The ultimate guide to quitting your job 

Photo illustration of a cardboard box to the left and, to the right, a hand typing on a laptop
(Photo illustration by Nicole Vas / Los Angeles Times; Unsplash photos)

Thinking of quitting your job this summer? You’re not the only one.

As coronavirus cases decrease and vaccinations rise in the U.S., many workers are at a crossroads in their careers. Whether considering a switch from an in-person job for a remote opportunity or quitting due to burnout, more employees are mulling over the decision to leave their current roles, experts say. And some foresee a summer of resignations on the horizon.

“I’ve been in this space a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Tammy Chatkin, executive vice president at talent agency 24 Seven Inc. “It’s the game of everyone moving around right now.”

Pent-up demand, pandemic savings, back-to-office mandates -- experts say it will all add up to a historic wave of people leaving their jobs.

June 14, 2021

Quitting your job without another opportunity lined up isn’t always feasible, especially without a financial cushion to fall back on. “You need to make sure you’re going to be able to pay the bills,” said Cathe Caraway, principal of the Employee Rights Law Group. But even if you have the means to leave, there are important points to consider before calling it quits.


We spoke with four experts to learn how workers should go about leaving their current role. Here is their advice:

Make sure you actually want to quit

It’s important to evaluate all of your options before leaving your job. For example, if you’re considering quitting due to burnout, think about whether a leave of absence would give you the rest you need. “It could be that there’s a short-term solution that might help you where you’re at now,” said Octavia Goredema, a career coach and founder of Twenty Ten Agency. But at the same time, quitting “could be this part of the biggest shift that you need to make” to achieve your goals.

Goredema, who is writing a career guide for underrepresented women, advises workers to think carefully about their short-term and long-term goals before leaving their job. If you decide that quitting will help achieve your goals and you can afford to do so, experts say you should go for it. “Trust your gut in terms of how you’re feeling right now,” she said.

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Review any paperwork you signed

Before speaking with your employer, take a careful look at your employee handbook and any papers you signed as you were hired or throughout your employment. This will help you identify how long your period of notice should be, as well as any other relevant policies, Goredema said. This is especially important if you have a written contract. “If somebody has a written contract, and they want to terminate their contract before its term is over, they should see an attorney,” Caraway said.

It may also be a good idea to have a lawyer review your signed paperwork if there’s a chance your employer could feel as if you’re taking trade secrets or valuable information with you to a competitor when you leave your job, Caraway said.

Have a meeting with your direct supervisor

Request a meeting with your manager, during which you can explain in person that you’ll be leaving. Beforehand, draft a gracious and succinct letter of resignation that is ready to submit after your meeting.

Resist the urge to tell close co-workers before your boss, experts say. “Your direct supervisor should hear it from you first,” Goredema said, whether in person or over Zoom or a phone call.

Once you deliver the news, work with your boss on how to communicate your departure to your team, as well as human resources.

Know why you’re leaving — and what you’d stay for

It’s important to understand why you’re leaving a role — and what would cause you to stay — as you share your resignation with your boss. Your manager could end up offering a bonus or a new title to keep you. If you’re leaving for a more lucrative opportunity, would a salary match persuade you to stay? If you enjoy your work, it could make sense to stay.

It’s also good to be prepared for other types of offers. “Clients have said they’ve been asked to stay on as a contractor,” career and executive coach Daisy Swan said. “In that case, you’re able to negotiate a better contract rate.”

Be prepared for a negative reaction

On the flip side, your boss may not react well to news of your departure — and depending on the industry, you may be immediately dismissed, whether or not you’ve given two weeks’ notice.

“Be aware of your corporate culture, especially if you’ve been there” for a longer period of time, Goredema said. “Prepare yourself mentally for the worst-case scenario.”

That’s why it’s important to “make sure all loose ends are tied up,” Swan said. “I have people who are currently really trying to leave their positions, and so they’re trying not to take on new projects.”

Ultimately, you shouldn’t blame yourself if your boss reacts poorly to your resignation. “You can do everything perfectly, but you can’t control other people’s actions,” Goredema said.

Have an answer to the question ‘Why are you leaving?’

You’ll probably hear the question “Why are you leaving?” from your supervisor, as well as your peers. “Be ready to have a standard response,” Goredema advised, while keeping your messaging positive. That can help preserve your relationship with your former employer — which can prove important as a reference for future jobs. “Reinforce what you’ve enjoyed about [your role] or what you’ve learned ... even when you’re ready to move on wholeheartedly to the next thing.”

If you’re not comfortable sharing your next steps, “It’s perfectly fine to say, ‘I’m going to be doing some new interesting things’ and keep it vague,” Swan said. Other helpful turns of phrase? “You can say you’re ‘taking steps to evaluate what you’ll be doing moving forward’ or ‘you’re looking to explore new areas of professional growth in the future,’” Goredema said.

Keep things positive

After meeting with your boss, experts advise against venting about your workplace to your co-workers. “You want to keep things as positive as possible because this is your reference,” Swan said.

Chatkin agreed, saying, “People check references like crazy. I’ve seen several candidates get to a finish line, and then not get a job because of a reference…. You definitely want to be that employee that if someone calls for a reference, they would say we would rehire them in a heartbeat.”

As long as you’re not leaving due to a serious workplace issue, it’s best to be positive and brief during your exit interview as well, experts advise. “Sometimes people are tempted to give an earful to whoever they’re talking to, and while that could be very helpful for an employer, it can really backfire on the person who’s quitting,” Swan said. If you’re leaving due to harassment, abuse or another major issue, “seeking legal counsel from an employment specialist is what’s needed,” she said.

In addition to keeping messaging positive, Chatkin advises workers to resist the urge to take it easy during their last few weeks with their employer. “One of the things people have no matter where they go to work is their reputation. And that reputation is really important,” she said.


Don’t feel guilty and practice self-care

Making the decision to leave your job can be emotional, experts say. “I’ve talked to many people who have trouble moving on,” Swan said. But it’s important to remember, “this is the way people manage their careers.”

Experts say you should trust your gut about what’s best for your career, especially as you share news of your departure. “Don’t worry about everyone’s perception of what you might be doing next,” Goredema said. “What matters is what your values are and what you are committed to exploring because it’s all worth exploring.”

To give yourself an extra confidence boost, Goredema recommends “surrounding yourself with people that inspire you,” whether that’s through your personal network or social media. “Just being in the orbit of people that have made things happen and navigated a transition, like the one you’re about to make, can be so inspiring.”

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