OK. You’re ready to leave (if you’re on the fence, here’s a quiz to make sure). Here’s how to quit your job.
Checklist to quit a job
If you’re in a senior role or you want to go out of your way to maintain a good relationship, here’s how to go above and beyond to be helpful to your team while quitting. If you need to quit ASAP, skip steps 2-4 (and see this checklist).
- Check for bonuses.
Before leaving, check your bonus and stock vesting schedule to make sure you’re not leaving $10,000s on the table before leaving.
- Apply for other jobs.
If you can stand it in the role or don’t have enough financial cushion to go a few months without rent, start applying for new roles before you leave.
- Signal that you’re unhappy.
If you’re in a critical role, or really want to maintain a good relationship, you can signal that you’re starting to think about moving on by sharing that you’re starting to think about next steps in a year or two. Then, when you leave, it will be sooner than expected but not entirely a surprise.
- Begin wrapping up work.
Stop taking on new work, and start finishing projects and preparing to hand them off.
- Give your notice.
Check your company’s policy and give at least the required amount of time (always 2+ weeks) with a written letter. If you want to maintain a great relationship, speak with your boss and let them know you’re planning to put in your notice, and see if they have a request for how long to stay. (But don’t stay so long you’ll get handed bad work no one wants to do.)
- Hand off work.
Complete what you can. Document and hand off anything that’s ongoing.
- Thank people, and say goodby.
Send a goodby email to colleagues, and thank mentors in person.
- Add vesting details to your calendar.
If you work at a startup or company with stock options, make sure to review when they expire. Add the exercise date multiple times to your calendar so you don’t forget.
And, if you need to quit a job you just started, here’s how.
How to check for bonuses before you quit your job
Once you know you want to leave your job, look to see if there are any big upcoming payouts. These could include:
- End of year bonuses.
- Performance bonuses.
- A vesting cliff. Often companies will require you to work for 1-2 years before any of your equity bonuses vest (i.e. before you get to keep any of them). Make sure you stay through the initial cliff, if you think equity will be valuable. After that initial period, they vest regularly (often monthly).
- A promotion and raise. If you’re due a promotion, it can be worth waiting it out, so you can demonstrate your skill and have a better negotiating position for your next job. (Unless you’re able to get a job offer at the next level, in which case you can take the “promotion” immediately.)
Plot out these payouts over the next year, and ask yourself if they’re worth sticking around for. For example:
|Payout||In X months||Expected value|
|EoY Bonus||6 months||$10K|
|Performance Bonus||18 months (only eligible after 1+ years)||$5K|
|Vesting Cliff||2 months||$20K|
In this case, it makes sense to stay at least 2 months for stock to vest. I’d start looking for new jobs immediately but intend not to leave until my shares vest.
How to signal you’re thinking of leaving your job at work
In some cases, you might want to signal that you’re starting to think of leaving. But only do this if you’re in a key role or if you’re worried your colleagues might feel blindsided or betrayed if you leave unexpectedly.
Only signal you might leave if:
- You like and trust your team
- You have a specific source of dissatisfaction that could be remedied in your current role
- Things could change and you’re giving your boss information to make your job better
- You’re in a critical role, where your departure could have a big impact
- There’s no chance you’ll get sidelined or stuck with bad work in the meantime
For example, if you’re confident that you don’t want to stay in a role for more than 1-2 years, you might use a professional development conversation to bring up the topic.
If you do so, you can frame it in terms of your personal or professional development needs:
- One thing I’ve been thinking of: I’d really like to get more management experience. I’m a little nervous, because it seems like it won’t make sense for us to hire several people into my team in the near term.
- This isn’t immediate, but I wanted to let you know: my wife and I have been thinking that we want to move back to the East coast eventually. We don’t have definitive plans, but I wanted to let you know that this is coming in the next couple of years.
- I’ve always wanted to start a company. I don’t have anything in mind, but I feel like this is something I will need to try before I’m 40.
Obviously, you’d only have this kind of conversation with a manager you trust. Also, each example is an invitation for the manager to solve a problem – get you management opportunities, let you work remote, let you create a new product within the company.
When it comes time to leave, you can evoke this conversation, and your boss will think, “I’m sad, but I saw this coming.”
How to give notice and quit a job
When you’re ready to leave your job, schedule a conversation with your boss. Prepare talking points ahead of time and, if you’re nervous, answers to questions they might ask.
Then, after speaking with your boss, send an email formally giving notice.
Sample talking points to give notice and quit your job
Here’s an example of what you can say to your boss before formally giving notice.
|What to say||Example|
|Signal that it’s a serious conversation||I’ve got some bittersweet news to share.|
|Don’t build up with a big preface; tell them immediately.||I’ve decided I’ll be leaving the company.|
|Thank them.||I wanted to tell you before anyone else, and thank you — you have been an amazing manager and mentor. I’ve learned so much from you, and have really enjoyed my work as part of the team.|
|Explain why, referring to the signal you sent earlier.||I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think I’d like to take some time away from work for a year or so.|
Alt: I’m really burnt out, and need to take some time off.
|Tell what you’re doing next.||I’ll be living in Japan and decided to write a blog on Japanese food and sake during my trip.|
|Propose a transition timeline.||If you have a good relationship: I’d like to wrap up as soon as possible but want to make sure I hand things off. I think I can do this in 4 weeks. |
If you want to have a rigid timeline, don’t invite the option: I’m going to wrap things up as soon as possible, so will plan on leaving in 2 weeks.
|Tell them to expect your formal notice.||I’ll send you a formal notice later today.|
|Tell them when you plan to tell colleagues.||After I’ve sent, I’ll plan to let my colleagues know later this week.|
|Reiterate thanks, and compliment them.||Again, thank you so much. I’ve really loved working with you and have learned a ton.|
Sample preparation for potential questions when quitting your job
Here’s a sample of how to prepare for questions you’re worried a boss might ask.
|If your boss says…||You can respond…|
|Would you mind explaining why you’re leaving?||Just reiterate what you said before: Sure. I’m just feeling burnt out. It’s been hard for me to maintain as much focus and energy as I want to devote to the role. It feels like I’ve been working nonstop for 10 years. I just need some time away from work.|
|Would you mind staying another 2 months?||You can blame it on a partner. I’m sorry, I can’t. I made a commitment to my partner that I would wrap this up sooner.|
|Could you stay until this project is over?||Offer to stay for a certain amount of time. I wish I could, but there’s so much outside my control and I’m afraid the timeline could keep getting pushed back. Here’s what I can do: I’ll commit to staying 4 more weeks. In that time, I’m confident I can wrap up my part of the project and hand it off.|
|Is there anything we can do to keep you here?||If you’re starting a company. Not right now. I’ve always wanted to start a business, and I kept finding reasons to wait. This is something I need to do. |
If you’re taking a new job. Unfortunately, no. I’ve accepted the other offer so am committed to going forward with it.
If you’re just taking time off. Not right now. I just need some time to rest and think right now.
|This is a shock. I wish you had told me sooner.||I’m sorry this is a shock. I’ve really enjoyed my work, so wasn’t sure what I wanted until very recently.|
Alt, if you’re taking a job: I’m sorry this is a shock. I just started thinking of leaving, and casually applied to a job, and the process moved way faster than I thought.
Template 2 weeks notice letter to quit a job
After speaking this afternoon, I wanted to send this note to formally let you know that I’ll be leaving [INSERT COMPANY] in [INSERT TIME] weeks.
In that time, I plan to wrap up and hand off my current projects.
I have loved working with you and the entire team. Thank you so much for the advice and mentorship, and the opportunity to be a part of what you’ve built.
Please let me know the next steps to formally wrap up my employment?
How to tell colleagues you’re quitting a job
For colleagues besides your boss, it’s OK to tell them you’re leaving by email. Typically, I would email them and then offer time in person (or request time, if it’s a mentor, so you can thank them).
Template goodbye email to your team
I’ve got some bittersweet news to share: After a lot of thought, I’ll be leaving [INSERT COMPANY] after [INSERT NUMBER] weeks.
[INSERT QUICK, POSITIVE EXPLANATION. FOR EXAMPLE: After 10+ years working at tech startups, it’s finally time for me to take a break. So my wife and I are moving to Japan for a year, to explore, learn about Japanese food and think through what we want in the next chapter of life.].
I’m so proud of the work we’ve done together, and I’ll miss working with you all. Thank you so much for your kindness, humor, and encouragement over the years. I would love to stay in touch with you all – and, once we’re back in the US, maybe work together again!
I’ll be around for the next few weeks, so would love to chat (and will be handing off my responsibilities, in any case).
Template thank you email to mentor
I’ve got some bittersweet news to share: After a lot of thought, I’ll be leaving [INSERT COMPANY] after [INSERT NUMBER] weeks.
I’ve already spoken with my manager and team but wanted to let you know too. Throughout my time at [INSERT COMPANY], your coaching and mentorship have been one of the highlights for me.
I’ll be wrapping up work over the next [INSERT NUMBER] weeks. I’d love to speak in person before I leave: would any times on my calendar here work for you? [INSERT SCHEDULING LINK]
Sample thank you script to mentor
Start the conversation with small talk, or however feels comfortable. Then, follow the template below to tell your mentor you’re leaving and thank them for their guidance and support.
|What to say||Example|
|Thank them.||Before leaving, I wanted to thank you for all the time and energy you’ve spent with me. It’s been one of the highlights of my time at [COMPANY].|
|Tell them what you’ve learned||I have learned so much from our conversations. You’ve helped me understand tactics related to the job (how to use a backlog), think through strategies (my first go-to-market), navigate organizational politics (think through tactics for managing up). More than anything, you’ve given me a model for a great listener and mentor.|
|Tell them what you value about them||You have an amazing way of making me (and everyone) feel welcomed. I always know you care about me, will listen, and will offer amazing advice.|
|Optional: offer them a gift.||I know you love chocolate, so I wanted to share a small thank-you gift: a set of single origin bars from Dandelion.|
How to set stock option reminders
I know someone who joined a startup as employee number 11, worked for two years and left. When the company sold, his options were worth $300,000.
But, it turns out, his company required former employees to exercise their options within 2 years after leaving the company. He forgot to exercise them, so they expired. Instead of $300,000, he got $0.
The basics of expiring stock options
You can read more details about option expiration here, but the basics are:
- Most startups issue stock options to employees
- Options give you the option to buy shares at a given price (“strike price”) before a given date (“expiration date”)
- Often the expiration date is 10 years if you stay at the company
- But it’s usually much less if you leave the company sooner – often months to a couple years after departure
- At early startups, this means you’re forced to decide whether to pay money to exercise options (i.e. to pay the strike price to convert options into shares) before the shares are worth anything
- Employee-friendly startups don’t force early exercise (see Sam Altman’s post on employee equity for great analysis of the topic)
How to prevent expiring stock options
To avoid my friend’s situation where your company succeeds but you get nothing, follow these steps:
- Understand your options expiration policy. Well before you’re thinking of leaving (ideally, before you even join the company), look into your how your options are structured. When do they expire for people who leave the company?
- Advocate for employee-friendly options. If you’re at a startup (which will often take many years for options to be worth something), and the company’s options require exercise within months or years of an employee leaving, speak with your manager and others in the company to build support and advocate for a change in policy.
- Review the policy before you leave. Check the option details: how many options do you have? What is their strike price? What is their current value? Can you sell them if you wanted to? When do they expire?
- If options are worth something, exercise immediately. When they are clearly worth more than the strike price (e.g. you joined at Series A, and the company’s past Series C and profitable, the company stock is traded and worth much more than your strike price, the company has a buyback program) and you have the cash, exercise your options immediately so you don’t forget.
- If your options aren’t worth anything, set reminders. First, set calendar reminders based on the expiration date: the month before, and then every week, and then every day until expiration. If the expiration date is in 5-10 years, I’d also set annual reminders to evaluate the company value.
How to quit a job FAQ
First, make sure to accept your new offer before quitting. Then send an email to schedule time immediately with your boss immediately. Then, say, “I know this will be a big inconvenience for you, and I’m sorry. I just received and am going to accept another offer that pays significantly more than this job. I’m grateful to you for hiring me, and I’m sorry to let you down. I know recruiting can be difficult, so can I help in sourcing and hiring my replacement?”
Schedule time with your boss immediately. Tell them, “I’m sorry to share this, but since starting I’ve realized this is not the right role for me. [IF POSSIBLE INSERT GENERAL REASON WHY YOU’RE LEAVING.] I know this will be a big inconvenience for you, but I believe it’s important to be transparent, and I owe it to you to say that if I were to continue in the role you wouldn’t get my best work. I really appreciate that you believed in me and hired me, and I’m sorry to let you down. I’ll be glad to help in finding a replacement.”
Two week’s notice is standard, but look at your employee handbook to see if there is any guidance. If you want to “do right by your employer” – especially in smaller teams or senior roles – try to give as much time as possible. This could be weeks or months – enough time to transition all of your work and find a replacement. In bigger teams, there are more resources to support a fast transition, so typically 2-4 weeks will be fine unless you’re irreplaceable in an important project.
Generally yes, unless you despise your boss or the work environment. One exception is if quitting in person would significantly delay your ability to leave (i.e. if your boss is on leave or you’re traveling). In that case, quit by phone or video call.