5 Right Ways to Quit Your Job

In the so-called Great Resignation era, experts say workers need to leave jobs the right way to maintain strong work networks.

Today’s era may have different names—the Great Resignation, the Turnover Tsunami—but the number of people quitting work has reached dramatic proportions. In one month in the United States alone, 2.8 million employees resigned—that’s more than 90,000 people a day.

The reason varies. Certainly, the booming economy that has forced companies to offer new roles is the biggest factor, but also, many people in the pandemic have begun to rethink their values. Either way, experts say, it’s both critical and not always easy to leave without burning bridges or immediately regretting your decision. Quitting a job can be an emotional experience, especially if it’s a role you’ve had for some time or at an organization where you’ve worked for many years. Plus, you never know who you’ll cross paths with in the future. “How you leave is just as important as how you start—it is a reflection of your personal brand,” says Richard Marshall, global managing director of Korn Ferry’s Corporate Affairs Center of Expertise.

Here are five ways to ensure that you are quitting for the right reasons and do so gracefully. 

Look inward.

Experts suggest employees take some time to be introspective before giving notice. Think about what motivates you, what’s missing at your current job, and your non-negotiables. Reflect on whether you’re running away from something that doesn’t align with your goals, “or are you running to a new opportunity that gives you energy?” says Marshall.

Create a clear list even before you interview for another opportunity. And when you decide to quit your current company, make sure the new opportunity checks all the boxes. Knowing that you’re going to the right new job or that you are quitting your existing job for compelling reasons makes it less likely that you’ll have have regrets, says Mary Elizabeth Sadd, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry. 

Prepare for a counteroffer.

Companies may be resigned to losing some people these days, but they are keen to keep people they consider critical. So if you have given notice, that means to be mentally and emotionally ready to receive a counteroffer. “There’s going to be a telephone effect within the organization and a scramble for a counteroffer,” says Deepali Vyas, global head of Korn Ferry’s Fintech, Payments, and Crypto practice. Experts say it’ll most likely happen within 24 to 48 hours of submitting your resignation.

Taking a counteroffer can be tempting, but many experts warn against it. “It’s the devil you know versus the one you don’t,” says Sadd. As an unwritten rule, she advises candidates not to take counteroffers because most people who do are gone within a year anyway. Sadd says the “pain point” that pushed you to consider quitting won’t just go away because you got a salary raise or promotion.

Communicate directly with the right people.

Don’t submit your resignation and walk out the door the following day. Experts say the general rule of thumb is a two-week notice for entry- and mid-level employees and around four weeks for higher-level executives. “You need to give enough time where the employer feels that you did a really great job seamlessly transitioning your role or responsibilities,” Vyas says. At the same time, your notice period shouldn’t be too long, because sometimes employees can get “hooked” back into the job and not leave, says Sadd.

Always make sure to communicate with your immediate boss first. “Don’t tell your friends and colleagues at work because it’s just inappropriate—keep it quiet and confidential until you tell your direct supervisor,” says Sadd.

Give feedback.

Don’t hesitate while providing feedback to your organization. Since you’ve decided to part ways, you aren’t likely to face repercussions. If your company conducts exit interviews, be as transparent as possible, experts say. Honest and constructive feedback can go a long way and will be very useful to the organization, says Vyas. Identify areas that can be improved and assist the company in receiving the “most out of your departure from a feedback loop perspective,” she says.

Say goodbye.

Although it isn’t mandatory, take some time to write goodbye notes to your colleagues and managers. Experts say it’s a nice gesture to show gratitude and leave on a positive note. Don’t forget to leave your personal contact information. “It is not saying goodbye forever, but more so a call to keep in touch,” says Vyas. Keep the note short and simple but honest, says Sadd. Communicate that leaving is a “mixed emotion,” and recall some positive things and lessons you’ve learned from the person you’re writing the note to, she says.