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Whether you love your job or hate it, there comes a time when you have to say goodbye. For many professionals, this can bring a variety of emotions. From feeling like you’ve won the lotto, to a huge sense of guilt, or regret, you always want to leave a job gracefully. Why? Keeping good relationships will prove beneficial in the long run. After quitting over 20 jobs myself and coaching hundreds of clients through submitting their resignations on a positive note, I’m going to explain how to leave a job gracefully in this article.
When it comes to how to leave a job gracefully, I’m going to give you situational examples, we’ll discuss timelines, who you need to talk to, final conversations, and how to prepare for your new role. I’ll also answer some of the most commonly asked questions that I get from professionals when it comes to respectfully quitting a job.
Here’s the truth, I’m a planner. I’m one of those people who have a plan and several backup plans. This comes in handy when I’m helping my clients plan their exit, which is the first step. Let’s talk about it!
Step 1: Plan your exit
Here’s the thing, there’s never a “good time” or the right way to quit your job. I say this because there’s always going to be an outstanding project, commitment, or event that makes you feel stuck or guilty for quitting. If you’re currently feeling guilty about quitting your job, check out this article, How to Quit a Job Then Not Feel Guilty then come back and finish this one!
I know that it is often advised to avoid quitting your job during a big project or launch, but that’s often unrealistic. If you’ve been recruited, you probably weren’t expecting it and if you’ve been job hunting, you’re probably over the job anyway. My point is, that life is unpredictable and you need to focus more on your peace of mind and opportunities. I’ve worked at large and small companies and they all have the same thing in common… when someone quit, they figured it out.
Not to be graphic, but if something happened to you tomorrow, they would have to figure it out. So what can you do to plan? Take a moment to document any outstanding projects and deadlines. Make sure to prioritize them and determine which ones you can finish before you leave. Having this information will also help when it comes to providing your resignation to your supervisor.
Common Question: How much notice should I give my employer?
You can probably tell by now that I’m not a black-and-white person… I believe there’s always room for grey area and I stand behind my common answer of “it depends.” This is one of those situations where it truly depends on the circumstances, you’re in.
When it comes to a notice period, historically and across the board, a two-week notice is common and widely accepted as the professional thing to do. For executives such as managers, directors, and CEOs, the resignation period is usually a lot longer, anywhere from one month to 6 months. At the end of the day, you have to do what you feel is best for you. You can start by asking yourself some of the following questions:
The answer to these questions should give you clarity. If you feel like the company treated you well and you genuinely enjoyed the work, I recommend a two-weeks notice. If the environment is toxic, your boss is a bully, and staying any longer is going to make you depressed or anxious, leave as soon as you need to.
If you’re still struggling, remember this, most companies are “at-will” employers and will let you go without any notice so do what’s best for you!
Step 2: Submit your formal resignation letter
Now that you’ve decided when you want to leave, it’s time to submit your resignation letter. This part doesn’t have to be stressful and the letter or conversation doesn’t have to be long. All you have to do is put together a quick formal letter and it can be as simple as the example below:
“I am writing to formally resign from my position at [Current Company], effective two weeks from today. I appreciate the opportunities for growth and learning during my time here.”
Of course, as with anything, you can make it longer by expressing your sincere appreciation, all that you’ve learned, and your plan for wrapping up any outstanding projects. It’s up to you!
Common Question: Who should I submit my resignation letter to?
It is best practice to submit your resignation to your direct supervisor since they will be the one that is directly impacted by your departure. If they are on vacation or extended leave, submit it to the person that they’ve designated as their “acting supervisor” while they’re away.
Step 3: Meet with your Manager
When it comes to leaving a job gracefully, honesty, transparency, and a straightforward approach is always the way to go. Schedule a private meeting with your direct supervisor to communicate your decision. Provide examples of your dedication to a smooth transition:
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here and wanted to discuss my decision to leave. I’m committed to ensuring a smooth transition for the team. Let’s create a plan to wrap up ongoing projects.”
Reassuring your manager that you will do everything in your power to wrap up projects, train staff, and leave directions shows your desire for leaving the job gracefully.
Step 4: Meet with the HR Department
Depending on the organization, you may need to meet directly with HR early on. Ask your supervisor for next steps and refer to your employee manual to make sure you’re completing the resignation process appropriately. This is also a good time to check in and find out more information on when your benefits will be cut off and when you’ll receive your last check!
Step 5: Prepare for the Exit Interview
An exit interview is a common part of the departure process and you want to consider it in advance. Keep in mind that this is completely optional and if you do not feel comfortable attending, you can politely decline.
If you choose to participate in an exit interview, be prepared to share constructive feedback, but also keep it classy. For instance, if you’re leaving for a career change, highlight how the new role aligns better with your long-term goals.
Or if you have a toxic boss, instead of bashing the boss (because they most likely already know) just say you have found that you have different working styles and you’re looking forward to a different work environment. Trust me, they will know what you mean and this will also allow you to leave on a good note and not one where you have to relive any trauma that may have been caused.
If you want to go in hot and tell them what you think of them, ask yourself, is it worth it. Often it’s not because nothing you say to the hiring manager about your current job and former colleagues is going to make a drastic difference. Try to remember that you are moving on to a new employer who gave you a better offer. This new great opportunity is in your best interest with better benefits, great new team members, and overall a better experience. I’ve found that this is the best way to look at your new role. This helps put you in a positive mind frame and allows you to leave with no hard feelings.
Step 6: Complete outstanding projects
Don’t stress yourself out before you leave your current role. Do what you can and know that you did your best to tie up any loose ends. I highly recommend (if you have time) documenting your processes, advice, and tips upon your departure. If you have colleagues who are willing to step in and help out, train them in the process so that they can fill in and complete the work until your replacement arrives. Leaving a job gracefully usually means that you made the transition as smooth as possible and completing as many outstanding projects as you can (and within reason) is apart of that.
Step 7: Ask for Letters of Recommendation and References
While you’re still in your current position, it’s always a good idea to ask for references before your final day. If you have good relationships with your colleagues and supervisor, do not forget to ask if they are comfortable with being a reference for you. Personally, I’m a fan of getting recommendations in writing when possible. Back in the day, resignation letter was extremely popular, but most professionals do not want to commit to writing them (after all they are time consuming!)
If you have colleagues who are willing to sing your praises, ask them to write a quick recommendation for you on your LinkedIn page. Also, if you haven’t already began doing this, make sure to keep track of your kudos, accomplishments, and compliments while you are working. This makes it easier when future employers ask you for examples.
In fact, I’ve created an accomplishment tracker for you to use! Click here to download yours.
Common Question: What’s the best reason to quit a job?
Whenever I work with professionals who want to quit their jobs, they always ask if their reason is good enough. I always say, your reason is your reason and there’s no need to justify it. Whether you’re burnt out, want a career change, or sick of working a 9-5, you need to do what makes you happy. I’ve actually written several articles on the main reasons for quitting and you can check them out below:
Now before wrapping up things up, I want to quickly highlight some of the most common challenges I see professionals go through when they want to know how to leave a job gracefully.
If you’re faced with a counteroffer (good for you!), carefully evaluate it. Remember, you’re leaving this organization for a reason and more money won’t fix what motivated you to move in the first place. If the primary motivation was money, do you really want to stay at a company that didn’t show you they valued you before you decided to leave?
When responding to a counteroffer you can say something as simple as,
“I appreciate the counteroffer, and it was a difficult decision. However, after thoughtful consideration, I believe the new opportunity aligns better with my long-term career objectives.”
Dealing with a Toxic Work Environment
Unfortunately, toxic work environments are way too common. So common that I actually created a mini docuseries on it!
Leaving due to a toxic work environment requires finesse. Provide examples of positive aspects without dwelling on negativity:
“I’ve decided to pursue a new path that offers a better alignment with my career goals. I’m grateful for the skills I’ve gained here and look forward to applying them in a more positive environment.”
Try to remember that when you leave, anything that you say can be held against you in the future… but if it’s a toxic environment, you probably don’t care anyway and to that I saw cheers to you!
You don’t always need to share where you’re going so don’t feel obligated to disclose. Confidentiality is key when transitioning to a new role. If you don’t feel like sharing, you can say something like,
“I appreciate your understanding that I cannot disclose details about my new position and employer. I believe in maintaining professionalism and ensuring a smooth transition for both parties.”
As you can see, when it comes to answering, how to leave a job gracefully, it’s an art that involves thoughtful planning, effective communication, and a positive mindset. By incorporating these examples, tips, and advice into your departure strategy, you’ll not only exit on good terms with your current employer but also set the stage for a successful journey in your new role. Remember, a graceful exit is not just a formality; it’s a reflection of your professionalism and commitment to your own career growth. I wish you the best in your new adventure!
You’ve got this, friend!