How To Quit Your Job Gracefully

Not everyone wants to burn bridges when they leave their jobs. Here’s how to quit well.

How To Quit Your Job Gracefully
[Run to exit: Markus Pfaff via Shutterstock]

When you’re stuck in a bad job, fantasizing about dramatically quitting can get your through a bad day.


We’ve all seen those epic viral “take this job and shove it” videos. And while it may seem supremely gratifying to quit your job in front of 100 million people or interpretive dance your way out the door of your dead-end gig, it’s usually not the best idea, says Andrew G. Rosen, founder of career blog

“Your exit is the first step in your job search. It might sound strange, and your employer may not affect your next job, but they’re going to be your references in the future,” he says.

Instead of setting the bridge ablaze, there are more professional ways to move on.

Before you quit:

1. Get your contacts up to date.

It’s a good idea to keep your contact list up-to-date on regular basis, but if you haven’t done so, start working on it while you’re job-hunting, says Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based staffing and recruiting firm. Connect on LinkedIn and keep a list of telephone numbers, email addresses and other contact information.


Just don’t do it all at once after you know you’re leaving, or it will be obvious that something’s up.

2. Quietly remove some of your personal belongings.

While some companies expect you to stay on for two or more weeks, other companies ask that you leave immediately for security purposes.

“You don’t want to be that person with 16 boxes, creating a spectacle,” Rosen says.

3. Stay calm.

You don’t know how people are going to feel once you leave. Some may be angry. Others may be jealous. Don’t take comments or attitudes seriously and have a plan for remaining calm if someone gets under your skin, Rosen advises. This may be a big change for some of your colleagues and that can be stressful.

During resignation:

4. Put it in writing.

Gimbel says it’s always preferable to put your resignation in writing. Keep it simple and positive, since this will likely go the company’s file on you. Thank them for the job they gave you, and state that you’re moving on to a new opportunity.


5. Give appropriate notice.

Rosen says two weeks’ notice is the “bare minimum” for entry-level and low-level managerial jobs. If you run a department or manage many people or projects, it may be more appropriate to give three to four weeks’ notice, he says. Consider that as you set a start date with your new employer.

6. Be honest in exit interview.

The exit interview isn’t an opportunity to take jabs at anyone or to vent years of frustration, Rosen says. But it is an opportunity to be candid, especially if you’re asked about specifics. Perhaps you wish your supervisor would have had more meetings with you or the company’s flex-time policy is an issue. It’s fine to share such constructive criticism, Gimbel says.

After your resignation:

7. Make the transition smooth.

Wrap up as many projects as you can and leave instructions for your successor. Be forward-thinking and involve the team members who will be covering for you in any decisions you make that will affect them, such as starting a new project or making changes to an existing one.

“It’s also not unheard of to allow them to reach out to you with questions or even work with them for a short time after-hours on a consulting basis as long as that doesn’t violate any of the agreements with your new employer or create a conflict of interest,” Gimbel says.

8. Follow up with colleagues.

Gimbel suggests staying in touch with former colleagues who are open to it. You might write notes or email messages to former coworkers to say that you enjoyed working with them. Forward along articles or information that they may find of interest. These people are part of your network.


“It’s a small, small world,” Rosen adds. “After your first few jobs, you’re going to run into the same people over and over and over. It’s a lesson many young people learn the hard way.”

About the author

Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and web sites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books.