How to quit a job in 7 simple steps

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(Image credit: Shutterstock: fizkes)

There are numerous reasons that you may want to quit your job (opens in new tab), and whether a new opportunity has arisen or you’re just unhappy in your current workplace, there are certain steps that you should follow when quitting a job.

When done properly, you will be able to remain professional and reach a mutual agreement - this means you should be happy, too. The best outcome will involve having an employee, usually your line manager, agree to be a reference for your next job.

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1. Make sure it’s the right choice 

The first step in quitting a job is making sure that quitting is indeed the right choice. Some of the most common reasons include finding another job that is more suitable, one that pays better, or even a career change. 

Maybe you’re faced with a different challenge, such as the need to relocate or a change in your health circumstances, either physically or emotionally. Family could be a key driver - whether you’re seeking to spend more time with your family or you are on your way to starting your own - while opportunities to further your education are likely to eat into your working time.

Whatever the reason is, being confident in your decision will help you to be more assertive further down the line when an employer is likely to ask you to consider staying. Make a list of pros and cons for each scenario you’re faced with, or reach out to a friend, family member, or trusted colleague for their advice.

Make sure that your decision is one made with your head, and not a fast-paced one based on a bad week. Companies will often have dedicated members of staff with whom you can discuss your concerns in confidence, as well as employee assistance programs (otherwise known as an EAP) who are better equipped to deal with most types of concerns.

2. Prepare 

Most people will quit just a few jobs in their lifetimes, so knowing what to do can be a challenge. While this list aims to highlight some of the key decisions you will have to make, each company will vary in how it works.

Sometimes there is no substitute for your employer’s HR department (opens in new tab). Talk to a company representative about anything you should need to consider when terminating a contract, such as the notice period and any requirements you may need to see through. 

If you have been working from home recently, or adopted any kind of hybrid working (opens in new tab) routine, you will likely have company property in your possession that needs to be returned and examined for damage.

3. Honor the notice period 

Check the technicalities involved with resigning; answers to these questions can usually be found in your contract or an employee handbook, while HR (opens in new tab) should be able to provide you with the right information.

Notice periods can range from a matter of weeks to several months, and while it’s typical of a company to extend its notice period to you as you serve more time to the company, it may be expected that you do the same in return, giving more notice as time goes on.

Sometimes, especially if your personal situation allows, you may want to offer a longer notice period to help finish unfinished work and meet deadlines. Something that will only help you later on in the process when you come to ask for a reference.

Similarly, if an employer asks you to stay longer than your notice period and you are unable or unwilling to do so, you are under no obligation to do so and are free to leave your position as per your contract’s clauses. This is generally the case when you have already accepted a new post and your future employer is expecting you to start on a selected date.

4. Quit in person 

The most courteous thing you can do when ending your career with an employer is to quit in person. You may want to follow this up with a letter or email (opens in new tab) to formalize your decision, but discussing this in person will allow both parties to share their thoughts and feelings.

This isn’t possible every time, especially for remote workers who are unable to commute to an office, therefore the next best thing should be done, whether this is a video call (opens in new tab) or a regular phone call for businesses without access to video equipment.

5. Prepare your letter of resignation 

While it’s a great idea to have a confirmation letter to hand, you should never lead with this. It should closely echo what you plan to discuss in your meeting. Because it serves as your formal notice of resignation, it should include some key details such as your last day.

It should be short and to the point, however a positive remark about the company will not go amiss. Share one key thing that you have learned or developed during your time with your employer, and offer to make your departure as smooth as possible: more on that below.

6. Offer to smooth out the process 

Oftentimes a company will seek to replace your position with a new recruit, or an internal change of roles. Somebody new to the role will require certain training to get up to speed, and there are few people better than you to share this information.

It can be a great idea to offer your help to work alongside your successor, but if this isn’t possible, consider making a list of details such as your daily, weekly and monthly schedules, any information on projects you’re currently working on, notes from meetings and training you have attended, and access to your work accounts including their login information.

7. Ask for a reference 

Congratulations, you have done the hard work. If you are moving into a new role, or are likely to be doing so in the future, ask your employer for a reference. This can be in the form of a letter of recommendation from your manager, or their contact details which can be passed onto your future employer.

Don’t forget about the power of technology; headhunting is just as likely to take place online and a LinkedIn account with the right connections and references will be very attractive to prospective employers.

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With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the electrification of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!