Elyssa Duncan
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How to quit your job professionally
Last updated: September 26, 2022
Elyssa Duncan
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How to quit your job professionally
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Your boss – not your coworkers – should be the first to know you’re resigning from your job

You received a great new job offer, and the excitement is at an all time high... but, now it’s time to quit your current job. It's important to take this step seriously and approach it professionally. Maintaining a good relationship with your employer, boss, and coworkers is crucial for your overall career journey. Follow this advice and you'll be remembered for being the employee that resigned gracefully and professionally.

Step 1: Talk to your boss

The best first step you can take is speaking to your boss in person. If that’s not possible, a phone or video call will do. When you resign from your job, here’s what you should cover in your conversation.

  • Give at least two weeks’ notice

This is the minimum professional standard and it gives the company adequate time to make plans for your replacement. Some circumstances make it impossible to give two weeks, but give as much notice as you can.

  • State your reason for leaving

Tell your boss why you’re moving on – another job in the same field, a job in another industry, or personal reasons. Don’t feel compelled to share too many details. Your personal relationship with the boss may dictate how much information you share, but be sure to have an honest reason on record as to why you are leaving.

Be polite and direct. For example: Another company has offered me a position in a new department, which will help me develop additional skills and experience that will be great for my long-term career.

TIP: If you feel comfortable doing so, use your departure as a bargaining tool. If you enjoy working there, but are considering a similar job for more money or better benefits, you could use that as leverage to stay with your current company. Please note: Only do this if you have NOT already accepted the position at the other company. It’s bad for your professional reputation to accept a job and then turn around and decline it.

Your conversation could begin like this: Mr. Smith, I hope you know how much I love working here, but XYZ Company has offered me the same position with a $2 an hour raise with full medical benefits. I’d prefer to stay, but that compensation is hard to pass up. Can we discuss a raise?

  • Explain your plan for the transition

This will help you really stand out and make a memorable impression on your boss. During your in-person (or phone) conversation, discuss what loose ends you can tie up in the next two weeks, and how you expect to accomplish that. You should also ask your boss if there are other ways you can make it a seamless transition.

  • Thank them for the opportunity

Thank your boss for the advice and oversight they have given you during your time with the company. Be as authentic and gracious as you possibly can.

  • Ask for a reference, if appropriate

You will know if it’s appropriate to ask your boss for a reference. The best time to ask for one is when you’re fresh in the boss’ mind!

Step 2: Send a letter of resignation

Follow up your conversation with a formal letter of resignation. The letter should cover the same points as the conversation, but in less detail. An email is fine, or a letter attached in an email.

It’s good practice to copy the HR department if there is one, to make sure any exit interviews or paperwork are triggered on time.

Step 3: Follow up regarding exit procedures

Again, if there’s an HR department, it’s a good idea to check in with them. Find out where and when to turn in company property, what you need to do to cash out vacation time, or learn about extending health insurance benefits (COBRA.)

Step 4: Finish out your two weeks

Work hard the last two weeks of your job. Tie up loose ends, help train your replacement, and be helpful to your fellow colleagues. Exchange information with your coworkers so that you can stay in touch after your departure!


Knowing the right way to quit your job is important to keep your work relationships intact. The cliché has some truth: It’s a small world, and you never know when you’ll cross paths again with your employer, boss, or coworkers. Follow our steps to talking to your boss about quitting, and you’ll leave without burning a bridge and possibly building your network for the future.

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Elyssa Duncan
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Beth Craft

I would add one important thing. Finish your tenure by working up to the moment you leave. I worked in academia for many years. I was always amazed at with the number of staff who basically took a powder for the last two weeks…OR faculty who announced far in advance they were retiring, and did nothing for the final months - “I don’t want to serve on that committee, I’m retiring”, or “I’m not changing my syllabus, I’m retiring”…things like that. Leave on good terms. You never know when you’ll need a reference.

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Regina Pierce

I would have the proper conversation with my boss and follow up with a written letter first to him then a copy to HR. I would review any HR requirements and follow proper protocol. I would work very hard to give my old employer the best service possible and help train any replacement personnel they might need my services with.

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Ford Simpson

Great advice,I really could have done better. I was hurt and the two weeks didn't matter.I declined the severance pay also. Guess what ,three years later they rehired me at better hours and wages..You never know what impression you made while working there,Ford

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