entertainment, it does not make for successful job transition.

It is essential to think long-term when quitting your job. References are important in landing a new job and exhibiting boorish behavior will travel through the grapevine and possibly hurt you later on (often when you least expect it). Respect the feelings of supervisors, co-workers, and customers, etc.  and avoid the temptation to settle scores.

Write a Letter of Resignation Following Company Guidelines and Proper Protocol.

A letter of resignation is usually expected and is a good way to document your intentions. Find out who needs to receive the letter and make sure to follow the rules. There is no reason to alienate a supervisor, HR staffer, or other stakeholder by not distributing the letter properly.

In general, it is best to keep the letter short, respectful, and to the point. Include an end date and short description of why you are resigning.

Waxing eloquently about your desires and frustrations in your resignation letter is not a good idea. If you do have serious concerns about how the company operates, treats staff, etc., try to schedule an exit interview with HR to air those concerns.

Be Very Cautious about Attempts to Keep You in Your Job.

Supervisors or managers will often make the effort to dissuade you from quitting your job. This is certainly ego-fulfilling since it suggests that you are a good employee. However, offers like this are often done in a panic because of the burden of having to fill your role quickly.

When you quit your job, you are in a position of power. However, if you accept the opportunity to remain, your employer will eventually have the upper hand after having the time to plan for your departure. Employees considered to be flight risks are often not trusted by those in authority which could become compromising.


Job transitions have become the norm in our fast-paced society, but it is critical to use careful planning and execution in quitting your job. Take the time required to complete the process with grace and respect to avoid long-term repercussions.

We would love to hear examples of successful and problematic job resignations from our readers.

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