#041: 7 Actions to Take Before You Quit Your Job [Podcast]

You know it will eventually happen. You’ll quit your job to take another one. Maybe you’re in the midst of this right now—or considering it. Regardless, in this episode I discuss how to finish well and setup yourself up for success.

Letter of resignation

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/alexskopje

The time will eventually come that you have to quit your job.  The only real question is how to do it in a way that doesn’t burn your bridges. So what I want to share in this episode is this: before you turn in your resignation—or even begin looking for another job—let me suggest that you consider the following seven actions:

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  • Action #1: Determine to exit with dignity and honor
  • Action #2: Count the cost of leavening your present job
  • Action #3: Give your employer a chance to address your issues
  • Action #4: Honor your commitments to your current employer
  • Action #5: Don’t look for another job on company time or with company email
  • Action #6: Don’t share proprietary information with prospective employers
  • Action #7: Don’t conspire with others to leave the company

With a little planning, anyone can make a graceful exit. Life is short. The world is small—and cold. You don’t need to create any unnecessary enemies. You’ve already made an investment in your job. Now make one in your career. Think of the future and keep the end in mind.

Listener Questions

  1. Amy Anderson asked, “I have rarely left a job without another one waiting … How do you feel about leaving a difficult situation even if you don’t have something else lined up?”
  2. Christopher Scott asked, “Should you give your current employer a heads up if you are planning to quit or just wait and give them the perfunctory two weeks notice?”
  3. Heman Smith asked, “I want to leave my present company, enter a non-competitive industry, and use the concepts I use now. How do I do that without causing concerns about intellectual property?”
  4. Jeff Jones asked, “When I left my position as a drummer in a band, I found that I really needed to focus on where I was headed and not on the past. How did that play out in your recent transition from Thomas Nelson?”
  5. Wayne Henderson asked, “I really want to be a full-time voice actor, but I am concerned about those in management knowing where my true passions are? Should I be wary of posting too much on Twitter and Facebook about this?”

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Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: What has been your experience when quitting a job? What did you do well? What did you do not so well? How will next time be different? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • FromHisPresence

    Your first example about the guy that left in bad taste is so true. When I joined my company right after college, I heard people say never  to burn bridges, because whoever you work with you will work with again. Over the last 10+ years of corporate life, I’ve seen that play out again and again. People in completely different departments that I never thought I’d see again just tend to keep coming back around. So I’ve tried to make sure not to let any bad feelings exist in any of my work relationships (even people that are junior to me) – mostly for the sake of Christlike love and people skills, but also out of self-defense for the sake of my career. :) Even if I don’t click with that new hire, he’s likely to be my VP someday. :)

    • Jim Martin

      Great point!  Much of my work has been in church settings.  I’ve learned that you can leave one congregation only to be dealing with relatives and friends of some of these people in the next congregation.  This might say something for the way one chooses to leave.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Awesome insight – I completely agree that you really can’t lose when you “do unto others as they do unto you.”

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    The last time I quit a job was over 17 years ago.  It was six months before my wedding, and the company was going under.  Despite this fact, I didn’t want to leave on bad terms, so I did my best to help the company as it transitioned through bankruptcy into a new company.  Honestly, I probably stayed too long.

    I’m hoping that I won’t be leaving my current company for a long while.  But if/when I do, I want to leave well.

    • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

      I felt the same way the last time I quit Jon.

      I stayed for five weeks and that was after I had hired my replacement (who was already 90% trained). It meant working two full-time jobs for three weeks which was hard. I’d wake up at 4am and work for 3 hours for one from home, go to the office of the other, work for an hour over lunch, go home at 6pm, and work another 4 hours. 

      Brutal, but it left the company in a great position and they thrived over the next year.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    I confess I’m not the most graceful quitter. In fact, three times I quit by spontaneously walking out in the middle of my shift. Funny thing is, all three walkouts occurred at the same place (a cafe in Greenwich Village where I worked as a waiter), and all three times I came crawling back a few months later, and they actually rehired me as if nothing had happened. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/MY77IMP4MPUNY6IY55LZ5URDDY Delarie

       Almost humorous.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde


  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

    I think a helpful shift in language/thinking is to go from “quitting” a job to “leaving” the employer.  Most of us don’t really want to quit–meaning give up on something and go away with unfinished business. When we think in terms of “leaving,” we’re more likely to finish well and part of good terms.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Great comment Lawrence – the words we choose and use have tremendous power on affecting our thoughts and actions. Good stuff!

  • http://www.monsterpiggybank.com/ Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank

    Very sound advice. I may actually be leaving my current employer soon so I will have to revisit this closer to the date.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Glen, just make sure to leave on good terms! Good luck as you strike out in a new path.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I’ve had to leave a couple teaching positions for personal reasons in the past.  Your advice is right on.  Someday, maybe I’ll move one more time, but only if I find a teaching position in a preferred location.

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    Excellent! Excellent Michael!

    My first reaction to #5 was “That is just plain dumb to do that (use company time or email to look for another job).” What a great way to get fired in a heart beat. Most people don’t realize this, but your boss (or someone at the company) IS reading your company email and IM. They have every right to and should be. 

    We had a potentially dangerous situation come up at work once in which two team members were discussing a drug deal via IM. The company could be liable if we knew about it and allowed it to go down on company property. So anyone who thinks we read your IM and email because we are weird and have nothing better to do…there is your valid reason.

    I would throw out a step 0 – Make sure you should leave.

    I almost quit a wonderful job that led to an even more wonderful promotion…all because I felt very wronged by my boss. Turns out he was just ignorant of something. 

    I happened to stumble upon Ecclesiastes 10:4 – If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great errors to rest.

    Ugh, you mean I have to stay for now? But I did and was glad I did. 

    I wrote more about it here if anyone wants the whole story:

    How King Solomon Kept Me From Quitting My Job – http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/king-solomon-kept-me-quitting-job/

    • Jim Martin

      Thanks Matt.  Great point — “Make sure you should leave.”  This may say something about the value of some good, mature friends who can be very helpful in discerning a decision such as this.  

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Or in my case, a mature wife :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Matt. Excellent comment.

  • Claudia Volkman

    I’d love some advice on how to transition from a full-time job in publishing to my freelance biz (editing, layout/design, copywriting). I have solid freelance work – but when do you know it’s time to take the plunge? Do I secure contracts from a few of my best clients? What about health insurance. This might deserve another podcast!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Many people are wondering those things Claudia and you’ve brought up some great questions. One suggestion I’d give on when to quit is when your income from the side job is more than half of your current full-time position. If you’re able to build up a profitable business with the little spare time you’ve had, imagine what can happen with more time.

      • Claudia Volkman

        I so appreciate this – and it’s exactly where I’m at. Any suggestions regarding healthcare?

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          Health care is something I don’t know a lot about but I’ve found Dan Miller has an excellent resource page for self-employed insurance. You can check it out at http://www.48days.com/useful-resources/insurance-options-for-the-self-employed/

          • Claudia Volkman

            Thanks again!

          • http://www.facebook.com/howard.drive.5 Howard Drive

            once again i am very delightful to read this sort of blog.

    • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

      Claudia…on health insurance, let your business pay for it. That effectively cuts the cost by ~30% depending on your tax bracket because it will be pre-tax income. Just keep that in mind.

      • Claudia Volkman

        Matt – thanks so much for this advice – I had not even thought of that!

        • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

          My pleasure. Also get a great CPA who can point out other things. You can write off a good portion of your cell phone bill, internet at home, rent space from yourself in the home if you work from home, etc. I could go on and on, but it can easily add up to a $5-10,000 savings for even a smaller business.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You might want to read Jon Acuff’s book, Quitter.

      • Claudia Volkman

        Ordered it and it just arrived – thanks so much

  • David McKnight

    Great post Michael.  It may all sound like common sense but when you are in the heat of it, and emotions get in your way, these are all things to keep in front of you.   I think it would help to have a plan and keep you on the right path.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I’m with you David. The time to plan your exit isn’t the day it happens. It’s something we must be prepared for and able to exit coolly. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MY77IMP4MPUNY6IY55LZ5URDDY Delarie

    My story Re:  Amy’s question and the concept of  “leaving gracefully”. 

    I took a  4 hr/day at min. wage as a return to the workforce after raising kids.  Once on the job it was obviously more responsibility than described.  It was a large company and I was to manage  A/R, legal contracts, the data base, and log incoming tech support calls from frenzied clients whose cash registers were down.  I was to make collection calls while also taking incoming calls and do all in 2.5 hrs a day, as backing up the receptionist on her breaks took the rest of the time.

    Quickly feeling taken advantage of, I first asked for a raise  to no avail.  After 8 months of stress and headaches I looked for a new position, fearful of leaving without having somewhere to go.   Alas, earning $10/hr wasn’t worth the stress and I gave notice  gracefully.  I said I would give 2 weeks notice and was told that wasn’t necessary, so said I’d complete the day to cover the receptionist and finish the instruction manual I’d been creating so their next hire would have more guidance. 

    Well, an office bully manager heard I’d given my notice and asked me to leave right then and there.  He would “escort” me out.  (The last person in my position had been arrested for theft so I guess he projected that on me.  Also, I’d found some fraudulent charges to a client and this bully told me to mind my own business when I brought it up to him.)

    I guess he didn’t realize I was covering for the receptionist and he’d turned my computer off at the main switch.   While he was talking to me, the phone rang and I realized I’d been locked out.  They have alarms that go off if the phone isn’t answered after 4 rings.  Well, the alarms went off, and people came running.  I then fell apart, totally disgusted!  I gathered my things and plunked the pages of the manual I’d printed on the counter and left shaking my head.

    They were high and dry without reception coverage and it was the bully’s fault.  I’m glad I left when I did but had no new job to go to.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I had to learn from my first experience quitting. In this situation, I let it all fly. Figuring there was nothing left to lose, the exit interview focused on how poorly management was doing their job, how bad employees were treated better than good ones, etc. Not so good.

    Thankfully I’ve learned from this situation and have become better at quitting with grace. Another thing learned was to know when to quit before emotions and situations grew to an un-containable level. 

  • http://twitter.com/EFTFreedom Ben Ross

    Unfortunately my last job I left because I was put in hospital. It was hard at the time, but in the end it was positive. I had wanted to leave it for a while as it was a violent environment (nightclub security) and in the end it made me really work on my own business and go towards something else better.

    I am glad that I recovered and now am on a better path!


  • Dave ©

    Here’s another tip that’s less about integrity but still an important consideration. 

    If you are receiving health insurance through your company, make your last day be the first business day of the month…not the last business day of the month. When you leave, insurance coverage continues through the end of the month.

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      That’s good advice Dave – thanks for the tip!

  • http://www.leavingconformitycoaching.com/ Randy Crane

    I am in a somewhat similar situation to Christopher Scott. My company, and my co-workers, know I’m building my coaching business and that my goal is to transition into it full-time. During my year-end performance review, my supervisor and I discussed it and he knows I’m planning to leave at the end of this year. We talked about what that would mean for the company and how we’ll make sure it’s a smooth transition, and what I would need in the meantime to facilitate the launch & growth of my own company. It’s exactly what I would want someone to do for me, so it’s what I did for them.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Michael, this podcast was incredibly timely and I loved the example you gave about beginning with the end in mind of planning for the owners to “celebrate your successes; mourn your departure; and enthusiastically welcome you back.” Transition is a fact of professional life and your tips are truly helpful!

  • Robert Jones

    Thank you for this wonderful podcast! I especially enjoyed your action points here and really appreciate the advice. I have sadly left a job before without taking these steps and it took me a lot longer to find a new one. One book I recommend that compliments your post is by Bill Sims, Jr. entitled, Green Beans & Ice Cream (Isn’t that a great title?). The authors has helped design more than one thousand
    behavior change systems for companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s and writes about motivators to inspire better performance in the workplace, school and home. The book is excellent and I highly recommend it. Here’s the website for further info.: http://greenbeanleadership.com/

  • http://tvbreakroom.com/ Katie Hart

    Thanks for offering a transcript option. I can read many times faster than most people can talk, so print saves me time!

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Thanks for your feedback, Kristen. It’s a balancing act. I want to be authentic to who I am. As you now, I place a high value on transparency, so I inevitably talk about this. Regardless, I want to be as inclusive as possible. Please be patient with me as I try to figure out the best way to do this. Kind regards.

    • Kristen

       Thanks so much for replying to my post. I think I am starting to understand what you mean, the more I listen to your past podcasts.
      I did notice in your next podcast that you did some of that inclusiveness. Thank you, it really makes a difference for me- it really allows me to absorb the whole of what you are saying. You have made me a loyal subscriber!

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  • Joe Henderson

    Just came across this podcast, thank you for your insight!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You’re welcome, Joe!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sylvialindsaylange Sylvia Lange

    I once heard: “There’s a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship, is over – and to let go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit is an entry, that we are moving on rather than out.” (Ellen Goodman)

    • Claudia Volkman

      Sylvia, what a beautiful quote! This was very encouraging to me!