- If you’re stagnating and uninspired, it may be time to quit your job, but it’s crucial to give notice, remain professional, and maintain cordial relationships.
- You may not be ready to quit if you don’t have a plan, you haven’t saved enough money, or the situation is worth salvaging.
- If your side hustle is your passion, and you’re ready to launch your own business full time, it may be time to leave your day job behind.
- This article is for employees and side-hustlers considering quitting their jobs to pursue full-time entrepreneurship or other significant career changes.
As the Great Resignation – employees resigning from their jobs en masse – persists, you may find yourself inspired to leave a job that isn’t quite perfect. But while the grass may seem greener elsewhere, you’ll need to seriously consider your economic position and career plans before making a move.
We’ll explore when it’s time to quit your job and how to handle your exit, when you shouldn’t make any hasty decisions, and how to know if you’re ready to leave your day job behind and start a business of your own.
When to quit your job
It might be time to quit your job if any of the following rings true for you:
- You’ve been in the same spot for years. If you’ve strived for years to get a promotion, expressed your desire for professional development, and asked your boss for a raise, but no one’s listening and you’re stuck in the same position, it’s probably time to move on. Another employer might be able to provide all these things for you.
- Your employer isn’t interested in your goals. If you’ve set career goals and requested additional responsibilities and opportunities, but your supervisor constantly shuts you down, it may be time to find a job elsewhere.
- You’re uninspired and unengaged. Any job can become repetitive when you’ve been doing it for a while. While repetition doesn’t necessarily mean boredom or exhaustion – it can put you in a comfortable groove – if you regularly feel uninspired and unengaged, you could benefit from a change.
- Your company or industry is struggling. You can’t always control the forces around you. Situations like a declining industry or a company that can’t make ends meet are clear signals to look out for yourself and seek a more stable work environment.
Low salary is the top reason employees leave their jobs. Some other common factors are poor benefits, being overworked and lack of professional recognition.
When not to quit your job
Leaving a job isn’t always the right move. There are some instances when you shouldn’t quit your job, even if you’re tempted:
- You don’t have a plan. Although you don’t necessarily need a job lined up before quitting, you do need a plan for what’s next. For example, clearly outline when and how you’ll find new work – and how much work you’ll do. You should also figure out how you’ll cover your expenses between jobs.
- You don’t have any savings. If quitting would leave you jobless and penniless, you should stay put. It’s too risky to quit without a way to pay your bills.
- You’re just experiencing bumps in the road. Working for a small or growing business often means rapidly changing tides. Calmer times could follow several hectic months. Determine whether you’re just in an unusually difficult period or if your job is inherently too much for you. If you wait it out, you might be happy you stayed.
- You’re only chasing money. A higher-paying job can come at the cost of your mental health or work-life balance. What if your new boss is a bully or you’re expected to work 60-hour weeks amid excessive workplace stress? That might not be worth the salary bump; your current job might be a better fit overall.
- You’re not making a logical, sound choice. In emotional moments – say, after another rough meeting with an awful client – you might feel angry enough to quit. But this isn’t a logical decision. Neither is quitting just because of what you consider to be an unfair performance review. If you like what you do most of the time – and know you’re good at it – stay put.
- Your resume will look worse for quitting. Leaving a job before you’ve been there for an entire year almost always looks bad on your resume. Great resumes also don’t show several years spent bouncing from job to job. It might be worthwhile to wait things out and look elsewhere once your resume is better padded.
- You can get the changes you want. If your managers consistently praise you or you’re a high-ranking employee, you can sometimes get necessary changes made to improve your working conditions. Talk to your supervisors about your struggles with work, salary, clients, etc. Then, ask them what the company can change to address the issues. Making changes in a place you’re respected is more manageable than taking a new position without any clout.
- You haven’t yet asked your boss for what you want. A company that values you may accommodate your requests, but you’ll need to communicate with the appropriate people. For example, if you’re ready to quit because the commute is taking a toll, request part-time remote work. You won’t know what’s possible until you ask.
14 tips if you choose to quit your job
You’ve evaluated your reasons for quitting, exhausted your attempts to improve your situation and developed a plan for your future. You’re sure that quitting your job is the correct decision. Your next step is to quit in a way that protects your professional reputation, maintains networks and relationships, and assures excellent professional references.
Follow these 14 steps to avoid burning bridges with your current employer, co-workers, vendors and peers.
1. Tell your supervisor that you’re quitting first.
You want your boss to hear the news from you, not from someone else in the department. Avoid unloading your anxieties about quitting on co-workers. If your boss hears the news from someone else first, you lose your chance to control the narrative. Staff rumors may give your boss misinformation about your reasons for leaving. Instead, speak only with your supervisor, and explain your resignation concisely.
2. Give two weeks’ notice before leaving.
Two weeks’ notice is standard job-exit etiquette, but some employees give less notice, leaving their employer scrambling to find a replacement. Stay for the entire two weeks unless the company requests that you leave sooner.
For a successful job exit, resigning should never be a rash decision. When talking to your supervisor, let them know your proposed last day. If possible, honor your supervisor’s request to remain in the position until a replacement is hired.
3. Be modest about your next career move.
Don’t alienate your colleagues by bragging about your awesome new gig and sky-high career path trajectory. Leave on good terms by spinning the reasons for your resignation. Don’t say you’re moving on to bigger and better things. Instead, make your boss and co-workers feel like it’s nothing personal against them or the job.
4. Don’t insult anyone or anything.
Regardless of your feelings, show decorum before departing the company. The most important part of a successful job exit is to avoid throwing anyone under the bus. Even if you’re not leaving on the best terms, don’t play the blame game. You don’t want to ruin your career by trash-talking your former colleagues or managers.
Don’t use your exit interview as an opportunity to air your grievances. Maintaining amicable relationships is essential for obtaining good references and assuring future professional interactions.
5. Stay on top of your job responsibilities.
Remember that you’re accountable for your work until you walk out the door on your last day. Make the transition easy by completing – or passing on – any accounts or projects that managers assign to you. Keep in mind that later in your career you may need to use your former supervisors as references.
6. Continue adhering to office protocol.
You worked hard for your professional reputation, so leave your boss and colleagues with the right impression. Remain gracious and remember to thank your supervisors for the opportunities they provided. Explain how the job has helped you grow professionally.
Remain upbeat and allow any critical remarks to roll off your back, even if your supervisor doesn’t respond positively to your resignation. They likely know they’re losing a good worker and may express bitterness over your job change.
7. Review the employee handbook.
Make an appointment with your company’s human resources representative to review the employee handbook. Understand what you’re entitled to regarding your employee benefits package and compensation for unused sick or vacation days. If you have retirement plans through your job, such as a 401(k) plan, determine how to transfer the funds.
8. Organize your files.
Make it easy for your colleagues to find materials so they can transition your workload seamlessly. Create spreadsheets detailing any open work projects or accounts. Provide access to any files that colleagues or supervisors may need after you leave. Departing your job on good terms means being a team player until the last day.
9. Train your replacement well.
Your current organization has been paying your salary. You owe it to the company to leave your job in good hands. Leave on good terms by offering to train your replacement or providing contact information where colleagues can reach you after your final day.
10. Don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you.
Don’t remove office supplies or work material you didn’t develop and don’t own personally. Hand in your key fobs and identification tags, and clear your desk of any personal belongings on your last day in the office. Another part of a successful job exit is to update your voicemail and email to ensure any business contacts can reach the appropriate person.
If you’re looking for a job while still employed, don’t search for jobs on company time, be wary of posting about it on social media, and schedule job interviews for before or after work.
11. Give gracious feedback to your company.
Your boss, and possibly HR, will want to know why you’re quitting and what feedback you might have for them. Be as gracious as possible and offer productive feedback that could help them in the future. For example, you could tell them that the salary range wasn’t high enough or there weren’t enough employee performance evaluations. Be honest but not brutal with your feedback.
12. Write a letter of resignation.
When quitting a job, it’s best to give your employer a formal letter of resignation – whether you deliver it in hard-copy form or email it. In your job resignation letter, thank your employer and include the last day you’ll be working. It’s also a good idea to say that you’re willing to train your replacement or help in any other way possible to ensure a smooth transition.
13. Let your co-workers and clients know you’re leaving.
After you hand in your letter of resignation, ask your boss if it’s OK if you let your co-workers and clients know you’re quitting. Then, email your co-workers and clients and include your contact information, such as your personal email and LinkedIn profile. Let them know you’d like to keep in touch. You never know if this could help you later in your career.
14. Prepare for your exit interview.
Exit interviews are often part of the offboarding process, and they’re nothing to fear. If anything, they’re a great way to clarify why you’re leaving and help improve the work environment for your soon-to-be-former teammates. They’re also the ideal opportunity to thank your supervisor for everything you’ve learned from them and make a plan to keep in touch. You never know when an opportunity to work together again might present itself.
When you ask a former supervisor to provide a job reference, they may get reference check questions about your job performance, ability to understand and follow directions, and office behavior.
When to quit your job to run your small business full time
Maybe you’re thinking of leaving a job for reasons that have nothing to do with the job itself. Maybe it’s just time to turn your side hustle into a full-time small business. Here’s how you’ll know that time has come:
- You’re using all your free time on your side hustle. If your side hustle is your passion project and takes up all your free time, you should consider making it your job. But you should take that step only if your small business provides a steady revenue stream. Otherwise, you might need to keep it as your side hustle until it becomes financially sustainable.
- You identify a need that nobody else solves. If your small business has found a niche and solves unique needs for your customers, it may be time to leave your day job. If no other business fills the void your business fills, it’s a sign you should take it full time.
- You know you need to do it. Sometimes, you know your mission is to do things your way, run your own business and work for yourself. If you feel strongly about launching your business full time – no matter the risks – it may be time to take the leap. You’ll be betting on all the cards falling into place, but sometimes your passion will be more than enough to make that happen. You can’t know until you try.
Kylie Ora Lobell and Nicole Fallon contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.