What To Do If It's Time to Quit Your Job (and How To Do It)


"I love my job, I love my job, I love my job..."

How many of us need to repeat this mantra to ourselves at work every day?

Overwhelmingly, Millennials just want to make their mark. A sense of accomplishment from their work is the strongest determinant of happiness, followed by pride in their organization.*

If your current job is not fulfilling you or helping you to advance (whether in learning new skills or to that management role), then you might be ready to move on to greener pastures. 

So, how do you know if it's time to move on professionally?

Signs you might be ready to quit

  • You find yourself anxiously awaiting the end of each week, and experiencing the “Sunday Scaries” at the thought of returning to work on Monday.
  • You wake up demotivated and sluggish – it’s difficult to drag yourself out of bed.
  • You often daydream during the day and find it impossible to focus.
  • You don’t jump to take on new projects anymore – you feel bored and uninspired.
  • Negativity has suddenly crept into your vocabulary more than ever – family and friends may even comment on the change.
  • Your job is actually affecting your health and well-being.

That's it - you're quitting! After you secure a new position, you are faced with the task of telling your employer that you're peacing out. So, what are your options for quitting (and the repercussions of each)?

Walking out
Walking out of your job is a pretty drastic step that implies that the situation/environment was so unfit, you had no choice but to leave immediately. Some of those reasons might include (but not be limited to): any situation that threatens your physical or mental well-being, i.e. sexual harassment or bullying. Any situation that brings such threats of harm against your person are definitely non-negotiable, but make sure they truly warrant walking out. 

So - you've decided that you’ve finally had enough, and it's time to hit the road, jack. But wait - have you considered all the professional repercussions of doing so? Probably not. Here are a few:

  • Burning bridges – you won’t be able to use the company or your manager as a reference.
  • If your industry is small, you risk alienating yourself or looking irresponsible
  • Others may hesitate to hire you as a result. 
  • If you are employed through a staffing agency, it may harm your relationship, and they may not wish to work with you any longer.   

If you have valid reasons for walking out (see above), your main concern is your safety as well as showing this was not an act based on irresponsibility. If necessary, file formal complaints with the necessary authority figures/agencies, such as your HR generalist. 

Never showing up again - a.k.a. "ghosting" your employer

Of all the reasons/ways to break ties with an employer, this is at the top of the “Don’t” list. Again, unless you are feeling threatened physically or otherwise, you should be contacting the appropriate parties and filing documentation to protect yourself and your reputation.

If none of that applies, then this act is extremely irresponsible and could haunt you professionally. 

Again, the repercussions are similar to those for walking out – burning bridges, lack of references, and looking to be a risky hiring decision. 

If you choose to do this, the best advice moving forward would be to use the experience as an opportunity to explore what made you unhappy in the position – whether it was the work, the people, or the culture, etc. Pinpoint what needs to change going forward as you begin your job search, and vow to not be a repeat offender in your next position. There is a professional, classy way to handle yourself even in the most dismal situations, and this is not a glowing example. 

Less than two weeks’ notice

The reasons for giving less than two weeks’ notice and repercussions vary for each person/situation. Perhaps you were just offered a spot at the up and coming agency you so desperately wanted to get in at – and if you don’t accept and start on their timeline, the chance will pass you by. If you’re a valuable employee, it’s likely that your boss will not be thrilled to hear that their star employee is leaving – and without much time to prepare. However, if they are a truly great manager, they will also appreciate your ambition and respect your drive to make the professional moves that are best for you and your career. 

The best way to approach it is to be transparent and professional, yet firm. Example: “Miranda, I truly appreciate the opportunity you have given me here at XYZ. With your direction, I feel I have learned and grown so much, and I thank you for that. I have been offered a position at ABC, and as you may know, the position and company is very much in-demand; they have asked that I start on X date, which I realize affords less than two weeks’ notice. However, please know that I will ensure that all projects are completed, and you and the team are completely up-to-date on all timelines prior to my departure.” If you are particularly generous, you might even offer to be available for a period of time after you leave the company; however, be sure to place boundaries on when/how you will be available. If your former employer attempts to cross those boundaries, you should reiterate that you’ve been happy to help during the transition phase as agreed to, but moving forward, you would need to operate on a consulting/freelance basis if additional assistance is required. Remember - your time is valuable and not free! 

Now, assuming that the above is not the case, there are a number of scenarios (and many more outside of these):

  • Your current employer will be fine with you giving less than 2 weeks. In fact, they don’t care how long employees give when leaving. Some positions are fairly open-ended, and you, in a sense, will not be missed. In that case – have at it.
  • They will be angry and it will be tense during the time you do stay on board. Just remember, you are a professional and how your soon-to-be former employer behaves is a reflection on them, not on you. Be conscientious and keep your commitment to leave them as prepared for your departure as possible.
  • They will be thrilled for you and celebrate your future success! 
Regardless of their reaction, your responsibility is to be a great employee and prepare them to the best of your ability. If you are worried about losing a reference for the future, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need your direct supervisor to vouch for your hard work. Carry yourself with confidence, be conscientious, and feel secure in knowing you did your part.

Two weeks’ notice

Obviously the most ideal, this situation offers your employer the standard notice given by most employees when leaving their job. They surely will be disappointed to lose you, but will respect your decision. The scenarios will be similar to above (less than two weeks’ notice), but same outcome – be the reputable, valuable employee they are sad to be losing. 

No matter how you decide to leave your current company, be sure to remain professional and choose the option that allows you to keep your reputation intact and ready for the next stepping stone in your career. 

*Robert Half conducted an extensive research study of 12,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada with Happiness Works, and discovered what makes professionals look forward to going to work every day.


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