Make It Work: How To Quit Your Job

There comes a time in everyone’s career when you will quit your job. You will stand in your boss’s doorway, cock your head and say, “Do you have sec?” You will quietly shut the door. You will sit down in that weird chair reserved for guests and your boss’s jacket, palms sweating, and tell him or her that you have found a new job, or are moving to Sweden, or are starting grad school in the fall. You will tell them that you are very sorry, but the time has come for you to part ways. Your boss will accept this with grace and, if they are a nice boss and a decent person, a congratulations. You will make a plan for departure. You will leave the office that day with the weight of a million hours’ of shitty emails and bad vibes off your shoulders, completely, and for good. Congratulations, you just quit your job!

Regardless of why, it’s one of the most satisfying feelings in the world to utter the words “I quit.” Even if you really, truly loved your job and your coworkers and the office and the free snacks, quitting a job on your own terms is the ultimate career power move. Maybe you got another, better job. Maybe you somehow stumbled upon a giant bucket of money and no longer have to work. It doesn’t matter — you successfully handled something that most people find so, so nerve-wracking. Biding your time until your last day should be a breeze – or so you think…

“I’ll be a happy and productive employee for the next two weeks,” you tell yourself. “I will come in and leave at a reasonable hour and continue to do my job to the fullest extent. I will be just as present as I was when I didn’t have a year and a half’s worth of unused vacation and sick days coming to me in a big fat check that I’m going to spend immediately on a ‘I quit my job and survived’ present.”

This is how you think you’ll behave, but the reality can be very, very different. The period of time between putting your notice and actually walking out the door on your last day is a weird limbo, where everything you do still matters to everyone else around you, but not really to you. Here are some things you can do to make the experience easier for everyone.

1. Don’t gloat. Be humble.

If you are working in an environment that feels toxic or morally stultifying, and you quit, that’s awesome. I am sure you are extremely happy, but be kind to the other people that you work with, and try really hard not to rub it in their faces that they’ll still be toiling away in the lion’s den while you’re thriving in a new job in a matter of weeks. It’s not nice, it makes you look like a sore winner, and you’ll be less likely to receive any sort of baked goods or happy hour or appreciation in your final days. Plus, it’ll end up making you feel shitty when you remember how you gleefully hopped from desk to desk, depositing a Post-It on everyone’s computer screen that read “I QUIT! Jealous?”

2. Beware of senioritis.

The minute you quit your job, you will most likely not want to do a stitch of work for the joint ever again, though it will feel like you all of a sudden have more work than you did before. This is normal. Remember high school, when you had already gotten accepted to your college of choice and sent your deposit in and everything, and for the last month or so, all you wanted to do was smoke pot in your friend’s car and drive around town listening to Zeppelin? You could do that then because you were 18 and your parents still paid for literally everything. It’s a little different now, sunshine, because you have an apartment, and loans from that silly four years you wasted drowning in Budweiser and writing papers on Barthes. You’re a responsible adult now. Don’t slack. Remember, there’s an expiration date on how much longer you have to sit at that uncomfy desk chair next to Alan, who farts all the time. Do your work, be a good employee until the very end. Do it with a smile. Power through, it’s almost over.

3. Be accommodating and helpful.

So, if you’ve given your soon-to-be former employer, say, a full month to find a replacement for you, that probably means that you actually liked the people you work with and the company you work for, and you don’t want to leave them hanging. (Or, you’re me, and you have a healthy fear of not being helpful at all times, and have thus given them more than the usual two weeks notice out of guilt.) Regardless, if you’re leaving your job, you should probably, you know, help out. If they want you to interview people for your position, do it. If someone takes all other work off your plate, but asks you to put together a training manual for the job that you were doing, get crackin’. Suggest possible replacements, if you know anyone.

4. Try not to burn any bridges.

Okay, so sometimes the bridge has already been burnt. If that’s the case, tough shit. You certainly can’t rebuild it, but you can prevent the fire from spreading to any others around you. Now is not the time to start badmouthing your still-current-for-the-next-two-weeks employer on LinkedIn or, I don’t know, going on a tirade about the long hours on Glassdoor.com. If you really, really didn’t like your job, the urge to shit talk is strong, but you must be stronger. Resist. Leave with dignity, and then give yourself at least a month grace period before you start listing all the reasons you’re relieved to be out of that god awful place – but be smart and limit the smack talk to close friends. You don’t want it to get back to anyone you once worked with – after all, you never know when you might be looking for a new new job.