Too many of us stay at jobs that make us unhappy. Often factors such as finances make that personal toll necessary, but at times, it’s really inertia and a sense of lacking agency that keep us stuck in bad experiences.
Quitting a job can be hard, but with the right resources and actions, it’s possible. If you’re thinking about leaving your job, read through this framework to get some ideas about how to move forward.
Make your decision
The first step in quitting your job is determining that you want to leave. Not all job dissatisfaction needs to end with departure — sometimes changing responsibilities or improving work/life balance makes all the difference.
However, taking the time to reflect and be honest with yourself may show you that it’s time to go. You might be burnt out and tired of trying to set boundaries and get management to give you more support. You could find that you’re no longer challenged or learning anything new or are losing interest in your particular field. Perhaps it simply comes down to numbers — you’re no longer satisfied with the salary your company is willing to pay you.
Whatever your motivation to quit, it’s important to remember that fundamentally, it’s perfectly OK to decide to move on from your job. Employment is a transaction — you have provided your labor, and, in exchange, your employer has given you money and potentially other benefits.
If you have started to see your job as more of a permanent obligation than a mutually beneficial transaction, it’s worth asking yourself why. Is your job too closely tied to your sense of self? Has work become a convenient reason to ignore other difficult issues in your life?
Do you feel guilty thinking about leaving because of an overestimated idea of what you “owe” your colleagues or the people who use your products or services? Are you feeling shamed by work leadership who equate leaving your role with hurting your work “family”?
Cutting through any emotional reasoning or faulty logic that’s keeping you in place can clear the way for you to take action to leave your job.
Preparing to leave
Once you’ve decided it’s time to go, make a plan about how to maximize the resources you have available to you while you’re still in your current position. Make the most of any annual check ups or screenings offered by your health insurance benefits and use any vacation time that you will not be reimbursed for after your departure.
Decide on how much notice you will give between your departure announcement and your last day. The common courtesy is two weeks’ notice; however, there are certain reasons you may wish to give more or less notice.
More than two weeks' notice could give you time to wrap up loose ends in your role and create a sense of goodwill with your employer which could be useful if you need to ask for a reference in the future. On the other hand, less than two weeks’ notice may be advisable in two key scenarios:
- Your mental health is being severely impacted by your job, and it’s imperative to quit promptly
- You fear retaliatory actions in your workplace, and you need to minimize the impact of the fallout that will occur from the news that you are leaving
Save any money you’ll need to use as a cushion for after you transition out of your role. Put something in place for how you will use your time after you quit your job. This could mean finding another job or getting accepted to college or graduate school.
If you plan to be self-employed or to take time off from working after leaving your job, think critically about how you will structure your time — if you’re not careful, the quick transition from regimented work days and work weeks to free-floating time can be overwhelming.
Announcing your plan
Often, the scariest part of leaving your job is just breaking the news to your boss. Don’t overthink this part — when the time comes, schedule a meeting with your boss and briefly and politely state the facts. (Ideally, this is best done in a one-on-one meeting, but if you have serious concerns that your boss could have an upsetting or frightening reaction to the news of your leaving, ask a trusted colleague of your boss’ rank or senior to join as a mediator.)
Share that you are leaving, inform them of the time frame, and express your intention to participate in creating a transition plan. If desired, you can give some basic details about your next steps — for example, you’ve accepted a new opportunity or you’re quitting so that you can move away and be closer to family — but it’s not a requirement.
You’re allowed to have boundaries with your employer. If you’re uneasy about any questions about your reasons for leaving or your future plans, it’s OK to say “I’m not ready to share more” or “I’m not comfortable discussing that”. It’s also OK to decline requests to stay on past your departure timeline — this it’s why it’s important to decide how much notice you intend to give before going into meetings with management.
Make sure to manage the official tasks of closing out your chapter at your company, which will likely include:
- submitting a written resignation letter
- creating documents detailing where you’re leaving off your work tasks and next steps for the person taking your place
- returning any company property that was issued to you
In getting ready for your last day, remember that YOU are your first priority, not your company. It’s one thing to make a good natured effort to complete projects and train staff who will cover parts of your role. It’s another to allow yourself to be overwhelmed with a to-do list that keeps you working to midnight and through the weekend.
Many companies request employees complete an exit interview about their experience in their role before their last day. Giving a thoughtful and constructive exit interview could help the company grow and help you maintain a positive relationship with your soon-to-be-former employer. However, think carefully about what you may want to achieve with accepting or declining an exit interview — especially if your job experience hasn’t been overall positive.
If you’ve experienced a lot of negativity and animosity in your job, letting your complaints and anger loose in the exit interview could feel good in the moment, but it’s unlikely to be received in a way where your feedback could actually help create change.
Declining an exit interview may not be viewed as favorably as agreeing to engage in meaningful conversation, but remember the interview is a request, not a requirement. Ultimately, at this point your employer has more to gain from you sharing your perspective than you do. It’s OK if you’re no longer willing to spend the energy to help them do better — this is especially true if your feedback is related to your experience of employment as a person with a minority identity.
No matter the circumstances of deciding to leave your job, remember to celebrate your transition. It’s notable to bring this period of your life to a close and to embark on something new. Take the time to reflect on what was positive and negative about your experience and what lessons you want to carry with you as you move forward.Leaving a job is emotional — from coming to terms with your decision, to preparing your plan and putting it into action, to the aftermath. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with any portion of the process, you might benefit from the guidance of therapy. Click the button below to set up a free initial phone consultation. I’d love to hear more about where you’re at in your transition and discuss how I might be of support.