Pocket worthyStories to fuel your mind

How to Quit Your Job Without Hurting Your Career

How you leave your job can have lasting implications. Here’s how to do it right.

Fast Company

Read when you’ve got time to spare.


Photo by vgajic/Getty Images.

The July 2018 BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey found that 3.6 million people quit their jobs in May, the highest rate since April 2001. In a separate Robert Half survey of HR managers, 83 percent said the way someone quits affects their future career opportunities.

“And as you accelerate your career and your progress, from point to point, just the way the world works today you will consistently need to interact with, hear about, hear from, the people in all of those different jobs,” says New York City-based executive coach Shefali Raina.

In today’s connected world, the way you quit your job could follow you for years to come, Raina says. So, if you’re getting ready to leave, take these steps to part ways in the best possible way.

Follow Protocol

The first step is to get the housekeeping details right. Schedule time with your supervisor to break the news, Raina suggests. And be careful of the office grapevine—you never know who will inadvertently or otherwise share your news if you disclose it to them before you formally give notice, she says. “This is not the time to play fast and loose with information–plan and block time appropriately to speak with bosses, stakeholders, mentors, peers, and team members based on what is appropriate in your organization,” she says. It’s best to have key conversations face-to-face, but the company culture as well as the location of your supervisor and coworkers with also be determining factors in how you relay the news.

“As you plan your exit, make sure you meet all exit notice, confidentiality, non-compete and other guidelines that are required,” she says. Plan to give proper notice, which may be more than two weeks, depending on the seniority of your position.

Make Your “Why” Future-Focused

Your supervisor is likely going to ask why you’re leaving. “Make sure you have a clear, compelling, and comprehensive response, and that it is focused on the growth and potential in the new opportunity–that it is about moving toward something new and not running away from something here,” Raina says.

Those reasons may include taking on a bigger role, learning new skills, getting to work in a new industry or discipline, relocation, or others. Whatever the reason, list your reasons for leaving as opportunity-focused and aspirational. After all, it’s easy to accept and support the fact that someone wants to leave for a new opportunity.

Avoid making the conversation about an increase in salary, says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Menlo Park, California-based staffing firm Robert Half International. If you make the conversation about money, then the company might make a counteroffer.

Think Twice About Counteroffers

If that counteroffer materializes, consider carefully before accepting it. Recent Robert Half research found that, while 58 percent of employers extend counteroffers, the average employee who accepts them stays less than two years. So it’s not a great long-term retention strategy, McDonald says.

But the offer may give you the opportunity to depart with the possibility of returning to the company at some point, if you wish to do so, says Todd Davis, chief people officer at FranklinCovey, a Salt Lake City-based performance and leadership firm, and author of Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work. Keep the conversation focused on the new skills or experience you’ll be developing in the new role, and suggest that you remain in touch and explore the opportunity to return at a future time, he says.

Be Thorough and Thoughtful During the Transition

Your departure is likely going to affect more people than you realize, including your coworkers, management team, and others. Try to make the move as easy on them as possible to maintain good relationships, Raina says.

“Go above and beyond in your transition process—make sure all outstanding deliverables and responsibilities are effectively transitioned, and ensure all important documents are available to those who need them most. Also, consider giving key people the license to call you even after you have left the company for any important follow-up questions,” she says. “When you make it easy for others to take on parts of your role, you will ensure everyone is a well-wisher and supporter in your future career.”

Be Measured in Your Feedback

Now isn’t the time to deliver a detailed critique of all the things the company does wrong in your opinion, Davis says, especially “if you haven’t done that in previous conversations, one-on-one.” If you have constructive criticism or suggestions that could help the company, share them in a positive, helpful way. But saving up your negative criticism or complaints for when you’re giving notice or having your exit interview usually isn’t helpful, especially if the information is new to the employer.

And if you sense that your supervisor is angry or resistant to your departure, keep your cool. Davis emphasizes the importance of empathy when having these conversations, even if you have legitimate complaints. By putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, you may be better able to avoid escalating the situation and preserving the relationships.

Maintain Your Network

Connect on LinkedIn or trade contact information with coworkers and supervisors to have a method to stay in touch. That way, you’ll be able to keep in touch and stay abreast of their career changes. You never know when you’re going to cross paths with someone again, Raina says. Building and maintaining your network can be an exercise that pays off down the road.

Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books.

How was it? Save stories you love and never lose them.

Logo for Fast Company

This post originally appeared on Fast Company and was published August 7, 2018. This article is republished here with permission.

Did you enjoy this story?

Get Fast Company’s newsletter