what you need to do before you quit your job

Getting ready to quit your job can be exciting, nerve-wracking, and in some cases even terrifying. Even if when you’re sure that you’re ready to move on, it can be tough to leave a place you’ve grown accustomed to and trade it for a company and coworkers who you don’t know nearly as well.

Here are seven things you should do before you resign to ensure that you’re prepared for this conversation.

1. Make sure you’ve thought the decision through. Quitting isn’t generally something you should do impulsively or in the heat of the moment when you’re frustrated. If you haven’t given yourself time to sit with the decision to make sure it’s the right one, do that first; you can’t usually take it back once you quit. It’s also worth thinking about whether the reasons you want to quit are things that you might be able to resolve by talking somewhat candidly with your boss (whether it’s more money, a promotion, or a more reasonable workload). By thinking through your options, you’ll be able to proceed with confidence in your decision.

2. Find out how your employer has handled other people’s resignations in the past. Most companies handle resignations pretty well, but some companies will push you out the door the day you give notice and some managers take resignations as personal betrayal. Talk to discreetly to a few colleagues who you trust and find out how resigning employees are generally treated at your company so that you’re not blindsided by a reaction you weren’t expecting.

3. Remove any personal files from your personal computer. You might assume that you’ll have time to do this during your notice period, but if there’s any chance that your company will ask you to leave immediately once you resign, you don’t want to lose personal items that you’ve been storing on your work computer and you may not want to risk other people finding them, so transfer them over to a personal account and then delete them from your computer. The same goes for any personal emails that are still in your work email account. (Remember to check messages you’ve sent as well as ones you’ve received!)

4. Take home any samples of work or contact information that you might want in the future. If you want work samples for a portfolio to show future interviewers or copies of past performance reviews or if you want to be sure you have contact info for colleagues or vendors, take that home now. Of course, you want to ensure that you’re not violating any workplace rules by doing this, so check your employee manual and any confidentiality agreements you’ve signed.

5. If you’re leaving for another job, make sure that your have a formal, confirmed offer. It can be tempting to jump the gun when you’re excited to move to a new job, but make sure that you have an official job offer before you give your notice at your current job – not a promise of an offer or the strong hope of an offer, but an actual, formal offer. Otherwise, you risk having the offer fall through after you’ve already resigned from your job, leaving you unemployed.

7. Think through your messaging. The way you handle your resignation can have a significant impact on how your manager thinks of you after you’re gone (and when giving references in the future). So your messaging here matters, and you shouldn’t wing it. Figure out ahead of time how much you want to explain about the reasons that led you to decide to move on, or whether you’d rather just say that an opportunity came along that you couldn’t pass up.

Additionally, try to anticipate any questions your manager might ask so that you’re not caught off-guard by them. For example, it can be smart to decide ahead of time how you’ll respond if your boss asks you to give a longer notice period than you were planning on. If you don’t prepare ahead of time, you can end up agreeing to things that you don’t really want to agree to, just because you weren’t prepared to field the question.

8. Know how you’ll handle a counteroffer. Figure out ahead of time how you’ll respond if your boss offers you more money to persuade you to stay. In most cases, it doesn’t make sense to accept a counteroffer, since generally there was a reason you wanted to move on and it’s usually about more than money. Often people who accept counteroffers end up leaving within a year anyway because once the thrill of the raise wears off, they’re looking at the same conditions that made that want to leave the first time. But whatever you decide, the point here is to think it through ahead of time, so that you’re not thrown off if your manager suggests it.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 71 comments… read them below }

    1. Bob

      What I do is slowly clean out my drawers before I even give notice. I also bring in a plastic grocery bag and keep it in a drawer. The only stuff that’s left is what is sitting on my desk so if I get walked out I can grab my jacket and throw the few things on desk in the bag. I’ve witnessed hundreds of layoffs and a long, drawn out departure is traumatic for everyone involved.

      1. Dana

        Too you don’t want them to pack your stuff up and be missing something, this happened to a friend. I was allowed to go back to my desk after a lay off, to get my purse and I was able to grab it, and my 2 items and walk out. SHe had to come back at another time also

  1. nofelix

    I’m considering writing a “these are all the sucky reasons why I’m leaving” journal entry beforehand, just to get everything off my chest so I can have a breezy pleasant exit interview.

    1. the gold digger

      You don’t have to have an exit interview. They can’t make you. Even if they say, “But how will we make things better for those who are staying,” you don’t have to.

      1. squidward

        best advice here. You quit, you don’t owe them anything. If they didn’t listen to you while you were employed there, they’re sure as heck not going to listen to anything you say in an exit interview.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Sure, but it often makes sense to do one anyway for political reasons. Refusing can seem pretty aggressive. (On the other hand, conveniently forgetting to schedule it is fine.)

          1. Maxwell Edison

            When I left ToxicJob, I was dreading the exit interview because the supervisor who would have conducted the interview (a) didn’t like me, (b) was one of the reasons I resigned, and (c) fancied herself an amateur psychologist/therapist who liked to ask intrusive questions. Lucky for me, that was about the time that the company gave up on exit interviews altogether (not sure why), so I managed to dodge the bullet.

          2. Lemon Zinger

            Agreed, some jobs really don’t allow for an exit interview to be skipped. When I quit my first job, we were ushered away from our desks, directly into the exit interview with HR. I would have had to literally run away to avoid it.

          3. Bob

            My goal is always to skip the exit interview but it can easily come off as an aggressive move. “Declined” can be interpreted as “refused” and I think it often is seen as the same as leaving on bad terms. So I usually go through the motions and don’t give details about anything. I try to be matter of fact about it and say I weighed the options (pay, commute, advancement, benefits, etc) and the other job simply came out ahead.

        2. LawCat

          The relevant players at ex-job (HR, immediate supervisor, supervisor’s supervisor) knew the reasons why I was leaving. There was zero point to me doing an exit interview as we would have not just been beating, but nuking a dead horse at that point. Yet owing to ex-job’s institutional devotion to extreme bureaucracy and not actually knowing anything unless it is on a form, I was sent an exit interview form. LOL no.

      2. Mazzy

        I remember at one past job we were at a nice lunch and my coworker left to go do his exit interview. He had copious notes and was all revved to give his 2 cents on everything disfunctional. He came back to the restaurant five minutes later upset that the exit interview was basically 1) who are your computer to 2) these are what your COBRA options are, and a few other housekeeping items.

    2. bettyboop

      I did something similar.
      As my old boss was an aloof impossible to catch man I emailed my resignation. (We had no proper address and his phone was “broken” again). The first email i typed out as a massive insulting tirade about what a complete POS he was. then I deleted that and wrote my proper formal resignation. it really helps to get it all out of your system

    3. Bad Candidate

      The last time I was asked to do an exit interview it was entirely online. I was actually really disappointed.

      1. De Minimis

        At my last job it turned out my exit interview was a prelude to a surprise party—my co-workers were waiting in the background [behind a room divider] and they would have heard everything!

      2. Bob

        We do an online form and then they follow-up in person. I’m not sure if they follow with everyone though. If your form was entirely positive, they might not bother. One thing I know from talking to my co-workers that left is “neutral” is the same as “negative” (or more like “not positive”). So if you say you’re neutral on whether you would recommend the company to a friend (which I could see how many departing employees would feel), the HR rep must clarify your answer in the follow-up interview. That means I’m going to need to give over-the-top positive answers on everything when I leave to avoid being put on the spot during a potential interview.

    4. Bob

      And an exit interview is not the place to make a statement to your soon-to-be-ex-employer. A really negative one is usually written off as coming from a disgruntled employee so it just gets filed. Multiple companies I have worked for (including my current Fortune 500 company) mark your file as “do not rehire’ when your exit interview is negative. Once I’ve given notice, my only priority is protecting my future reference and ability to be rehired. Unless I’m morally obligated to speak up (like sexual harassment), I’m keeping my mouth shut.

      1. DrivingMsCrazy

        I made that mistake recently–though at my former workplace there was bullying going on and I talked about it in my exit interview. I shouldn’t have bothered. :-(

    1. Rebecca

      Me too!! I’m im/patiently waiting to hear if I’ll be called for an in person interview, and unless they want me to work for free, I’ll take the job if they offer it to me. I cannot WAIT to get out of here!

      1. Bad Candidate

        I have a phone interview in 8 minutes and I’m at the same stage. What would it take to get me to leave my current employer? How about a wink and a smile.

      2. Annonymouse

        Hey Rebecca
        Make sure you thoroughly screen this potential employer or you’ll fall into the trap I did: So desperate to get away from toxic job that you’ll do anything, ANYTHING, that doesn’t involve working there.

  2. Red Reader

    Also, use your insurance benefits as much as is feasible before moving on, even if you’re moving to a new position that also offers benefits (and especially if it doesn’t!).

    Just, you know, don’t do like my housemate did. I told him to make sure to get everything he could out of his health benefits before he left his toxic job, when he was thinking about leaving — I said get your physical done if you haven’t had one this year, get your eyes checked, dental checkup, all that jazz. Three days later, he was in the hospital having an emergency appendectomy because the damn thing straight up exploded on him. When he came home I told him that when I said to get as much use as he could out of it, that wasn’t QUITE what I meant. He looked at me and said “Well, you can’t say I don’t follow directions.” Hah.

      1. Red Reader

        and it actually turned out to be the final straw that got him to leave toxic!job. They tried to write him up for going home early to have someone drive him to the ER the morning his appendix exploded.

          1. Dynamic Beige

            Hmmm… I dunno. It’s one thing when an accident or something unexpected happens, it’s another when it’s premeditated. The Mandatory Organ Donor Test Boss planned it out and had consequences if people didn’t comply. These people just seem like idiots. That would have been an interesting trial.
            “When $Worker complained of feeling ill, you didn’t allow them to leave?”
            “No.”
            “Why not?”
            “He was malingering and it’s against policy.”
            “Are you a doctor?”
            “No.”
            “So after using your non-medical judgement to decide that someone else wasn’t sick enough in your opinion and you didn’t allow them to leave, resulting in their death… do you think that your policies are reasonable?”

        1. Cordelia Naismith

          They tried to write him up for going to the ER when his appendix burst! Wow. Seriously, wow. That’s basically saying they don’t care if he lives or dies as long as he’s at work.

    1. all aboard the anon train

      I’d say this depends on the insurance. My last company and current company have the same add-on plan for vision and dental, and the insurance goes by SSN instead of company, so when I had used up the vision allowance on contacts when I left old job in May, and scheduled my yearly appointment in October, I was told the vision component had already been used for the year, even though I had never used it for that employer’s plan.

    1. Kyrielle

      Dropbox if you can install it. Emailing stuff to yourself or moving it to a thumb drive is easier otherwise, IMX.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Yeah, I just use a flash drive. If I’m going to have any personal files with me, like say I want to write on my lunch break or I’m in the middle of an edit, I do it on the actual flash drive, not my computer.

    2. Bob

      Also, uninstall Dropbox (or whatever client) when you’re done. A copy of your sync folder still lives on your computer and you may be escorted out when you resign. That happened to my manager at a previous job. He also foolishly used his work email for all communication with his lawyer during his messy divorce and custody battle.

      You can also login to the Dropbox website and upload files directly to the cloud if you can’t install the client.

  3. evilintraining

    One former employer of mine always asks for an “exit memo.” It should contain any instructions, where your projects are being left off, and links to pertinent files and info. It’s a big help not only to your supervisor and anyone who needs to pick up the slack, but also to your replacement!

    1. Lemon Zinger

      What a great idea. I wish that were more mainstream around here. We’ve had several people leave recently, and every one of them left us hanging in multiple ways.

    2. the gold digger

      I created totally from scratch – nothing like this existed when I had started the job – a process manual for my replacement when I changed departments. The file was about 1.5″ thick and had notes about every account – status, contacts, anything weird to know (ie, don’t even bother trying to email during Ramadan, etc).

      In addition, I made lists and showed examples of every report I produced and gave the names of the people to go to for help. I described how and when to update the website. All my files were current. I introduced the new person to all the accounts by email before I left.

      And three months later, my replacement was still calling me. I would ask him if he had looked in the files or the notes and he would just say nope, he didn’t like to do that. I helped him a few times, but I finally said something to his boss, who is my friend, that I thought that by now, he should be able to solve problems on his own.

      What really burned me was they hired him for $17K a year more than I was making – but when I told my boss I was moving (and one of the main reasons was the pay increase the new dept offered,) my boss was able to eke out only $3K for me.

      As far as I can tell, the replacement has accomplished nothing since I left. (I was in charge of international licensing – no new licensees have been added to the website since I quit.)

      1. DoDah

        If his new hiring was calling you after three months and they were paying him 17K more. Your former boss was not your friend.

        1. the gold digger

          Oh, right! The new guy’s boss was my friend. My grandboss/her boss is the one who approved the pay. (She had just started and grandboss told me to report to her instead of to me, but then he never really let her run things, so I never thought of her as my boss.)

  4. Not Me

    This is an extremely timely article for me — thanks for posting it. I recently had a crazy good phone interview and the manager called me back immediately to set up the in-person interview. I’m so, so, so tempted to give my notice but I know that isn’t wise. Thanks for talking me off the ledge, Alison!

    1. Annonymouse

      Oh I know how tempting it is to tell your bad boss to shove it/you quit when it looks like you’ll be getting a new job.

      Just got to hold on until you’ve signed the agreement. It’s not worth the risk.

      Also when giving notice write an abusive one with no one in the address bar and vent everything. Then delete it and write your real one.

      Even if you think you’re never going to work with those people again it’s still not s bridge worth burning.

  5. taylor swift

    I’m giving my notice today – so this is quite timely!

    I’ve received the offer, confirmed my acceptance, but haven’t gotten confirmation on my exact start date – do I wait?

    1. Hotstreak

      I would wait, so that you don’t risk a period of time when you’re not getting paid. It might not be bad (or might be really nice!) if you give two weeks notice and don’t start for 30 days, but it could be bad for the checking account if they pushed your start date back a few months.

    2. Joseph

      Easy fix, just ask them when they want you to start. Depending on what *you’d* like to do, you can frame your question a variety of ways with either “excited to start as soon as possible” (if you want to start in a couple weeks or less) or “would love to start in a few weeks to provide proper notice and get things in order to hit the ground running” (if you want a few weeks or month).
      They might immediately jump to a proposed date, which you can adjust a week or so if needed. Or they might be a bit wishy-washy or tell you they hadn’t settled on a date yet, in which case you can suggest a date yourself to lock down their vague timeframe.
      THEN you take that knowledge and figure out when to give your notice based on finances, boss’ likely reaction, whether you want/need a few days to yourself to recharge, etc.

  6. Jerry Vandesic

    I’d add one about checking the timing to maximize benefits. Having your last day be the first of the month rather than than the last can sometimes give you an extra month of health benefits and vacation. Also, make sure you drain your flexible spending accounts.

    1. Faith

      I almost got burned by this one. I was leaving a former employer, and the day before my last day I found out that my benefits would cut off on my last day, and so would my FSA. I was about to lose close to $1,500. So, I called my dentist and scheduled a couple of procedures that I’ve been putting off for my last day. Nothing will burn through FSA faster than elective dental work.

      1. Jerry Vandesic

        The nice thing about FSA’s is that they are funded on January 1, and you can use the full amount immediately, even though your payments into the account are part of your pay throughout the year. If you leave before the end of the year and have used all of the FSA funds, you don’t have to pay them back. But, as Faith says, if you leave and don’t use up all your FSA funds, your company gets to keep them. Maybe it evens out in the end for a large company.

    2. an anon

      Check your insurance plan document to find out when your termination would be. Some will extend coverage to the end of the month but some will end the day of your termination.

  7. Hotstreak

    Make sure you get all of your mileage/expense reimbursements submitted and paid for, and make sure everything on your corporate card is accounted for properly.

  8. pbnj

    Also don’t forget to check your company’s vacation and holiday policy. Sometimes you only get cash for a max number of days remaining when you leave.

  9. Trout 'Waver

    So last week we get an article on how companies are tracking whether people are likely to leave last Friday. And now a link to an article on the 7 things to do before you quit. I hope these two aren’t related.

    1. Bad Candidate

      I was thinking about that article this weekend as I was researching how to get my Sim promoted. LOL

  10. anonymoushiker

    When I quit my oldjob, I was, by that point, reporting to the CFO due to my manager having left ~1.5 months previously. He knew I was, at least to the point of acknowledging me, but that was about it. I have very light brown/very dark blonde hair. Another woman, L, who reported to the director of accounting has brighter blonde hair, is some number of years older than me (maybe 10ish). CFO goes to director of accounting (who is awesome, but very expressive) and tells her her report L just resigned. L was not in room at the moment (maybe working from home?). Director freaks out because that would have been out of character and a bad decision for L to go to CFO to resign, they have to go to a conference room until they figure out it was *me* not L. I had emailed him to ask to speak in person. So he should have known better that it wasn’t L!

  11. Venus Supreme

    It’s important to note how your employer handles resignations. I knew OldBadBoss didn’t handle it well- he told FormerEmployee he “made her” and she “wouldn’t make it” without working for him… FormerFormerEmployee had an all-out screaming match with him when she quit. So yeah, I was prepared to delicately handle this bomb and to take out any fires.

    1. Annonymouse

      I had to frame my resignation so carefully around my boss. He was known to drive people to quit and did not take to surprises well.

      What I told him (partially true):
      The injury I have (which I got at work!! No comp!) is impacting my ability to do half my job and negatively effecting the business. I need time off to recover which I can’t get in my current role.

      What really did it
      Boss being narcissistic control freak

      Who would have his son take over the business after the son would spend 4 years training and working under me

      Not caring about the health, safety, training or anything else relating to staff and clients

      Constant unreasonable demands and practices.

      Being on eggshells everyday because I wouldn’t know what would set him off and make work unbareable/almost impossible to do.

      After 4 years I had had enough.

  12. Stranger than fiction

    How does this advice change if you work at a place you know escorts employees out immediate upon quitting? (In other words, they dont accept a notice period)

    1. Crazy Canuck

      That depends on how bad you need either that two weeks pay or a reference from your current employer. If you can live without that reference, don’t give notice. If you cannot afford losing two weeks pay, also don’t give notice. If you can afford it and cannot afford a bad reference, give the notice and enjoy your two week vacation before your new gig.

      Side note for any Canadians. In Canada if you give notice, it must be accepted as is. If instead they let you go immediately, it is considered a firing without cause, which requires the employer to pay out severance pay if you are past your probation period. For that reason, unless you work with sensitive information, being escorted off the grounds the day you give notice is rarer up here than in the at-will USA.

    2. MissDisplaced

      Yeah… Get your files copied, contacts and anything else you want. Document passwords and such before you give notice.

  13. Shortie

    I’m hoping to land a new job soon (tons of interviews) and leave my current company. I am the only employee with a company credit card, what steps do I need to take to make sure they no longer use the card once I’ve quit? (They used a corporate card under our old CEOs name for about a year after she quit)

  14. BWooster

    I’m going through this now. I gave my notice this Tuesday and am working out my notice period. I feel really lucky tho. My boss knew about my Odyssey(months between preliminary offer and final offer) and was supportive throughout. I’m staying an additional couple of days to hand over to my replacement. I’ve been thanked by the big cheese on down for my contribution. I’ve never had an experience leaving a job that was as positive. I’d recommend my employer to anyone. I can finally be honest in my exit interview. It doesn’t take much to do the decent thing and allow an employee to leave feeling good about the company. More places should try it.

  15. Teacher teacher!

    I made the mistake of being honest in an exit interview that was conducted via postcard. I’m sure the company just put me on a no rehire list and that’s that, didn’t actually take any of the feedback. That’s disappointing as the industry is reliant on reflective feedback. I’m not sure if I was honest or braver in my 20s or if I’m just too worn down to be honest.

  16. T3k

    Also, don’t forget to turn in any keys you have. First job, when I was laid off, I luckily remembered just as I was walking out the door so I turned around and gave it to them. Second job I quit and forgot abut the key, and they’re 35 mins. away so I ended up mailing it to them.

  17. NicoleK

    Two weeks isn’t enough time to wrap things up, with most jobs. If you’re seriously hunting, start putting in some extra work along the way so your last two weeks aren’t crazy busy and you’ll feel great about the status of your projects/tasks.

  18. CYaLater

    This is very very timely for me – I just got the job offer, but there’s a background check done with an outside company and a drug screen that I can’t do until Monday. So to be on the safe side, I told the HR person that I would not put in my two weeks until both of those cleared. Do I anticipate any problem? No, but you never know so I am playing it safe especially with all the data breeches I’ve been a victim of. They understood, but I had to send them an email telling them why I lock my credit report ‘just in case’ the background company couldn’t access my credit reports. Seriously, I thought HR would understand that? She said they never heard of that before :)

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