How to Quit Your Job


July 22, 2021


180 Engineering

Quitting a job is one of those unpleasant tasks that pretty much everyone has to do at least once in their lives. But, as the pandemic winds down, and our new normal unfolds, experts are predicting that workers will choose to leave their current jobs in droves. Microsoft estimates that a whopping 41 percent of employees around the globe are thinking about jumping ship. This dramatic shift in workplace dynamics is being called “the Great Resignation.”

But whether you’re thinking about leaving your job right now, or if an incredible opportunity drops into your lap in three years or in five years, there is a right way and a wrong way to end your employment. It’s in your best interest to choose the right way. Not only will it smooth your transition to your new position but it could leave the door open to other opportunities down the road.

The Great Resignation

For workers who transitioned to working remotely during the pandemic, the call back to the workplace might trigger uncertainty and anxiety. Working at home gave people the chance to reconsider what’s important to them and to reimagine work, the space in which work is done, and their work/life balance.

For these reasons and a few others (such as accumulating nest eggs due to lower expenses or being worried about unvaccinated coworkers), large numbers of employees are thinking about leaving their current jobs. Anthony Kotz, an Associate Professor of Management at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University, termed this shift “the Great Resignation.”

If you too are considering leaving your current job, it would be best to plan for the smoothest, most positive resignation possible. It has always been preferable to leave on a high note but it’s now more important than ever.

As a piece in Forbes points out, remote work demonstrated that working from home provides great flexibility. Wishing to pursue that flexibility on an ongoing basis, many people will turn to freelancing or contract work. And, in fact, by 2027, it’s projected that 50% of the workforce will be freelancers.

To keep the door open for future freelance work in your field, for the opportunity to return to your present company if your new job doesn’t pan out, and to garner the references and recommendations you need to further your career – whether traditional full time or freelance – take the time and make the effort to resign well.

Give Your Job (And Manager) One Last Chance

Particularly if you’re leaving because you don’t want to return to the office post pandemic, Anthony Kotz advises that you speak to your manager and consider returning to the office for at least a week or two.

Kotz cautions against assuming that you must return to the office. As employers grapple with the Great Resignation, many will be eager to adjust their policies in order to retain top talent. Instead, have a frank discussion with your manager and ask if you can continue working remotely, or with a hybrid model that blends in-person and remote work. Other options might include working part time or taking a sabbatical. If you’re happy with your present job, try to explore other options with your manager instead of impulsively resigning.

Likewise, returning to the office for a week or two before you make your final decision is a terrific idea. You may find on site work easier to manage than expected or your employer may have made other adjustments to your workplace (such as physical space transformations) that make your work environment more pleasant than it was prior to the pandemic.

Once you’ve spoken with your manager and have done a short trial of working back at the office, you will be confident in your final decision.

Confirm And Finalize Your New Job

If you’ve decided to move on, congratulations on your new job! It’s best to make sure that your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed before you resign from your old job. You should have received and replied to a letter of offer and you should have a start date scheduled. Taking time to confirm and finalize these details will ease your transition to your new job and ensure that you don’t have any gaps in employment or income.

Clean Out Your Work Computer

In a perfect world, you would give your employer your letter of resignation and then continue working for at least two weeks while you helped your team transition and you cleaned out your computer and office. Unfortunately, resignations don’t always work that way. In some cases, you may be asked to leave the premises immediately after giving notice.

In preparation for that worst case scenario, a terrific blog piece suggests that your first step be a purge of your computer (and other electronic company devices) by:

  • Creating a folder for files that you want to keep;
  • Clearing off your desktop;
  • Deleting files that you know you and your company will never use;
  • Making sure that all your personal files are removed;
  • Backing up the files that you’re leaving behind;
  • Clearing your browser history and cache;
  • Erasing saved logins; and
  • Emptying the recycling bin.

If you have a voicemail line, you should consider clearing out any stored voicemails, passwords, and personal phone numbers from that device as well.

Write a Resignation Letter

A formal letter of resignation is always a must, even if you speak to your manager about the resignation in person, over Zoom, or on the phone. If you’re not sure how to format a letter of this type, or what to say, there are plenty of templates online. But, as discussed in a blog piece at Indeed, it should formatted as a short, professional letter and include:

  • Your contact information;
  • A formal greeting;
  • An explanation that you are leaving, indicating your expected last day of work;
  • A specific reason for your exit, such as accepting new job offer or wanting to eliminate a long commute;
  • Gratitude for the opportunities you’ve had in your role;
  • A statement of your willingness to help with your team’s transition; and
  • A professional sign off and signature.

Keep the letter calm and positive. Don’t vent or include any negativity. Even if you hate your job or your boss, you should never say so in a letter of resignation.

As well, if you’ve already created a transition plan for your team, attach it to your letter and explain its intent.

Tell Your Manager in Person

Giving bad news is always tough. No one wants to do it. But don’t chicken out and resign via email or by leaving your letter of resignation on your manager’s desk. It’s important to resign in person (or over Zoom if you’re working remotely). And, you never know! As the Indeed blog points out, your manager may present a counteroffer at that meeting that could convince you to stay.

Give Sufficient Notice

Unless it’s impossible, give sufficient notice of your resignation. Except for upper management positions or roles that are particularly difficult to fill, two weeks is the standard amount of notice.

Create a Transition Plan For Your Team

Especially if you have close connections with your colleagues, you may want to help them smoothly transition through your departure. Depending on your workplace, your manager may wish to create their own transition plan. But unless you are being micromanaged, it’s quite possible that your manager doesn’t realize the complexity of your daily tasks – which software applications you use, which supplier is always late, or how each of the connections in your network contributes to the success of your position.

If your manager has accepted your offer of a transition plan, draft a list of your duties and projects, and make suggestions as to which colleagues can best handle each assignment.

Talk to HR About Benefits and Payouts

Most companies will pay out unused vacation and sick time upon an employee’s departure. Also, if you have any workplace benefits, like health insurance or a pension plan, you will need to figure out the best way to manage those. Your HR department can advise you on these types of details.

Pack up Personal Items

If you’re not happy at your present job or if you’re quite excited about your new one, you may be tempted to pack up your office before you even resign. But, as a helpful blog piece at Indeed suggests, this is a bad idea. Seeing you pack things up may be confusing and concerning to your coworkers. It’s best to wait until after you’ve met with your manager.

Prepare For an Exit Interview

Many companies ask for exit interviews as a way to understand why you’ve chosen to leave. It’s usually not mandatory to participate in an exit interview. However, it can provide a valuable opportunity for you to give feedback that could positively impact your colleagues and the company’s future hires.

If you attend an exit interview, treat it the same way as a job interview. Dress professionally, act respectfully, and keep your tone calm and professional.

Ask For References

If you’re parting on good terms, ask your manager and colleagues for references or for recommendations on LinkedIn. Be polite and respectful in your request and be sure to express gratitude for the experiences you’ve had with the company.

Glowing references will be an asset during any future job search, particularly if they’re from your direct manager. However, LinkedIn recommendations from colleagues can also be helpful. Recommendations are especially valuable if you’re planning to pursue contract work in the immediate future but they will remain visible in your profile for potential recruiters and employers to view at any time.

Say Goodbye And Make Plans to Keep in Touch

Leave on a high note by wishing your managers and colleagues a pleasant goodbye and providing them with your contact information. Since you’ve already spoken in person to your manager, it’s okay to say goodbye to everyone else via email.

Maintaining your network, by providing your contact information, almost always pays off. A position may open up at the same company in the future that would be a terrific fit for you; or, a colleague might recommend your name to a recruiter.

Executing a smooth and positive exit from your place of employment will take time and effort. However, leaving on a high note can help secure future employment (whether full time or freelance), smooth the way for returning if your new job doesn’t pan out, and maintain valuable connections within your network.