Romy Newman, president of career advice site Fairygodboss, said the best piece of advice she ever got came from an HR manager at a previous employer: “You should always be browsing for jobs.”
Keeping an eye out for other offers, and your mind open to the idea that you could always quit, can help you think through what you want out of your career. Sometimes, that might lead you to leave your job—but it might also push you to ask your boss for a raise, a promotion, or some other change that will make you happier in your current role.
Lately, a lot of workers have started thinking about quitting. Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index report surveyed 30,000 people in 31 countries and found that over 40% of workers are considering leaving their employer this year. The company cites pandemic-induced burnout and the erosion of work/life balance for remote employees as possible explanations.
But no matter how fed up you’re feeling with your job, there’s a big difference between keeping your options open and actually giving notice that you’re quitting. We’ve consulted a crack team of career experts to walk you through the process of resigning like a professional. But before we go any further, let’s figure out if now is the right time to quit. We’ve built a bot to help you think it through.
Should you quit your job?
What to do once you’ve decided to leave your job
Once you’ve made up your mind to quit, it’s worth taking some time to plan how you’ll break the news to the people you work with. No matter how you feel about your job, the career experts stress that you want to avoid burning bridges.
“The way you leave is a significant part of how you’ll be remembered. So make your final impression a good one,” says Stav Ziv, senior editor at career advice site The Muse. “This isn’t the time to start rattling off all the things you’re so glad you won’t have to deal with in two weeks or to unleash your pent-up torrent of complaints and frustrations. Even if you think you won’t need a formal reference from this job, people talk and backchannel.”
Give yourself time to leave gracefully
You should give at least two weeks’ notice before you quit. But you should start planning your departure earlier than that, if you can. That will give you time to think through how you want to make your exit before you set the gears in motion.
“After you tell your boss and your co-workers that you’re quitting, it’s natural for them to ask ‘Why are you leaving?’ or ‘Where are you going?’” says Alison Sullivan, a career expert at the job review site Glassdoor. “Having a clear, professional answer to those questions ahead of time is really going to help you.”
Every career expert we spoke to stressed that the only information you must divulge is the fact that you’re quitting and when your last day will be. You can decide how much or how little you want to tell people about why you’re leaving and what you’re doing next. “You can give a generic answer about the industry or type of role or you can just say you’re not ready to share that quite yet,” says Ziv.
You should also think through what—if anything—could convince you to stay, according to Newman at Fairygodboss. Your boss might offer you a raise, a promotion, or a new assignment to keep you from walking out the door. You should walk in knowing what you’d be willing to accept, which will put you in a better position to either negotiate or gracefully decline their offer.
How to tell your boss you’re quitting
Your boss should be the first person to know you’re quitting. Schedule a meeting with them—ideally in person, but a video call will do the trick if you’re working remotely. “Try to do it face-to-face as best as you can,” said Vicki Salemi, a career expert at the job search site Monster. “Definitely not over email, and definitely not via text or Slack.”
You don’t have to drag this conversation out. “Less is more,” said Salemi. She suggested a barebones outline you can use to pattern your own announcement: “I want to let you know that Friday, July 2, will be my last day. I’ve really appreciated the chance to work for you, but I’m moving on.”
Of course, you could take it a couple of steps further. Newman recommends starting a conversation with your boss about what you can do to help your team prepare for your departure: winding down any projects that are in the works, training up colleagues who will have to take over your role, transferring clients to another teammate, etc. You get bonus points if you can recommend someone good to fill your position.
If your boss asks why you’re leaving, or schedules a formal exit interview to solicit feedback about the company, that is not your opportunity to finally vent every cruel thing you’ve been thinking about your job all these years. The feedback, should you choose to provide any, should be constructive. “You should be able to express your reasons in a way that doesn’t offend or raise anybody’s temper—even if you feel that way,” says Newman.
How to break the news to your colleagues
Once you put in your notice, you should know that word is probably going to spread that you’re leaving. You may want to tell the people you’re close to yourself before they hear it through the rumor mill. Ziv recommends personally breaking the news to direct reports, colleagues you work closely with, and anyone you consider a mentor.
You should try to go out on a positive note. “It’s bad form to badmouth the company to your colleagues on your way out,” says Salemi. After all, they’ll still be working there after you leave. Instead, you can use those conversations to express gratitude for the knowledge, support, and camaraderie your co-workers have offered you, and to find ways to stay in touch.
You should spend the rest of your two weeks gathering up any important documents your co-workers will need to fill in for you after you leave and offering to sit with anyone who will be taking on pieces of your job so you can coach them through how to do it. “The more you can do to not leave people high and dry the better,” says Newman. “This is how you’ll be remembered. You don’t want to have had a great career and then be remembered as the person who just bailed on a project.”
Read more in Quartz and Quartz at Work:
Knowing when to quit is as important as having grit
An economist’s rule for making tough life decisions
Employers have a lot to gain from letting you openly look for a new job
The surprisingly effective retention power of lateral career moves