How to Quit Your Job Like an Adult

Whether you’ve been offered the job of your dreams or you’re just ready to move on, leaving your job is never as simple as just giving two weeks notice. There are a lot of layers to separating from a company, and honestly, we need to talk about it. Navigating the seemingly awkward conversation of quitting a job can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips to leave your job in a professional #adult way, while staying true to yourself and your values.

1. Be honest

Career psychologist and counselor Eileen Sharaga says when it comes your professional reputation, honesty is the best policy.

“Many people view quitting a job as confrontation but it doesn’t have to be," Sharaga says. "If you are leaving because you want to go to grad school say that. If you feel you want to try a different career path, say that. Your boss may be able to help you make contacts in your new field, or could help you transfer internally if you work for a large company.”

If you are having familial or health issues, it's totally okay to take some time away. Don't be ashamed to discuss what's affecting your personal life. Who knows, your employer may offer a flexible or remote work schedule to accommodate you, but you'd never know if you weren't honest.

If you are leaving because you're simply unhappy or feel like you'd have better opportunities elsewhere, don’t be afraid to express that either. 

Related: The Shy Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up at Work

Lindsay Jean Louis, University of Georgia grad, says when she left her job as a digital media coordinator, she kept conversation was “short and sweet.”

“It’s probably best to keep it short so you don’t go on a rant that may make you look bad,” Lindsay says. 

If you think the conversation may upset you or cause you to act in an unprofessional manner, keeping it short may be your best option. Remember, you are not required to tell your boss (or anyone) where you are going or if you have another job lined up.  While being transparent may make the transition easier, your reasons for leaving are for you, and you alone, and don't require external validation.

2.  Say thank you

Being gracious is a major key. Even if you’re leaving because you're absolutely miserable, remember at one point you wanted this job and your employers gave you that opportunity instead of choosing another candidate.

“Try not to burn your bridges under any circumstances. Maintain a good relationship and you maintain a good reference,” says Sharaga.

And in case you were wondering, yes, two weeks is still the standard time frame to give notice, though depending on your role and responsibilities you may want to give more.

Michelle Neeley, University of Florida class of 2016, says she left her consulting job because of the toxic environment, but still gave two weeks notice because she knew she may run into her former boss or need a recommendation one day.

“Despite the problems I had with the company, I knew I would still have to work with my former boss and other coworkers at my new company so I definitely didn’t want to leave on bad terms,” she says.

“If you are working on big project, you may want to complete it before you leave," Sharaga recommends. That way you made sure you made good on your commitment to the job and can leave on better terms.”

Pro-tip: Before you say your final goodbyes, consider sending your boss a hand written thank-you note. You can give them to your entire team if you'd like. It's a simple and thoughtful way to show your gratitude, plus you don't have to worry about what you might say when put on the spot. 

Related: 4 Tips for Handling Disagreements at Work the Professional Way

3. Know yourself and your values

Career consultant and executive coach Maggie Mistal says it's important to know what your ideal job looks like to make sure your career decisions are in line with what you really want. She shares this work values exercise with her clients, to help them understand what drives them and how to channel those passions into a career.

"Discovering your work values takes a bit of soul searching," Mistal says. "Think about what motivates you. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What kind of work are you good at and enjoy doing? "

Whether you are moving across the country because you need a change of environment or are going back to school because you've realized you want to enter a new field, knowing your motivators can help confirm that you've made the right choice, and express to your employer why you've made the decision to leave. 

4. Be prepared for a counter offer

Your boss may offer you a promotion or raise in hopes of getting you to stay, but is that really want you want? This is where knowing your work values can really come into play.

Maggie Mistal says not be swayed by money or a title if you know deep down you will not be happy with the work.

“Some people may think a big pay raise or promotion means of course they will be happier, but that’s not always true.”

However, if you value money and power more than the functional aspects of the job, then a counter offer may be worth considering.

When Kelsey Thibodeau, 24, told her manager she received another job, she says her boss tried everything from intimidation to offering a promotion to make her stay.

“[When I] told her I felt it was time to move on and that I had gotten a new job at a new restaurant, she became immediately defensive, asking a handful of questions that had the undertone of bullying me into staying,” Kelsey says. “When I explained that I wanted to move up and I didn’t have the opportunity there with them, she offered me a daytime manager position within a couple days of me putting in my notice. I turned it down.”

If you think there is a possibility you could be convinced to stay, go into the conversation knowing exactly what you want as far as title, work duties and compensation. This is probably your last chance to negotiate if that's something you're interested in. If you've already decided there's no chance you'll stay, politely tell your boss that you've made your decision and are sticking to it.

5. And probably paperwork

Telling your boss may be the first part of leaving your job, but there are many more steps between saying “I quit” and turning in your badge. In addition to a sit-down conversation, some employers may require you to submit a formal letter of resignation for the company to keep on file. If your job provided benefits like insurance or paid vacation, they may also require you to have an exit interview with HR to discuss why you are leaving and when those benefits end.  

For example, how would you withdraw money from your 401k? Do you have any company stock? If you are enrolled in your employer's health insurance, you may be able to hang on to your company plan for a while after you leave. You could even receive compensation for unused paid time off. Make sure you have the answers to these questions and more before you walk out on your last day.

6. Breathe

As nerve-wracking as quitting your job may seem, remember that you are moving on because you feel it’s the best choice for you. Saying good bye may be tough, but you should feel empowered knowing that you made the right decision. Onward and upward!