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About to Quit Your Job? Six Smart Things to Do

About to Quit Your Job? Six Smart Things to Do

You’ve been anxiously awaiting the day when you tell your boss you’re moving on to greener pastures. While your mind may be checked out, it’s important to treat the last few weeks on the job with the most professionalism and grace possible.

Here's a list of important steps to take right before you give notice and walk out on your last day.

1) Plan your last day strategically.

It can be tempting to leave your job as soon as possible, especially if you’re leaving a negative work environment, but you should think strategically about when to schedule your last day.

You ideally want to balance the desire to wrap up (maybe even take a few days or weeks off before your new job starts) with ensuring your colleagues aren’t put in a pinch with a big project coming up.

If you’re not moving onto another opportunity, or if the opportunity you’re jumping to requires that you be on payroll a month or two before your benefits kick in, then you want to time your last day to give you as much healthcare and benefits coverage as possible.

It’s common practice for your healthcare to run through the last day of the month that you were on payroll (but it’s not required by law). For example, if you give two weeks notice and leave on the 28th or 29th of the month, you might consider staying till the 1st or 2nd of the following month so that you’re able to stay on your healthcare plan through the end of that next month.

2) Understand your benefits.

Every workplace is different, but it’s a good idea to understand how your benefits work before giving notice. Does your 401k match only vest if you’re there a certain amount of time? How much will COBRA-ing your health plan cost? You’ll also want to know how and when to expect your vacation or other personal time accrued to cash out.

Some of these things are more important to know before giving notice than others, but now’s the time to go back to your employee handbook to know what to expect.

[Related: Five Steps To Staying Informed With Health Insurance]

3) Plan the meeting where you give notice.

What day and time of the week will you give notice? Will you give notice in-person to your boss? If you work remotely, will you be able to have a virtual call? It’s ideal to give notice in-person - or at least virtually if in-person isn’t possible.

Ideally, you’re catching your boss at a time where they’re in a good headspace, and at a time where things aren’t rushed so you can discuss what needs to happen before your last day.

If you have a few people you report to, it’s best to talk to each of them the same day so that people don’t feel caught off-guard or hear it from the wrong person.

If you work closely with others, you’ll want to put thought into when and how to tell them. And if you manage people, you probably want to be the one to tell them. (How would you feel if you found out your boss was leaving from a random person in the organization?)

All of this means you need to take ownership of the process. One woman I recently worked with worked out a plan to tell her immediate boss at their Monday meeting, and her secondary boss later that afternoon. She made a note to ask that they keep it under wraps so that she could deliver the message personally to those she manages at their Tuesday team meeting.

Think through all the people you need to tell, the ideal order you should tell them in, and plan for time needed to get on people’s calendars.

4) Plan the conversation where you give notice.

Next you’ll want to think about how to communicate the news. It’s important to mind your emotions in that conversation.

One great question to ask yourself first is:

What do I want people to say about why I’m leaving?

There’s usually insider gossip about why people leave:

I heard she just couldn’t stand her boss.
He was just burned out and needed a break.
She was tired of being an admin and was looking for a more senior position.

It won't reflect very well on you professionally if your message is about how unhappy you are. While that might be true, it’s best to focus on the positive and what you’re moving on to – not necessarily what you’re moving away from.

Ideally, your story should sound more like:

She’s really excited about this new opportunity that came out of a relationship she had at her last organization.

He’s at a pivot point and wants to take some time to explore a few career options he’s considering next.

She got this great role that will put her on a faster track toward a more senior position.

Words matter.

What do you want people to say around the water cooler about you? What will help people see you in the most professional and polished light? Create that message for yourself.

When in doubt, here’s a good framework to use with your boss when you give your notice:

I wanted to share with you some personal news. After [x months/years] on the team, I’m moving on to [describe the opportunity], and am giving you my notice.

This was a difficult decision. I’ve loved [name one or two things you’ve enjoyed about the work – the content, working relationships, what you’ve accomplished].

And at the same time, I’m ready for [name one or two things this new opportunity will allow you to do that you’re excited about].

I realize that there’s never a great time to leave the team, so I’ve put together some thoughts and ideas about how to make this transition as smooth as possible for you all.

This framework might be different when delivered to peers versus direct reports.

[Related: Four Signs That it Might Be Time to Quit Your Job]

5) Put yourself in your team’s shoes.

It shows real professionalism when you show your team you’re committed to a seamless transition. We all appreciate when others anticipate our needs.

You might come to the meeting with your boss or team with a list of tasks that need to be re-delegated, or what you need to accomplish before your last day, or questions you have to help transition out of your work.

What else might your boss, peers, or direct reports need or want from you in these last few weeks?

6) Think about the future.

Again, it may be tempting to think there’s nothing from this experience that will be helpful in the future, but professional circles and industries are small.

Think about what materials you might have created that would be helpful to have in the future – potentially for writing samples. This doesn’t mean you steal the database of clients, or download lists of donors! But if there are examples of presentations or documents that you wrote and might be helpful to have in the future (and as long as they’re your work!), now is the time to make sure you have those.

Who are the people in the organization that you want to keep ties with? Make sure to get some time with them and plan for how and when you’ll stay connected with them.

If there are people who really supported or mentored you, you might consider writing them a note or doing something that really conveys your thanks – they’ll appreciate it. When you’re the one leaving, and you’re the one thanking others for how they helped you – now that’s classy!

You’ve just run a marathon in your job – make sure your last mile has you finishing strong.

[Related: The Art of Leaving: How to Move on Without Burning Your Bridges]


Emily Lamia has been helping people grow and develop in their careers for over a decade. In 2015, she founded Pivot Journeys to create experiences to help individuals navigate their next career move and find meaningful work.

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