Before You Quit Your Job, Have an Exit Plan

Remember the dot-com crash? Soon after, I upped and quit my job. I was working for base-plus-commission at a boutique recruiting firm and couldn’t take the sales cycle or rejection any longer. Then, while my boss was on vacation, I called and quit. For many years after, I regretted how my 23-year-old self handled things. So, before you quit your job and burn any bridges, consider mapping out an exit strategy.

Before You Quit Your Job, Have an Exit Plan 

Know where you’re going. Whether you’re seeking a new job, relocating with your spouse or leaving to take care of your family or health, hopefully you have some sense as to what’s next. Most importantly, make sure that you’ve reviewed your finances and know your benefits options.

Gather examples of your achievements.  Save copies of your work now, so you have a portfolio to share later. Maybe it’s a newsletter you created, a congratulatory email from a VP, last year’s performance appraisal or an article you had published; these mementos could help you stand out from other job seekers during future interviews.

Confide in a trusted few.  Depending upon your situation, you may want to exit quietly. However, making this type of transition often times requires support. Discuss your plan with your spouse or other family member, a close friend or even a trusted co-worker. The people who know you best will want to help you and could offer great career advice or job leads.

Connect with your contacts. After you’ve work at any place for a while, you inevitably build a network. Make sure you connect with the people you’ve gotten to know via LinkedIn, Twitter or even Facebook, so that you can potentially stay in touch during the next chapter of your career.

Give two weeks notice. Though not required, standard practice is to give at least  two weeks notice. I’ve known some people who’ve given three weeks or stayed on part-time for a month before officially leaving. Some companies may have a policy stating that if you do not give at least two weeks notice, you forfeit any payout of unused vacation time (so, read your employee handbook). And, keep in mind, that employers do not have to accept your notice and may ask you to leave immediately.

Tie up loose ends. When you leave a company, a lot of experience leaves with you. Pass along your knowledge to a co-worker, archive reports, documents,  and emails, etc. so that the next person can pick up where you left off. While you may be tempted to “check out early,” know that your behavior could end up making your co-workers jobs more difficult.


Don’t leave your co-workers with a boatload issues or unfinished projects that you could have easily solved or wrapped up.

Don’t trash talk your employer to current employees or during interviews. No one likes a toxic person and doing so reflects poorly on you.

Don’t update your LinkedIn heading prior to actually leaving your employer. People will notice, really, they will.

Going out in a blaze of glory or giving a big “up yours” to your employer might seem like a good idea … though from my vantage point, I’m advising against that. Instead, bow out professionally, you never know what the future holds or if you might end up wanting to reapply to your old company.

Have you ever upped and quit your job with no notice? Tell us why

Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reader Interactions


  1. Ben says

    Great article, Shannon. I like your perspective on leaving your co workers in good shape. Who knows if they might want to hire you back at some point in the future. Things can change quickly at Corp!

    • shannonsmedstad says

      Hi Ben – Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. You just never know when you may cross paths with someone again … better not to burn bridges! – Make it a great day. – Shannon

  2. Henry says

    I did left my job with out notice after iv been working for a year in a compey then I was sick for three day and I submeeted a sick not for that three day. When I come back to work they gav me a 30 days notice taminating contract for sick for three days then I felt that my lif its not importent for them.


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