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How to Exit a Job Gracefully

Time to Leave?

We will all come to a crossroads in our career; a time when we decide that it no longer makes sense for us to be diverted from our chosen path. We want to be an engineer, say; we have studied for this position and we are keen to make our mark in the field.

We can truthfully no longer justify our working at Little Caesar’s Pizza Palace.

Note:  There is absolutely nothing wrong with servicing customers one-on-one in the food industry.  However, If you are feeling unsettled in your job; if you’re thinking more and more about how there’s got to be a better way for you to spend your working hours; if, indeed, you are up for something more challenging, which rewards you a little better, you have every right to find another job.

In fact, you have a responsibility to see yourself safely ensconced in a company that values your unique skill sets and appreciates your contribution.

No Need to Grin and Bear It – But Plan First

So you have decided you would be better off leaving.

Plan it out.

You don’t want to put it off until the day when you’re feeling particularly frustrated, and you leave in a huff.

Remember not to burn your bridges.

Another friendly word of caution:  do NOT allow word of your impending exit to get around before the final two weeks.

If you even tell ONE co-worker, the news can spread like wildfire, and before you know it, your boss will be made aware of your “secret” plans way before you intended to tell him or her.

What To Do

Write a letter of resignation.   A two-paragraph letter is sufficient.

This written statement serves the purpose of detailing when you’ll be leaving (usually two weeks from the date of the letter.)  Make sure to include your full name, title and date of resignation.

Explain that you are leaving for greener pastures and end with a paragraph about how you appreciated the opportunity to mine your talent, and to learn, as well as to contribute to the business’ growth and culture.

Important:  leave details about any projects or appointments that your successor will find helpful.  Just think about what YOU would like to know when walking into a new position, and you’ll be guided as to how much to include, and how much to leave out.

Make an appointment to speak with your immediate supervisor.  If she or he is curious about the reason behind your request (and if you two have only had face-to-face meetings infrequently, this is understandable), be vague but truthful.  Say it is about your employment, or the status of your employment.

In the actual exit meeting with your boss, be tactful, gracious and complimentary.   Name the good things you’ll always remember about the company and about your co-workers.  No one likes their company to be bad-mouthed or criticized, and that includes the person you’re tendering your resignation to.

Truthfully, you’re bound to have bittersweet feelings; this has been your 9-to-5 “home” for a while now.  You’ll miss certain aspects of your job. And it may seem natural to “confide” in the person who is receiving your resignation, but, again, don’t give in to the impulse to leave your job on a negative note.

Above all, your boss or HR person is staying behind; they will continue to be paid by the entity you might feel you have every right, now, to let loose about—again, don’t.

Keep your comments brief, but mention all the things you learned at the job, and the valuable contacts you’ve made.

Expect a formal “exit interview”. Many medium-to large-sized companies have set these up so that the transition is a little smoother for all parties involved.


I don’t want to stay at my present job, yet I am afraid that I will not be able to find employment that better suits me. That’s the reason I don’t even look around.  Is the economic picture still dismal?


Not at all.  A few years ago, a very well-informed “mover and shaker” in the employment community revealed that the economy was improving so much that approximately four million people A MONTH were being hired in the U.S. by private industry.  You have nothing to fear.

Even if you were to meet with results that were not exactly what you had in mind, remember that every no brings you closer to a yes.

There are plenty of jobs out there, simply because all of life is always in a state of flux. You may not turn up anything that is to your liking right away, but, as long as people eat, move, work, sleep, build houses and businesses, fall in love, seek to become healthier and generally go about doing all the things that are the pulse of the economy, you’ll find work.

The pay may be a little less or a little more (surprise!) in your ideal job, and you may have to partially “barter” for your expected compensation with a list of benefits which might mean just as much to you, if not more, than cold cash, but you will be reimbursed.

So go out and look while you can.

A few tips:  never stop learning – it’ll make employers look twice at your resume if you have several seminars under your belt.  And stay in tip-top shape.  Sit and stand straight.  Keep your hair (and beard/mustache, if you’re male) well groomed. Wear your best shoes and watch on an interview. You might have heard the old adage, and many HR folks adhere to it:  You can judge a person’s income level by the quality of their shoes and by their watch.


Red Flag! – I just remembered that I signed a non-compete clause in my entrance interview. I found work in the same industry as the one I work in currently.

Do you recommend that I consult with an attorney who’s familiar with labor laws, or perhaps versed in intellectual trademark? (I’m in publishing.)

Do companies even take these matters seriously, or is it all just a formality?


Good for you that you’re alert to any and all pertinent details as you make this move. Yes, companies take non-compete clauses seriously – and so should you.  Anything you sign your name to should be considered a weighty matter.

The best advice we can give you is to READ THROUGH THE CLAUSE VERY CAREFULLY.  If the can-do’s and cannot-do’s are confusing, speak to a lawyer who specializes in employment law.  If you don’t know of one, you can call the Bar Association for a referral. There is also a directory (Martindale-Hubbell) which can point you in the direction of a local lawyer.  Find the link to Martindale-Hubbell here:

You especially want to avoid jumping over to a direct competitor of your firm’s if the terms you signed specifically indicate that you not do so.  Even if, by your interpretation, the rules you signed provide a little give, and you feel you “sort of” can move to this competitor, keep in mind that the industry might view the jump less-than-favorably.  You may find it troublesome to re-establish contacts and to do business.

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