A 5-Step Plan to Quitting Your Job

Photo: edenpictures

That all-too familiar dread is starting to consume you more and more every day. Sundays have become even more depressing than normal. Lunch hours are a godsend even if you're not eating.

It's time for you to get out of there. It's time to quit your job.

Here's the right way to do it so you don't burn any bridges and set yourself up for success. (See also: How to Quit Your Job)

1. Start a Journal

Take a long look at all the reasons why you want to quit and write them all down. Not just once, but over time.

Don’t get too Kumbaya about this; the goal isn’t a thorough psychological checkup about why you want to quit or what it means in the grand scheme of things.

The goal is to just keep track of how you’re feeling and what's making you feel that way. It can help keep you focused and might even help you the next time you have to leave a job. We always forget how we felt and why we did the things we did, but if you have it down on paper, it’ll be easy to remember your reasons for quitting.

Hopefully these thoughts will keep you from falling into a similar situation in the future.

And who knows — you may find that it isn't your job that's actually filling you with dread and you don't have to quit to solve the problem.

Action item: Start a Google Doc entitled “Why I’m Quitting” and write a few sentences at least twice a week about the things that make you want to leave and what you’d like to change.

2. Test the Waters

Before you do anything rash, it's important to get a sense for what's out there and start to prepare the world for the awesomeness that is you.

Pump up your LinkedIn profile, make sure a Google search doesn't bring up anything embarrassing, and check out the job boards to see what’s out there.

Now’s the time to reach out to former coworkers to get recommendations (on LinkedIn, or check if they’re willing to be contacted via phone by prospective employers) and to get the word out that you’re looking to make a move.

It’s amazing to me how many doors open up when you just let people know what it is you’re trying to do. I’ve had distant connections I hadn’t talked to in years volunteer to introduce me to important people in key companies.

Talk to your significant other/spouse as well...you don’t want to surprise them by suddenly announcing that you’re going on an interview (or that you’ve already quit!) when they have no idea you wanted to leave your job. It’ll save you from at-home drama during a very hectic time.

I wouldn’t recommend talking to anyone you work with about it, but if you really trust them (and they probably want to leave too), then this can be a great motivator.

The goal during this step is to get a sense of what's available, preparing for a move, and get as much help as possible in finding new leads.

Action item: Email people you trust (a mass email is fine) briefly explaining your situation and asking them if they know of any open roles you’d be a good fit for. Also include a link to your LinkedIn profile and ask for a quick recommendation.

3. Outline Your Plan

Now that you have a sense of what's out there, it's time to put together a plan of action.

You don’t necessarily have to have another job lined up (though I’d really recommend you do), but you absolutely must have a plan.

Financially, I wouldn’t just quit. No matter how much you hate it, I’d advise you to figure out a way to make it bearable enough that you can find a new job before you quit.

If you’re so miserable that you feel you can’t stay a moment longer, then the next step will become even more important.

Your plan should be as detailed as possible; it’s the map you’ll follow to find your next gig — one that you’ll be happy and feel rewarded for a long time (ideally).

Action item: Start a new Google Doc titled “Master Plan” and write three tasks, each with three bulleted items below them. Each one is something you need to do and the bullets are how you’re going to achieve them. Good ones to start with: Find new job, expand my network, pump up my resume, get an interview, etc.

4. Review Your Books

Money is a crucial part of why we work and what we decide to do for a living. So if you haven’t reviewed your finances in a while, please do that ASAP. I always recommend Mint.com to easily keep track of all your income and expenses. (Unfamiliar? Check out 8 Cool Mint Tools for Managing Your Money.)

If you’re going to quit your job, you should have a new one waiting for you (remember the Outline Your Plan part?) or have the money to carry you through a period of not having any (or lower) income. Don't have a six-month emergency fund? Better start saving up...

If health insurance is a big deal to you (you get sick a lot or have a family on your plan), make sure you’ll be covered through any appointments or procedures that will draw down that emergency fund.

Action Item: Tally up your cash and your monthly expenses for the past three months and see how long you can go without a job (or what you need to make at the next job). If the math doesn't add up, make sure you alter your plan to adjust for that.

5. Quitting Time

You've done all the work and now is no time to let up; it's time to be the best damn quitter there ever was. And that means following some simple rules:

Don't Burn Bridges

Be respectful, cordial, and helpful (if you can).

Don't Check Out

It will leave a negative impression on the people you'll one day want a recommendation from — work hard until the end.

Don't Delay

Look back at your journal — there's a reason you're leaving, so don't forget that.

Be a Model

Help with the transition, give at least two weeks, and do what you can to make it easy for your employer. It will pay off in the long run.

Action Item: Memorize the previous four bullets and make sure you re-read them when you're about to give notice and during the two weeks you count down the days until you're set free.

Once you've done all the legwork and made sure you'll be moving into a better situation, you've earned the right to pull the trigger. Don't forget to be nice about it...you may wind up working with some of the people you're leaving behind in a few years. 

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Guest's picture

I must live in a hateful town. I have stayed 2 weeks before and never gotten a good reference even though worked there many years with good evaluations. Always get unemployment benefits because they say the business could not have kept you this long if you were not doing a good job. When my daughter leaves her job I have encouraged her to just walk out the door. I got no kudos and only hateful attitudes for staying and teaching my position to others.

Guest's picture

Great list - much better than the flimsy lists you normally see about this sort of thing with pretty unhelpful, beyond basic advice like "stay positive", "make a plan", "dream big"....keeping a journal and testing the waters first is a great advice. Sometimes diving in headfirst seems to work for some people, but I think they're the exception, rather than the rule. When I quit my day job several years ago it was only after lots of careful planning and testing

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

Thanks for the great feedback! I agree that most advice is pretty simplistic, to the point where you just gloss over it, say "Yup, I knew that," and move on.

Guest's picture

This is an excellent, well written article. I agree with everything you say in the article.

Thanks, Jon