The Twenty-Something's Guide to Gracefully Quitting Your Job

There comes a time in nearly every twenty-something’s life when it’s time to hit the highway, so to speak. Millennials are job-hopping more than the generations before us; gone are the days of “working your way up” from lowly cashier to corner-office CEO. Whether you’re leaving for a more fulfilling position, going back to school, or joining the circus, you have a commitment to your current gig to do them right. You should leave with at least some vestige of grace.

These rules apply to any job, whether you hate your boss with the fury of a thousand suns or you love your job like J loves Bey. Here is the twenty-something’s guide to gracefully quitting your job.

1. Be honest from the beginning.

Presumably, you’re reading this article because you’re thinking about jumping ship. Does your boss know of your longing to go back to school or become a scuba diving instructor? They should, because the first step is to be honest from the beginning.

If you’re making plans to start school or to take a new job, be open about it. Not taking “sick days” to secretly interview or polish your resume. Not only is that shady behavior, it’s disrespectful to your current employer. Difficult conversations are no fun (especially if you feel like you’re letting your boss down), but they will appreciate the heads up and it will feel good to be honest.

If your boss has any trace of decency, they will be more than willing to hear about your future plans and eager to support you in them. You’re a go-getter who doesn’t settle for less than the best — that’s why they hired you in the first place!

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Related: How to Have a Conversation That You Don’t Really Want to Have

2. Know your company’s resignation policy.

Before you officially notify them of your resignation, make sure you understand the company’s resignation policies. You might have only skimmed the employee handbook when you first started, but now is the time to read the “resignation” section carefully so nothing comes as a surprise.

If you have a 401(k) or an insurance policy through them, understand how those will be affected. Educate yourself on the options for what to do with your 401(k) and if you need short term insurance while you are in-between jobs.

Related: The Quarterlife Guide to Finding Health Insurance

3. Give as much notice as possible.

Once you decide it’s time, provide as much notice as possible. Frequently, people refer to quitting as “putting your two weeks in,” but don’t wait for the two week mark if you don’t absolutely have to.

Giving at least one month of notice shows that you care about the organization you work for and want them to be left in a good position in your absence. As soon as you know when your end date has to be, let them know in the form of a resignation letter.

It’s also important to note that your “two weeks” may not be two weeks. Some companies may require more notice so be sure to refer to Step 2 and check your company’s resignation policy.

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4. Write your resignation letter.

You landed this job with a stellar cover letter. Don’t turn in a sub par letter when you’re on your way out. If you aren’t the type to go out in a public display of sick dance moves, then compose a well-written, personalized resignation letter, tailored to your boss and your job.

When I submitted my letter, it was highly personalized with a warm (and a bit humorous) feeling. That’s because my relationship with my boss is congenial and relatively informal. I also read the resignation policy of my workplace and used several of its keywords to show that I am following policy to a T. My letter was formal and professional in style and format, but was specific to my boss and relationship with her. It couldn’t have been written by anyone else, for anyone else.

5. Discuss your resignation in person with your boss.

While the letter is a nice (and in some cases, obligatory) touch, you still need to discuss your resignation in person with your boss.

This should be a no-brainer, but I actually know of a person who missed this crucial step. He told his boss that he might leave, then when he decided it was time, placed the letter in his boss’s office mailbox. He assumed his boss got the message, but the letter got pushed to the back of the mailbox and was unseen for a week. Workplace mayhem ensued.

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To avoid any possibility of confusion, hand the letter to your boss personally and tell them in person that you are resigning.

6. Still do your best work, until your last day.

When your resignation is submitted, your work isn’t done; you should continue to do a great job until you leave. You’re in the home stretch and might feel something akin to senioritis (resignioritis? I don’t know), but this is the time to kick it into high gear so you are remembered as the great employee you are.

Very importantly, tie up any loose ends on your projects and leave behind some notes so your replacement has a smooth transition into the role. With any job, there are strange little idiosyncrasies (i.e., “the back door gets stuck so you have to kick it,” or “Julie in accounting isn’t a fan of small talk, so make your messages short and to-the-point,” etc.). It took you awhile to learn these things, so you might as well save the next person some time by telling them.

Quitting a job is hard work if you want to do it right, but it’s worth the effort. In return, you’ll get a great professional reference for your future endeavors, the peace of mind of knowing you did the right thing, and practice for the next time you choose pursue a new opportunity.