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Is it Time to Quit Your Job? (And How You Can Quit Without Burning Bridges)

It can be hard to know when it’s the right time to quit your job. Worse yet, it’s easy to damage an otherwise great career by quitting without following the proper etiquette.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that you can follow to help ensure you’ll quit your job when the time is right, and leave with strong references in hand.

1. Make a List

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Before making the decision to quit your job, make a list of the reasons you want to leave. This list will help you as you search for another job—or start your own business—as well as providing a guide when you tell your employer why you’re quitting.

Once you have your list, ask yourself what would make you reconsider your choice to leave. Would you stay if you were offered different hours, for example? If the answer is yes, consider talking to your boss before investing time and effort into looking for another job.

It’s possible that your ideal position doesn’t involve a boss at all, but rather the freedom to work for yourself. If you’ve been feeling the itch to follow your entrepreneurial aspirations for a while, and you have the resources you need, it may be time to quit your job and take that leap.

2. Weigh Your Options

Once you know why you want to quit your job, take a moment to consider your other options. Look for other positions that you qualify for, paying particular attention to things like:

  • Starting salary and benefits, and how they compare to your current job.
  • Opportunities for promotion—are you going to be looking to quit again in a year?
  • Workplace environment—does it look like somewhere you want to work?

If other jobs score badly by any of those measures, you might want to reconsider your decision to quit.

During this process, don’t be afraid to contact other prospective employers. However, be careful about making promises at this stage. Make sure you receive a firm job offer before making a the commitment to quit, and let your new employer know it will be a few weeks before you can start.

3. Talk it Over with Your Boss

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Once you have another job in mind, let your boss know why you’re leaving. Find a time to do this privately, and when your boss isn’t busy with other work.

It’s important to be honest about your reasons for looking for another job. However, it’s equally important to be polite and avoid blaming your boss or other employees for your dissatisfaction. Try to avoid speaking negatively. For example, instead of saying “I’m not making enough money,” point out that other jobs offer more.

One benefit of this approach is that you might not have to actually quit your job. Many employers are willing to offer raises or other incentives to keep a valuable employee on their staff.

4. Give at Least Two Weeks Notice

Assuming you still want to quit your job, the next step is to formally let your employer know you will be leaving, and when. Although it can be uncomfortable, it’s best to do this face to face. Two weeks is the proper etiquette for most jobs, but giving early notice is rarely a bad idea, especially if you have been working with the same employer for a long time.

You should also let managers and other employees know when you’ll be quitting, so that they can plan around your absence. Even if you’re unlikely to work with someone before you quit, it’s still polite to let them know that you won’t be there in the future.

5. Write a Resignation Letter

Depending on your job, this might be as simple as a short email. However, it’s important to give your employer notice in writing after letting them know in-person that you’ll be quitting.

Your resignation letter is likely to stick with your employer more than what you said during your meeting. For that reason, it’s important that you avoid criticism and negativity. In fact, don’t talk about your reasons for leaving at all. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of your workplace experience.

6. Develop a Transition Plan

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Depending on your job, it may be appropriate to work out a plan for your last few weeks with your employer. Work as hard as possible in those weeks, because that’s how your employer will remember you. It’s also important to wrap up as many projects as you can, to avoid stress for others after you leave.

If possible, offer to train a replacement for your position. Employers are much more likely to write good recommendations for employees who don’t make them work overtime after they leave.

That being said, remember that you aren’t obligated to keep working after the date you gave for your notice. Leaving gracefully is important, but so is starting your new job on time.

7. Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

The best way to insure a good recommendation from an employer is to ask for one. Although a paper letter of recommendation is traditional, websites like LinkedIn can store your letters online for easier access.

Resist the urge to tell your employer exactly what to write. If your employer asks for advice, however, don’t be shy about emphasizing your abilities.

8. Keep in Touch

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Make plans to keep in contact with your employer and coworkers after you quit your job. Not only is it polite to do so, but it builds up your range of professional contacts, and can serve as a lifeline if the unthinkable happens and you need to return to your old job.

Conclusion

The most important thing when it comes to quitting your job is to take the time to understand your options. Then, follow through gracefully, and never slack off after putting in your notice.

By keeping politeness and work ethic in mind, you’ll plant the seed for better career prospects in the future.

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    JACOB TINGEN

    LAWYER & ONLINE ENTREPRENEUR

    After graduating from law school and passing the bar, I struggled to find work, pay my bills, and make ends meet. That's when I decided to take control of my future and start working for myself. Now, several years and a handful of companies later, I'm sharing how I launched a successful business, and how you can do it too.

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