Building a Business

Go Fire Yourself: How to Quit a Job Like a Professional

Updated on October 31, 2019 Updated on October 31, 2019
Listen Money Matters is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. How we make money.
becoming an entrepreneur

Many people dream of quitting their current job, be it to take a new job with a different company, to start their own business, or because they hate everything about their current job. No matter the reason, you don’t want to burn bridges when you leave. It’s essential to know how to quit a job without making enemies.

We’re sure that everyone reading this has had days at a job that made them want to pull a Steven Slater. Steven is the infamous JetBlue flight attendant who had to deal with one rude passenger too many.

He grabbed the PA microphone, announced to the plane full of people he was quitting, grabbed two beers, deployed the emergency shoot and slid to freedom and into legend. (It’s the grabbing two beers for the ride down the shoot part that makes him a legend.)

Quit your job

Or maybe you like your job, your work environment, your boss, and your co-workers well enough but really want to leave to start a business.

No matter your situation, there is a right way and a wrong way to quit your job.

Unless you’re joining the Witness Protection Program as part of your new opportunity, chances are you’ll cross paths with or even need something from your former employer or former colleagues eventually. So let’s make sure you leave on a positive note. Because Steven Slater is not doing too well these days. 

Go Fire Yourself

In 2007 Laurel Staples quit her job as a mechanical engineer to launch her popular blog, Go Fire Yourself. She has also written a book about how to quit your job and run your own business and works as a business coach, teaching those same skills.

Quitting a secure job, even one you hate is a scary thing, but Laurel advises us to trust our instincts, and to remember, you’re not making a “forever decisions.”  Quitting your current position doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to get another job.

How To Quit Your Job

Before you start envisioning your last day, make sure you’ve laid the proper groundwork. Why do you want to leave your current employer? If you hate your job and co-workers, or you’ve received a better offer elsewhere, or you’re moving, the reason you want to quit is apparent.

But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, underpaid, or un-challenged, those may be temporary situations that can be addressed.

Of course, if you feel any of those things and you hate your job, by all means, leave. But if most of the time you’re pretty happy, speak to your boss and see if there are changes that can be made that would make you happier and allow you to stay.

Get our best money lessons:

Get the Timing Right

Don’t quit a week before yearly bonuses come out is obvious, but there are other situations where the time may not be right to quit a job. If you’re planning to quit to work for yourself, make sure you have a sufficient bridge, more on this later.

Timing

You know the old saying about verbal contracts. Don’t quit your current job until you have a written job offer from the new employer. Or even worse, quit because you’re sure you totally nailed your job interview. It’s like picking out a wedding dress because you think a first date went well. You don’t actually know what the person across the desk (or dinner table) is really thinking.

Imagine quitting is some kind of spectacular, “take this job and shove it” fashion only to have to come crawling back because a verbal offer didn’t turn into a real offer or that job interview didn’t go nearly as well as you thought because you never heard back.

Not ideal.

Give Proper Notice

I actually think this one is unfair to the person quitting and overly fair to the employer because of a nasty little thing called At-Will Employment.

This term means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason without warning.

Contracts in an at-will state between employers and employees prevent the employer from pursuing a claim against the employer as a result of being fired. An employee can not sue for lost wages due to dismissal from the job, provided the dismissal was not for an illegal reason like gender, race, or religion.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia are at-will employment states. So while most of us can agree that giving two weeks notice is standard practice and an excellent way to avoid burning bridges, employers are under absolutely no obligation to provide you with so much as one day notice that your source of income has come to an end.

So no matter how your employer might treat you in the event they wanted to let you go, part of how to quit a job is to give proper notice.

Prepare a Letter of Resignation

A letter of resignation might seem a little old-fashioned, but so is writing thank you notes. That doesn’t mean it’s not a nice gesture. The letter should include:

  • A statement of your resignation
  • Date of your final day
  • Why you’re leaving
  • A thank you for your time with the company
  • Contact information

The reason you’re leaving is not your chance to list off all of the wrongs done to you. Keep it bland and generic; you’re moving on to pursue a new opportunity; you’re leaving to spend more time with your family, etc.

online jobs mom

The thank-you section should be similar, express gratitude for the opportunity to learn and grow within your field, for all of the valuable knowledge you’ve gained — that sort of thing.

A resignation letter will likely go into your personnel file, something most companies keep even if the employee no longer works there, at least for a time.

Be sure to include your contact information, including your Linkedin information and personal email. This makes it easy for your former employee to contact you if they need to send you things like tax forms or information relating to a 401k you have there.

Make it a Smooth Transition

Don’t toss your resignation letter on your boss’s desk, thinking that’s how to quit a job. You need to schedule a meeting with your boss to let them know you’ve found a new position or are leaving for another reason. Your boss may include someone from Human Resources to join the meeting.

This is the time to provide your letter of resignation. Depending on how much red tape your company likes to unspool, you might be asked to give an exit interview in the final weeks on the job.

You likely won’t be taking on any new tasks in the final weeks of your job. You’ll spend most of your time doing what you can to tie up any loose ends, including working with your boss to delegate any unfinished projects and perhaps training your replacement.

Document your job duties and information the next person might need, like where important files are.

Should You Stay?

What if your boss wants to keep you and makes you a counteroffer, should you stay? The answer goes back to our first point; why are you leaving? If you’re leaving because you want to make more money and the counteroffer is close to or better than the offer from the new job, the answer might be yes.

If you’re leaving to start a business, the answer also might be yes. Maybe you can negotiate a situation that would allow you more time to work on your business like working from home at least some of the time, a four day, ten hours per day work week, or transitioning to part-time.

If you’re just over it though, more money is unlikely to change that, and it’s probably best just to move on.

Be Reachable

I include this one because it was a personal experience I had. I started a new job, and the woman I was replacing did a great job training me. She was moving on to a new job herself, and there were no bad feelings between her and the boss.

For the first couple of weeks, I had a lot of questions. And at this job, the boss did her job, and I did mine so she couldn’t answer them. My predecessor very kindly gave me her personal email and cell number and encouraged me to reach out whenever I had a question.

I did email her loads of times, and even though she was herself starting a new job, she always got back to me really quickly. I never forgot this and always tried to do the same whenever I was in her position. Starting a new job is scary for anyone, so doing what you can to help your replacement is a kindness.

You Need a Bridge

If you’re leaving to start a business, it’s a lot scarier than leaving for a new job. The new job comes with all the good job stuff like a regular paycheck, health insurance, 401k, and paid vacation. There are things you want to take into consideration before making the leap.

You need a bridge or a runway, enough money to see you through until your business can sustain you. Ideally, you’ve been able to get things started and are making some money while still employed.

Andrew worked his day job for years while working on LMM. When he leaped, he and Laura had a pretty sturdy bridge.

And Laura was on-board with the decision. Your partner needs to be on board with your plan too. You’re potentially asking a lot of that person, to be the sole breadwinner, to make a lot of financial sacrifices, to take on more of the home duties while you’re trying to get the business going.

I built a small bridge and then jumped off.

Tweet This

What if your partner isn’t totally on board? Perhaps you can delay quitting your job until the business is making enough money to cover your share of the household expenses, or you can offer to put an end-date on your experiment. If by X date, you’re not making enough or any money, you’ll look for a job.

It All Boils Down To…

How to quit a job comes down to one simple life rule that applies in a lot of situations. Don’t be a dick. Even if every single person at your job was one, is one, and will remain one until their dying day. Leave on good terms. Because you never know when you might need something from a dick.

Show Notes

Smuttynose Bouncy House IPA:  an all-occasion American ale.

Blue Coat Gin Martini

Go Fire Yourself: Laura’s podcast

Candice Elliott - Editor-in-Chief Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
learn podcast popular toolbox search