How (and when) to quit your job

Is it time to hand in your notice?

Leave my job

Is it time to hand in your notice?

Being unhappy at work is not fun. Waking up without an ounce of gusto to push you out of the door on a cold, dark, drab morning is no easy task. But, when is enough enough? When do you know when you're stuck in a rut and when it's simply time to move on?

We talked to career consultant Sherridan Hughes to ask her opinion on when we should listen to our inner work angst and hand in the towel - and how to quit your job.

How to quit your job professionally

'It's always important to leave on good terms and not run down the company or boss to their faces or to potential employers. It may be tempting to tell some home truths and you may be able to diplomatically allude to some issues in an ‘off the record’ discussion with HR, but on the whole, the message needs to be that an opportunity is calling you rather than that something (or someone) pushing you. Never make enemies as you never know when you may need a reference. Employers are not legally allowed to give a bad reference but what is omitted can be just as telling

However justified, personality clashes or complaints about bullying (and bullying bosses are hugely damaging to confidence and emotional wellbeing) may be viewed with scepticism, and even somehow seen as your fault for not being able to handle such interpersonal difficulties.

Try to offer your resignation privately and in person (at an appropriate, quiet time), while simultaneously presenting a written confirmation. Explain that you are regretfully leaving because you have loved the company, appreciated the opportunities and will miss everyone. Outline how the new opportunity will aid your development or progress, address your ambitions and provide new challenges, or allow you to relocate to the coast or country.

Give the employer a fair period of notice and perhaps offer to train your successor. Do not slack off because you are leaving; work harder to ensure projects are completed, make a clear to-do list for the person who takes over and leave your employer with the lasting impression of a professional, conscientious and efficient colleague who did a good job and was pleasant to be around.

Be prepared to be offered a salary increase; if your current employer does not want you to go, you may find yourself faced with an incentive to stay. Your response should be to thank them and say that you will ‘sleep on it’, rather than ‘No way!’ You may be asked what they would need to do to keep you, so ideally, you will consider this before such an eventuality.'

How to quit a job

We talked to social entrepreneur, founder of apprenticeship provider MiddletonMurray, and author of How To Get Your First Job, about how to get your resignation right...

Don’t Forget To Say Thank You

‘When it comes to actually resigning, write a nice letter full of thanks. Be sure to reference all the good relationships you established, the things you learnt, and that this employer supported your lifestyle for a period of time. DON’T burn bridges…even if you don’t enjoy your job or like your employer, this is often not a good thing so remember to be gracious!’

Get It In Writing

‘Get your resignation accepted in writing and agree the specifics with your manager. Don’t assume that because things have been agreed verbally it’s a ‘done deal’; the best way to protect yourself and your employer is to agree a formal end date and a plan of action for your departure in writing.’

Stick To The Party Line

‘Agree with your manager the message they want you to give to clients. Each employer will be different, and whilst you may have built up a very close relationship with some clients, agree to a party line for each and don’t resort to gossiping or giving them the ‘inside scoop’. You have a duty to your employer to help the company appear professional and capable through the transition period.’

Be Upfront

‘Do give an honest exit interview. It will help your company to address issues and become a better employer and better business moving forward. If there are any sensitive issues, for example a difficult manager, don’t be afraid to raise these, just do so discreetly with the HR department, or a senior individual you can trust.’

Organise A Good Send-Off

‘Book a leaving ‘do’ and invite everyone, including your boss. If you do all the above, your colleagues and seniors will likely all attend, and you’ll leave on great terms both professionally and personally. Don’t forget to connect with everyone you’ve worked with on LinkedIn. This enables you to keep the door open; you may want to return to the company you’ve left in a higher position some day, or former colleagues may make a move that can in turn help you further your own career.’

Should I quit my job?

You may be in the wrong role

Sherridan says: 'Sometimes, you may find yourself in the wrong role. Many people are expert technically and gain promotion to management but that technical expertise is not necessarily accompanied by people skills, a desire to lead, to work in a team, to look at the big picture or even to shoulder the weight of greater responsibility. While management skills can be learned, some people are less natural managers; some are team members and supporters, and others are independent experts or advisors. It is easy to be promoted out of your comfort zone.'

You may be in the wrong company

'If you prefer structure, you may be better suited to a larger organisation with set methods and procedures. Should you favour a dynamic and malleable environment where you might be a bigger fish, then perhaps a smaller company or start-up would be preferable. You may also have more scope to contribute ideas and innovate in a less formal organisation. You may even consider self-employment.'

Should I quit my job quiz 

If you can relate to more than three on these, you may have something to think over. Although, it's worth noting that some of these things can be the result of a bullying boss, for example, so it may only need a change of organisation rather than career:

You dread going in

Feel anxious and stressed

Have a constant fear of failure/making a mistake

Sense that you are not playing to your strengths and that it comes easier to others

Lack of enthusiasm/apathy

No commitment to the cause


Stuck in a rut with lack of scope for progression

Want new challenges and responsibility because you have achieved all you can in that role

Sense that colleagues are not like-minded and that you do not fit in

Want more balance / sense that it is all work and no play

How to know a job is the right job

Motivation - Do you want to do the job?

'What interests you, what you value, what is important in work, where you would like to live and how ambitious you may be.'

Ability - Are you able to do the job?

'Natural talents and aptitudes, skills which you have learnt through experience and knowledge gained through academic or technical studies.'

Personality - Will you fit in and will you want to/be able to do the job?

'The kind of person you are (how anxious, feeling or fact-oriented, independent or group-oriented, sociable or reserved, etc.).'

New job survival kit

'The first steps are clearly to think about and analyse yourself, identifying main strengths, traits and qualities, thinking about what careers, roles, organisations and industries match these.'

'The process of updating a CV can actually be empowering. It is easy to forget what one has contributed and achieved. Thinking up examples to evidence skills and competencies required in a job spec can boost confidence and remind you that you have done more than you thought.'

'Take a part-time course and/or request additional duties, so that you are ready for new challenges in your next job.'

If you do think it's time to start looking for a new job, this is the stuff you need to know.

Delphine Chui