The most impassioned “I quit” stories rarely happen. Four-letter laced resignations and Jerry Maguire-style walk-offs are best saved for the big screen. People do quit jobs though. When you’re ready how can you be sure it’s a good idea? Well, most of the time it just feels right. Analyze your pro-con list. Take counsel with close friends and family. Double and triple check the numbers. But, at the end of the day, it’s about what you want out of life that matters. People leave their jobs for all sorts of reasons—better career opportunities, more schooling, to raise a family, to chase a dream. Make sure you leave your current employer with grace, style and class once you’re ready to get going on whatever’s next for you. How you do it matters, if only to yourself.
Think before you pen that resignation letter. At-will employment—where an employer or employee can end the relationship at any time—is fairly common practice in the United States. Just as employers are free to discharge employees at any time, those employees are free to quit for no reason at all. And yet that slack connection between the two parties is a complicated one to break. Ruminate on that decision before inking your resignation letter. Of course you should consider what you’ll gain from walking away but also think about what you’ll lose. Have you built up enough goodwill to telecommute or take Fridays off? Can your boss utilize your strengths and challenge you better than anyone you know? Do you take for granted some company perks that you’ll miss once you leave? Picture how your day-to-day life will be rather than a specific advantage like better pay or a shorter commute. Think over how this life change will impact your family, for the better and worse. And, once your decision is settled, start writing your goodbye.
Be firm, kind and gracious. There is a truth and a reality of resigning from a company. You’re actually severing ties with an employer but it feels like you’re quitting on your boss and teammates. Unless you truly hate your situation, it feels callous to walk away from people you like, respect and care about. Remember that your career—your life really—is for you to manage. And while it’s kind to consider others’ feelings along the way, it’s important to make decisions that better life for yourself and your family. When it’s time to share the news with your manager, do it privately. Find an empty office or conference room or walk to a nearby coffee shop to talk. For everyone’s sake please don’t draw out the revel. You don’t need grand speeches about “the best years of your life” and “how you’ve learned so much” before letting your boss know you’re putting in a notice of termination. Be clear: “I’ve found another opportunity that I’m excited about and I’d like to talk to you about leaving here the right way.” You might get questions. You may get asked to reconsider. And you could be blindsided by rage and resentment—not everyone handles rejection professionally. No matter the reaction remember to be gracious and kind. Listen patiently to whatever your manager wants to say. Thank them for their mentorship and the opportunities they’ve given you. And frame your reasoning in terms of what you’re “running to” instead of “running away from”. It makes the decision feel less personal.
Give fair notice and finish strong. Two weeks notice. Employers expect at least that much heads-up from terminating employees to get things in order. Instead of giving two weeks notice because that’s just what people do, consider your specific situation. In the middle of a tough project that could use a few more weeks of your attention? Talk to your new employer about a delayed start date instead of feeling pressured to leave before you’re ready. A company that really wants you will wait. Once timing is settled, focus on finishing out your last few weeks strong. Work with your manager to plan the transition of your open work. Think about everything you do and make sure someone else will do it after you leave. Don’t slack off. It’s easy to coast during a lame duck period. Be as tenacious on the way out as you were when you started. Karma has a way of paying off to those who do right by others.