How to Quit Your Job

Learning how to quit your job is somewhat a full-time job of its own - for a few weeks, anyway.

Your goal in learning how to quit your job is to leave with grace, keep business channels with your old employer wide open, and creating - and using - a checklist that walks you through the entire process of quitting your job.

Career professionals need to also take both a short- and long-term view of resigning from a job. In the short-term, you want to leave your old job on good terms and set yourself up for success when you walk through the door of your new job. In the long-term, you'll want to have a good answer to a question future potential employers usually ask - "Did you leave your previous jobs on good terms with your company?"

To answer that question in the affirmative, it helps to have an action plan to quit your job and take the necessary steps to put that plan effectively in place.

Take these steps to do just that:

Step 1: Prepare to leave, but on your terms

Don't resign from your employer without having a good reason for doing so. If you're quitting your job for a career upgrade to a better job, or if you've maxed out on your career potential at your existing firm, then you're good to go. If it's a matter of not getting along with your boss, or anxiety over job responsibilities, a good, candid talk with human resources or, if it's a smaller business, a senior manager who can steer you into a more rewarding role may be a better option than quitting your job. The goal here is to make you sure you're quitting your job for the right reasons.

Step 2: Write a solid resignation letter

Assuming you're quitting your old job for a new one, it's time now to prepare your resignation letter - the chief, official mechanism that states your intention to quit your job. Generally, it's considered bad form in human relations circles to state your intention to quit your job verbally. A good resignation letter can set the stage for a graceful exit from your job, and provide a clear path to leave your current job with solid business relationships intact. Basically, a resignation letter formally states your intention to quit your job, and gives the time frame for doing so. It can - but doesn't have to - include the reasons you're leaving your current job. Make sure to include the date of your last day on the job, gratitude to your employer for the opportunity to learn and grow at your old firm, and your contact information. Also, future relationships will grow more positive if you offer to train your replacement. Here's a handy link to good resignation letter samples.

Step 3: Provide ample notice when quitting your job

Don't let your employer know the time frame of your departure until you've checked any employment contracts first. Your employer may have included a minimum job departure notice time frame (say, two weeks) that you'll need to honor. If not, decide upon an adequate resignation schedule and date, and include it in your resignation letter. While you have no legal obligation to remain with your employer one day longer than you want to, offering to stay until a suitable replacement is hired or moved into your position will fuel positive vibes with your employer, and will likely result in a good relationship that could come in handy down the road, when you need a job reference.

Step 4: Request a professional letter of reference

Assuming relations are good with your employer, ask your direct manager for a letter of reference. Keeping tabs on old employers and managers grows more difficult by the year. Take advantage of the fact that you're still on the job, and still have access to a manager, executive or business owner who can write you a glowing recommendation while you're still there. That could well come in handy down the road if you need assistance getting another job.

STEP 5: Line up your benefits and transition your retirement plan

Schedule a discussion with your human resources contact or your employee benefits contact to go over your employee benefits. Some of those benefits, like office access passes, company-bought mobile phones and computers, and company credit cards, will end when you leave on your last day, and will need to be returned. Others, like 401k or IRA plans, employee stock ownership plans, health insurance, and unused vacation and sick pay (which usually can be converted to a cash payment) are more open-ended, so you'll need to know where you stand with those benefits. Make sure to roll over any 401k or IRA plans from your old employer to your new one, as well. Your HR contact should be able to provide you with the necessary forms to do so.

What To Do After Quitting Your Job

While the tasks listed above should be a top priority, you'll also want to check some additional items off your job resignation "to do" list.

For example, feel free to craft a "good bye" and "good luck" email to your co-workers, managers and company vendors. Thank them for the opportunity to work together and wish them well in their future endeavors. Not only is it the right and heartfelt thing to do, it will keep the lines of communication open in the future, and you may even be working together again, or writing and requesting reference letters one day. Not cutting ties will make those experiences easier to manage.

Also, don't leave any current projects hanging. Finish up your work tasks, or at least make clear arrangements for another co-worker or your replacement to do so. Employers don't like loose ends, so always leave your company, project-wise, on a high note.

If your company requests you submit to an exit interview, do so. It's a good way to clear the air (diplomatically, without getting personal) and gives you a chance to offer suggestions on how your old position could be improved and your corner of the workplace more productive. An exit interview shows an employer you mean well, and that you're contributing to the company's success to the very end.

On your last day at work, be gracious and cordial, and accept any well wishes in the spirit they're intended. If your co-workers throw a small party for you, or take you to lunch, show your appreciation with a personal note of thanks. That will put you in good stead with your former co-workers going forward, and they'll tend to recall you fondly for doing so.

It would be bad form to ask for co-workers to take you to lunch or drinks on your last day - that should happen organically. If you have personal belongings, don't ask the company to send them home, you should take responsibility for your workplace. If your desk is messy, which signals other workplace problems, clean it. If it's not, be on your way.

Your last step?

Leave your old workplace with your work done, your reputation stellar, and your head held high.

After all, you've taken all the steps needed to resign in good standing, and no matter what the reasons for quitting your job, you're the one holding the high ground, and keeping all of your career options open, if needed, down the road.

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