You should also use some of your remaining time to connect with colleagues. Go out to lunch or coffee. Be explicit that you hope to stay in touch. And express gratitude for the opportunities and learning you’ve had. Consider giving personal notes to your direct manager, any mentors, and close colleagues. This can help you leave a good impression.

The Bottom Line on How to Quit Your Job

There’s a right and a wrong way of how to quit your job, and being diplomatic is essential. Luckily, there are things you can do to secure your references and maintain your professional relationships before you move on to bigger, better career prospects.

Although you might have dreams of making how you quit your job epic, it’s usually a smart choice not to go all out like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. There’s no need to set fire to the office building. You can make your exit with class and still feel satisfied that you’re on your way out. There’s some science behind how to quit your job, and there are things you can do to make your next career move easier and increase your chances of a smooth transition. Here are some key strategies to help you take the leap into a different and hopefully more satisfying position.

Begin with introspection.

“What is the core essence you are looking to change?” said Gala Jackson, director of coaching and lead executive career coach at Ellevest, a financial management firm for women. “We know that when you are doing aligned work, or mission-focused work, and you feel honored and respected, you are more likely to stay in that role.”

A lot of people have merely absorbed what others’ visions of success look like, rather than their own, Ms. Wass said. She tells clients to evaluate several areas. Look at the work you do daily; what do you enjoy the most? Look at relationships with managers and colleagues, which play a significant role in job satisfaction. Are you using your strengths, which can make you feel more engaged and fulfilled? Is your work aligned with your values?

“What is the core essence you are looking to change?” said Gala Jackson, director of coaching and lead executive career coach at Ellevest, a financial management firm for women.

“What is the core essence you are looking to change?” said Gala Jackson, director of coaching and lead executive career coach at Ellevest, a financial management firm for women. Credit. Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Do you need to have another job before quitting?

Some experts say you shouldn’t leave until you have another opportunity lined up. That’s good advice but not always feasible, especially if you’re at your wits’ end. If your financial situation allows you to swing a period of unemployment for a while (being realistic about how long that period might be), then you might consider going against this advice.

Claman says there are two situations that warrant resignation without knowing exactly what will come next: first, when you believe something illegal or unethical is going on at work and you are concerned it will reflect badly on you, and, second, when your current job is negatively affecting your health and your life outside of work.

She does suggest that prior to giving notice, however, you put together a plan that includes when and how you’re going to resign (more on that below), whom you’re going to use as references, and, most importantly, what you’re going to say to your employer about why you’re resigning.

Who should you tell first?

Once you’ve decided to quit, inform your manager first. You may have talked it over with some close colleagues, but you shouldn’t tell anyone who you don’t completely trust to keep it confidential. After all, you don’t want your boss to find out that you’re leaving before you get a chance to explain your reasoning. Even if you have a tough relationship with your manager, keep in mind that they are likely to be contacted as a reference by future employers, so you want to leave on good terms.

Author and CEO coach Ron Carucci says that you should tell your boss as soon as you’ve made your choice. “You may feel inclined to put off announcing your decision because you don’t want to add to the already stressful environment on your team,” he writes. “But that isn’t good for anyone. If you’ve decided that moving on is what’s best for you, then delaying your announcement only further risks your mental and emotional health… It’s better to just be upfront. Most bosses prefer to have as much advance notice as you can provide.”

Carucci also gives some useful sample language for cutting to the chase in this conversation: After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter of my career. My goal for this conversation is to discuss how to make the transition as smooth as possible for us both.

Don’t Mentally Check Out

If you’re quitting from a big company, there will likely be an exit interview where HR personnel and possibly your boss will ask you about your decision to leave. It’s likely that they’ll be especially interested in the case of an employee quitting a job they just started since they really don’t want to make the same costly mistakes twice.

In fact, leaving your employer with genuine and actionable advice about what went wrong in the hiring/onboarding process or during the job itself is valuable enough to counterbalance the immediate annoyance of your departure.

Before the exit interview, jot down some bullet points about why the cons of the job outweighed the pros. You can also mention aspects of the job that you really did like and wish had been a bigger part of the role.

But mostly, focus on why the job description and interview process didn’t paint you an accurate picture of the actual on-the-job experience. If that involves talking about annoying coworkers, go right ahead. But do so professionally, with diplomatic language like “not a good cultural fit” or “didn’t gel well with the existing team’s communication style.”

Don’t Get Discouraged

And remember, it isn’t illegal to quit this quickly, so when you find yourself stuck at a job that doesn’t turn out to be what you were expecting, the best thing to do is chalk it up to experience, get back out there, and keep looking for your dream job.

The realization that a job you just started isn’t for you can be horrifying. Just remember that it’s not the end of the world if you decide to quit early on in your employment. As long as you handle the situation like a professional using the steps above, you’ll minimize any negativity that comes with quitting a job so quickly.

Be sure to reflect on what about the job is unbearable for you so that you don’t make the same mistake twice. Don’t view the experience as a horrible, reputation-destroying event. Look at it as a learning opportunity, and the next job you land will be a whole lot more satisfying.


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