The worldwide pandemic upended career stability, growth and opportunities for many people. Jobs were lost, and you may have been one of many people to take a new role out of necessity. Perhaps you gladly accepted a new job that did seem right on track with what you had in mind. But a couple of weeks in, something changed and now you are questioning how to get out of there.
Making a successful exit from a new job — or at least minimizing the damage when it is time to go — requires careful consideration. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to quit a job, including some reasons to do so.
How to Quit a New Job
— Step 1: Create a logical plan.
— Step 2: Start a job search.
— Step 3: Continue to do exemplary work.
— Step 4: Resign
— Additional Considerations.
Step 1: Create a Logical Plan
Finding yourself in a job that you don’t like (or maybe even hate) makes it easy to react emotionally — but emotional reactions result in the fewest options. A level head and game plan are your best defense. The question you should ask before you rush to quit is, “Have I explored all options possible to make the situation better or more bearable until I have found another job?”
If you cannot afford to be unemployed for months, see if you can make things work. Looking for a new job usually takes longer than expected. Last year, it took the average American five to 11 months to find a new job. If finances are tight and it is critical to keep your income consistent, hold off on quitting until you have something else lined up. Re-read your employment agreement to make sure you fully understand how pay, bonuses, health insurance, paid time off and all other benefits are handled. For example, you may be leaving behind commissions or a month of health insurance if you resign hastily versus patiently timing the exit.
Some good reasons to leave a new job include:
— A better job is now available. This is the most ideal situation because you don’t have to worry if a premature exit will impact your employment prospects. “Better option” resignations happen often, given how long the interview process can last. Make sure you lock up the offer before you rush to resign. Without the security of a new role, it is not ideal to jeopardize your current one.
— The role is different than advertised. Role misrepresentation happens. Interviewers can glorify an opportunity or undersell or oversell the components and required qualifications. You may want to first investigate if the work will change once you are acclimated and trusted. Is there a way to propose work, assignments or projects that are better suitable?
— You are miserable working for your boss. If you are experiencing problems with your manager, you might benefit from requesting a confidential meeting with the person who directly oversees your boss. In some cases, the more senior manager may not be aware of the issues and/or may be open to switching your reporting relationship. Contact the human resources department if you are experiencing harrassment.
— You dread going to work. If you are past the point of no return and your work quality is suffering, it is probably time to resign. Sometimes the role, environment, co-workers or management are just not ideal — or they may even be downright awful.
Step 2: Start a Job Search
Being unemployed, especially when you quit a job without another one lined up, is a red flag to most hiring managers. Research repeatedly shows that employed workers are more sought after than unemployed ones — so aim to find a new role while you are still at the current one. Rehearse your “Why do you want to quit your new job so soon?” response. Interviewers respond better to positive statements rather than playing the blame game. Your diplomacy and communication about your situation will be evaluated (and maybe even verified through references). Prepare and practice a response that is accurate and also professional.
[READ: 5 Job Hunting Tips.]
Step 3: Continue to Do Exemplary Work
This step is often overlooked. If you are being paid, it is critical that you continue to be a good employee. Period. Maintain your professionalism. Burning bridges severely limits your long-term options. Often, a seemingly talented professional will get passed over for a new role because a hiring manager did a “back door” reference through their network that cast doubt on the candidate’s credentials or ethics.
Be sure to organize your physical office space and digital work for an easy transition. Ideas include creating a list of your work projects and cleaning up unnecessary or personal emails, voicemails or files. In short, prepare for a professional hand off that would make it easy for another employee to pick up where you left off.
In addition to maintaining your work, do not use company resources or time for personal reasons such as sending your resume for a job or scheduling interviews with your work email. Follow up on job leads and interviews before or after work or on lunch breaks. Use vacation time if needed but avoid the temptation to skimp on work because you are ready to quit.
Step 4: Resign
When you are ready to resign, request an in-person meeting (if possible) with your manager. Come prepared with a concise and professional letter of resignation stating that you are resigning and giving two weeks’ notice. Do not include any judgment or negative statements. Verbally thank your manager for the opportunity and offer to be as helpful as possible during the two weeks. Keep your resignation confidential until you meet with your manager. This gives your manager the opportunity to plan for and then tell the team about your resignation and how your responsibilities will be handled.
Before you resign, make sure you are willing to work a two weeks’ notice. It is a generally practiced courtesy and gives your employer a chance to get your work covered. However, since new employees may not yet add much value, your employment may end the day you resign. Companies are not obligated to pay you or have you work for those two weeks — although the chances of generosity increase if you have been an outstanding employee and handled yourself professionally. The exit meeting is a good time to clarify how compensation, bonuses, commissions and insurance will be handled.
Quitting a new job (especially before you have a replacement lined up) has an impact on future hiring. Hiring managers will want to know why your stint was so short; they may ask you to explain the reasons for the quick change and ask to provide references or other evidence to support that you are a committed employee. Walking out of any job can be challenging. What you do last is what is remembered first. Plan and time your exit so that you facilitate the transition for all parties. Your reputation will open or close more doors for you than your talent — so don’t squander a good one with a hasty exit.
More from U.S. News
Update 10/09/20: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.