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The Joy of Quitting Your Job

By Gerald Walsh ©

Quitting your job is not easy. Leaving co-workers whom you like and often, several years of emotional investment in an employer is difficult, even if the job you’re going to offers you more pay, is closer to home, and presents greater career potential.

In my 20+ years as an executive search consultant, I’ve concluded that people quit their jobs for one, or some combination, of the following reasons:

  • Lack of career advancement opportunities;
  • A poor relationship with the boss;
  • Insufficient compensation (perceived or real);
  • Unfavourable industry trends or economic outlook;
  • Value differences between the employer and employee;
  • Boring and unchallenging work;
  • Not enough recognition and reward for performance;
  • Unfavourable working conditions such as long hours, unpleasant surroundings, or lengthy commute

But even if any of these situations exists, it doesn’t mean you should immediately quit your job. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Always give very serious consideration about whether a new job opportunity will meet the criteria you are seeking in a job. Be honest in answering these questions before you make any decision to quit:

  • Have I done everything I can to improve the situation?
  • Do I have a good understanding of my transferable skills?
  • Have I sought good advice from friends and mentors about my situation?
  • Might I be acting impulsively?
  • Can I list my most significant accomplishments?
  • What are the pros and cons of staying?
  • What are the pros and cons of leaving?
  • Do I truly understand what is important to me in a job?
  • If I were to advise a friend, in a similar position, what would I recommend?

Once you decide that leaving your job is best, do it with class. I always recommend you take the high road by acting professionally and showing concern for the problems your resignation might create for your current employer.

Resignations should always be done face-to-face. I’ve heard of people quitting by email, by voice mail, or just simply not showing up for work one day. These are great ways to burn bridges and destroy your reputation.

Request a few minutes of your boss’ time. Have a brief letter prepared explaining that you have decided to resign and accept another job. It is not necessary to provide a detailed explanation of why you are leaving, although it might come up in your face-to-face meeting. Your letter should thank your employer for the opportunity to grow and expand your career, state the positive aspects of your experience with the company, and wish them well in the future. At this point, you should be thinking about maintaining good relations that will help you in years ahead. Never be critical of your employer.

If you have a written employment agreement, it should state the amount of notice you are required to give. If no agreement exists, give reasonable notice, which could be anywhere from two weeks to three months, depending on your level of seniority, length of service, and scope of responsibilities.

In negotiating your notice period, think of your own needs last. Seek to create a balance between the needs of your current employer, whom you don’t want to leave in the lurch, and your new employer, who likely wants you to start as soon as possible. Do your best to satisfy both interests.

Be ready for all possible reactions from your boss when you tell him you’re leaving. The best possible reaction you can hope for is one of understanding. Here your boss completely gets your rationale for leaving and agrees with your decision. He knows it is the right move for you at this stage of your career, thanks you for your service to the company, and wishes you well. If only all resignations could proceed this smoothly and professionally.

Unfortunately, the reaction is sometimes one of anger or disappointment. Your boss could be upset with you because of the possible disruption of work. He might realize how hard it will be to locate a replacement. Or, he might regard your quitting as a lack of loyalty. Whatever the response, seek to calm these waters. Often these reactions are short-lived anyway, when the boss realizes the world is not ending just because you’re leaving.

On occasion, your boss will try to convince you to stay with offers of higher pay, promotions, or increased responsibilities. This is a challenging response to deal with particularly if you are not overly unhappy in your current job and like your co-workers.

These last-minute offers tend to be band-aid solutions and rarely address the underlying reasons for your original dissatisfaction. My experience is that most people who accept these offer and stay with their employer are back looking for another job within a year.

I would like to receive your comments and questions about this topic. Please email me at walsh@geraldwalsh.com and I will respond to you.


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn