How to Quit Your Job

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Are you looking for a career swap and want to know how to quit your job? Here are a few tips on how to quit your job professionally so that you can maintain a good relationship with your former employer.

[Featured Image] Person looks out the window.

If you find yourself reconsidering your current career choice and want to quit your job for a better one, there’s nothing wrong with that. What matters most is how you go about it. 

To quit your job in a professional way, first make a plan. Having a plan in place can help you think more rationally and make good decisions moving forward. Reflect on the reasons you’re quitting and prepare to express those reasons to your employer before drafting a formal letter of resignation.

You want to leave on good terms, so maintain a positive and helpful tone. Once you’re ready, keep these steps in mind for an amicable, positive departure.

Notify your employer. 

You’ve probably heard of giving “two weeks notice” when you quit a job. While this is the generally accepted timeline, employers appreciate as much notice as possible. You should consider how much time it may take your employer to fill your position. This depends on your position and industry, but generally the higher up you are in the company, the more time it will take to train your replacement. 

However, too much advance notice may affect the remainder of your time with that employer. Consider the needs and dynamics of your workplace as well as your own needs when deciding on timing. The goal should be to provide a respectful, sufficient amount of time without overreaching. 

How you notify your employer is equally important as when. Request an in-person meeting to tell your boss face to face of your decision to quit. Try to avoid just sending a resignation letter. The resignation letter is your formal declaration of your plans to quit, but it’s not a substitute for an in-person meeting. 

After your meeting, it’s time to draft a formal letter, usually sent via email, so everyone can keep a record of the document. Ask your boss if they prefer another method of delivery. Keep a copy of your letter for your personal records, as well.

Write a resignation letter. 

Your resignation letter is a critical component of how to quit your job professionally. It’s your chance to communicate the reason behind your decision to quit and lay out your plans going forward. This is also your opportunity to express gratitude for your time with the company and ensure you leave on a positive note. 

Some key points to include in your resignation letter include your date of resignation, along with your reasons for quitting, future plans, and a note of thanks for your time with the company. It may be best to keep the letter short and to the point. 

Stay positive. 

A resignation letter shouldn’t be a list of complaints. Address necessary issues, but don’t use this as an opportunity to air every small grievance. Even when you lay out your reasons for quitting, avoid negativity and put a positive spin on it where you can.

Instead of listing the reasons why this job isn’t working for you, focus on the positive aspects of the job that you’ve enjoyed during your time with your employer. If you want to let your employer know you’ve found employment with another company, you can use phrases like, “a new job opportunity” instead of “a better job.” Avoid being unnecessarily condescending or critical. 

Choose your words wisely

A good way to tie positivity into your resignation letter is to open with a note of recognition. It could read something like this:

“Dear Jane,

My job here at Company123 has been a positive experience for me in many ways, and I have enjoyed my time with your company.”

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Be clear and concise. 

After opening on a positive note, be very clear on your intentions. Avoid wavering, offering compromises, or going too much into depth on why you’re choosing to quit your job. Instead, be concise and to the point. Be honest where it’s appropriate, and use discretion in a polite rather than cryptic way. For example, you wouldn’t want to say that you've taken a better job with “great growth potential.” That information is irrelevant and inappropriate. 

It’s actually not really necessary to offer an explanation as to why you’re quitting. You can offer this information if you’d like, but don’t think that is a requirement for an effective and professional letter of resignation. Remember, your main intention is to notify your employer of your decision to quit and what that move is going to look like for you. 

Consider offering help in the transition. 

A helpful offering when drafting your resignation letter could be providing your assistance to your employer during the transition phase. Maybe you could help to fill the position by posting a job opening notice. Or maybe you could negotiate the terms of your resignation to allow the employer to train another employee to fill your position.

Some employees may also offer to train the person who will be filling their position. While it might not be required, it’s a nice gesture that could help to sweeten the situation for both you and your employer. It can even be a way to “pay it forward” if someone helped to train you into your position when you were new to the company. 

Express gratitude. 

In the vein of positivity, be sure to express your gratitude for the opportunities given to you by your employer. Keep in mind that they hired you and gave you the job you currently hold. Don’t dismiss the power of simple gratitude. Be specific about what you're grateful for if you can. For example, did they provide paid training, help you attend conferences, or offer you any promotions while you were with the company? Even if you don’t necessarily feel grateful in the moment, a basic thank you will suffice. 

Maintain good relationships. 

It’s key that you maintain a professional relationship with your current employer and all of your co-workers. These individuals will be listed as references on your resume, and you wouldn’t want to jeopardize your chances of future employment with bad references.

Maintain good relationships with everyone in your company, not just your boss or hiring manager. This means avoiding gossiping about others, bad-mouthing your company, or complaining about aspects of your job. When everyone knows you’ve decided to quit, don’t let that be your pass to start talking badly about your employer. Maintain a positive attitude and approach when sharing your news.

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