Sometimes you need to quit a job within the first week – or even before starting. Maybe you got a better offer. Maybe you realized it’s the wrong role. Or maybe the culture is horrible.
In any case, sometimes you realize too late that accepting a job offer was a big mistake.
Time needed: 3 minutes.
Here’s how to quit a job just after (or before) starting:
- Send an email to your boss or hiring manager.
Send a quick email to get a meeting ASAP with your boss or the person who hired you. DON’T quit over the email, unless they’re unavailable to speak with you.
- Prepare talking points ahead of time.
Make sure to thank them, apologize and tell them you’re leaving, and briefly explain why.
- Try to remain eligible for unemployment.
Unemployment insurance varies from state to state, but generally you can only receive it after quitting if you have good cause. You can start researching your state’s policies here.
- Offer a short explanation and proposed next steps.
First, thank them for the time and energy they put into hiring you. Apologize, and briefly explain why you’re leaving. Then offer to make the transition as simple as possible.
- Follow up with a formal email.
Send an email after your meeting to recap your discussion.
Template email to quit a job you just started
If you can avoid it, try not to quit by email. Your reasoning will be more sympathetic if you can do it in a call or meeting – and many bosses will be understandably frustrated, because they spent a lot of time finding you (and, often, advocating to hire you instead of someone else).
So, first, send an email to schedule a quick, urgent call. But, if your boss or hiring manager isn’t available, you may have to send an email.
Email requesting time to meet
Would you have time for a quick call today or tomorrow?
I have some time-sensitive news I need to share, so please let me know if you have 15 minutes for a quick call.
Email to quit the job
I haven’t heard back and unfortunately have a hard time constraint.
Unfortunately, I’ve decided [I need to resign from / I won’t be able to begin] my role at [COMPANY NAME]. I am sorry to do this, because I know you put a lot of work into hiring for my position, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work for you.
[INSERT REASON HERE, FOR EXAMPLE:
- I have had a family emergency, and am going to need to take at least a few months away from work to take care of it.
- After my ONBOARDING/HIRING, I realized that the work you need isn’t what I was expecting and isn’t a great fit for my interests and strengths. I don’t think I’ll be able to be successful in this role and am going to continue looking for a better fit for me.
- The process of applying for this role made me realize that my heart isn’t in marketing, so I’ve decided to go to medical school.
If it is useful, I’d be happy to stay for 2 weeks to help with a transition, but if it’s easier, I can leave immediately. Please let me know which you’d prefer.
Sample talking points to quit a job you just started
Quitting a job you just started is awkward. That’s why you need a script. You can always just read your talking points.
- Thanks for making time to speak with me.
- I really appreciate you hiring me / offering me the job. It’s an amazing opportunity, and the team has been great.
- Unfortunately, [INSERT REASON FOR LEAVING].
- I can leave immediately or take 2 weeks to transition.
|Reason for leaving||Here’s what to say|
|The role isn’t what you expected||I’ve realized that what you need for this role isn’t quite what I expected. I thought you needed a focus on X, but it seems to require a lot more of Y. It doesn’t really align with my strengths or interests, and I believe we’ll both be better off if the team has someone who is 100% engaged in the role.|
|Bad company culture||Use the script above, for a role that isn’t what you expected.|
|Personal or family issue||I / my parents / my spouse was just diagnosed with a medical issue that’s going to take a lot of my time. I’m going to need to take at least a few months supporting them, so I won’t be able to take on the responsibilities you need from this role.|
|Career change||Going through the process of applying made me realize my heart isn’t in Marketing. I’ve decided to go to medical school / become an engineer / open a pottery studio.|
|Another, better offer (that you definitely prefer)||I just received an offer from another company – the compensation is much higher, and the role is more senior / will be managing a large team. I think your company and team are amazing, but that offer is such a good opportunity I have to take it.|
Will it hurt your career to quit a job you just started?
Unless you’re in a very small sector, where people outside the company will learn you quit early, leaving a job after you started won’t matter – because no one will know. You’ll just have a slightly longer resume gap.
But try not to make a habit of it: if you’re regularly careless about people you work with, Karma will eventually catch up with you.
How long should you wait to quit a job you just started?
This may be controversial, but I think it’s better to leave immediately than to stick it out for a few months.
The reason? If you quit after days or weeks, you don’t need to put the job on your resume, but if you quit after months you do.
Put another way: quitting immediately looks worse, but no one knows about it; quitting after a few months will either leave a big gap in your resume or a very short experience – both of which are worse in the long term than two more weeks job hunting.
Is it OK to quit a job over email?
The more important your job is to your employer’s success, the more important it is to quit face to face (or, at least, over the phone).
Think about it like a relationship: it’s OK to break up after a Tinder date by text or email, but generally not to break off an engagement.
The same goes for leaving a job: try to get time to speak to your boss or hiring manager, because it’s more respectful (and because you’re more sympathetic explaining your situation in person than in writing).
Three big exceptions (when it’s OK to quit by email): you can’t actually get a meeting, you feel unsafe, and the boss and organization are toxic (so you owe nothing to them at all).