Have you ever wondered what to do before quitting your job?
 
I think most of us have at some point. Because here’s the deal:

Quitting your job can get tricky, even if you’re leaving on good terms. The way you handle this makes a difference.
 
But if you have a plan for how you’re going to leave, it makes the transition go more smoothly.

Not to mention, it’ll also prevent you from burning bridges and keep the door open in case you ever want to come back.

Trust me, no one quits a job thinking they’ll come back, but it happens.
 
So today’s article is going to be your ultimate checklist before leaving a job. Let’s get started.

1 | Plan Your Next Move

man using laptop

This one might seem obvious, but I guarantee there’s someone that needs to hear it.
 
Sometimes when our emotions take over, it can be easy to lose our good sense. This is especially true when you dislike your job.
 
So before you choose to jump ship, plan out what you’ll be doing once you leave.
 
Do you have a new job lined up?
 
Have you already been hired and guaranteed a start date, salary, and benefits?
 
If not, how long can you financially survive if you don’t land a new job right away?
 
Those are the questions you should ask yourself before you ditch your current job.  So make sure you have answers for all of them.

2 | Take What’s Yours

computer desk

You should save any important files, emails, or documents before you even think about telling anyone that you’re leaving
 
It doesn’t matter how awesome of an employee you are, or how good of a relationship you have with your boss.
 
Some companies have policies where if you’re leaving (especially if you’re quitting to go work for a competitor) then you don’t have two weeks – you have until the end of the day to clear out.
 
And some employers don’t even give you until the end of the day.
 
So the last thing you’ll want is to have to hand everything over before you’ve had the chance to secure the important things.
 
Here’s what you need to do: 

Give Your Computer and  Company Phone a Proper Goodbye

Your employer is going to review all your electronics before they hand it over to someone else.
 
I know a manager who found out (after an employee left) that she spent hours each day surfing the internet and using social media.
 
The boss wasn’t happy, and the former employee didn’t get a good reference because of it.
 
But even if you’re not doing anything wrong, it’s still important that you don’t leave your personal information behind.
 
So keep the stuff you need and delete everything you don’t. (Just don’t delete company files)
 

Here’s your computer checklist before leaving a job:

 

  • Internet Browsers – Delete your browsing history, cookies, saved passwords, and saved forms from any of the browsers you used.
     
  • Computer Files – If you have personal files, save them online or email a copy to your personal email. Then, delete the files from your office computer.
     
  • Email – Forward emails you need to keep to your personal email. Delete the rest. If you’ve used your business email to sign up for certain accounts, make sure to change them over. 
     
  • Software – If you downloaded software that is only meant for you, not to the job, then uninstall it. 
     

3 | Make Sure Your Retirement Rolls Over

jar of coins

When you landed your first job, you might’ve started contributing to a workplace retirement account.
 
On average, Millennials begin contributing to retirement at the age of 23.
 
But here’s another thing to think about:

Millennials have an average of 4 different jobs by the time they’re 32. So the era of lifelong employment has long been considered a thing of the past.
 
Why? Because as things change, we are increasingly seeking better benefits and more fulfillment from our work-life.
 
So what happens to your retirement contributions when you change jobs?
 
If you’re not careful, you could make a mistake that costs you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
 
Recent research showed that the average cash-out for employees under 40 who change jobs is $14,300.
 
That may not seem like much, but here’s what happens when you cash out your 401(k) instead of rolling it over to an IRA:
 

  • You’ll have to pay a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.
     
  • You’ll have to pay taxes based on your tax bracket.
     
  • You miss out on any compound growth.
     

If you moved that $14,300 into an IRA when you changed careers when you’re 30, it could be worth over $485,000 by retirement.
 
But if you chose to cash it out instead, it would cost you almost half a million dollars! 
 
Yikes.
 
Listen, it’s fine to switch jobs, but make sure you roll over your retirement account each time.

This is one of the most important steps in this job transition checklist. I can’t say it enough.
 
Plus, rolling over your retirement is simple – just some paperwork and you’re done.
 

4 | Redo Your Budget

calculator and bills

Since this is your checklist before leaving a job, we have to talk about getting your finances in order. So because your job is your source of income, then let’s start with your budget.
 
Here’s the thing:
 
A job change is almost always accompanied by a change in salary.
 
So if that’s the case, you might consider adding extra to your retirement, paying down debt, or saving more.
 
If you don’t have a job lined up, or your income is decreasing with a new job, then you’ll want to look for ways to trim the fat from your budget.
 
I recommend creating a worst-case scenario budget.
 
Your worst-case scenario budget should account for your necessities like transportation, food, healthcare, and shelter.
 
This budget might not be fun to make, but it’ll help you manage your money even when there’s not much of it.
 
Because the last thing you’ll want to worry about is how you’re going to afford groceries.

5 | Beef Up Your Emergency Fund

man showing money full of wallet

The general rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months worth of expenses saved up in an emergency fund.
 
Sh-t happens, and that’s what your emergency fund is for.
 
So if you already have another job in the works, then shoot to only save between 3-6 months worth of expenses.
 
If you plan on leaving one job without another, it never hurts to save even more.

6 | Use the Health Insurance While You Have it

woman at doctors appointment

Do you have unused medical privileges that you’ll be leaving behind? Or are your old benefits better than your new ones?
 
If so, go ahead and make any doctor or dentist appointments you’ve been putting off. 
 
Even if you have a new job lined up, it might still take some time for your new insurance plan to kick in. 
 
So get everything squared away while you’re still covered on your current employer’s plan.
 
But there’s one thing to note in this checklist before leaving a job:
 
Try not to schedule appointments all across work hours, especially if you don’t want it to be obvious you’re leaving.

7 | Tell Your Boss First

man and woman shaking hands

Your boss should be the first person to know that you’re leaving.
 
Even if you feel like telling a trusted coworker, I would still advise against it. You don’t want anything to backfire on you.
 
If your boss finds out the news through the grapevine, then they might feel disrespected. This can lead to an uncomfortable confrontation.
 
Plus, it can burn a bridge and weaken their references of you in the future.

8 | Make the Timing Right

clock hanging on wall

Once you’re completely positive that you’ve made the right decision to leave, then pick the right time to hand in your notice.
 
Don’t choose the busiest time, or right before an important meeting.
 
Set up a time with the relevant person, rather than just walking into their office. 
 
This will also give you plenty of time to prepare for what you’re going to say beforehand and any answers to questions they might have.

9 | Give Plenty of Notice

calendar lying on desk

Giving a two-week notice is the standard.
 
This can be hard when you dislike your job and you’re really ready to leave. I get it.

But try not to hand in your notice on impulse.
 
A two-week notice makes the transition easier for everyone else and shows that you’re professional.
 
And if you’re an employee with specialized skill sets or if you hold a higher position, then you might consider giving a longer notice.

10 | Tell Your Boss Why You’re Leaving

business meeting
 
One of the common things I get asked when it comes to a resignation checklist is this:
 
Should I tell my boss why I’m leaving?
 
Here’s my answer:

You can bet that your boss is going to want to know why you’re leaving. So give them an honest answer.

For example:
 
I got another offer that I can’t refuse (i.e. shorter commute, more money)
 
or
 
I need to move on with my career and I found a good next step
 
But I want to reinforce one thing in this checklist before leaving a job:
 
Try to keep any negative feelings to yourself.
 
It’s a small world and you don’t know how people are connected or what could get back to your future boss. Plus, you might want their recommendation later down the road.
 
But if there are serious issues within the company that needs addressing, then try to do it in a constructive manner.
 
Focus on what they could do better, not just what was wrong.

You don’t have to over-explain yourself, just focus on being positive.

11 | Show Appreciation Toward the Most Influential

two men high fiving

There are usually one or two people who had the biggest impact on you. Focus on those people.
 
Chances are, if they were able to help you at your current position, they could also help you at your new position.
 
These are people that you might call on when you need advice, recommendations, or help to make a decision. So let them know how much you appreciated them.
 
A simple, “Thank you for everything you’ve done” goes a long way. Plus, it feels good to make others feel good.
 

12 | Help Out the New Guy or Girl

two women shaking hands

Remember when you started a new job and you had no idea where anything was?
 
I always say the first 3 weeks at a new job are the hardest, so do what you can to make it go smoothly for the next person.
 
This might mean you’ll write up a report about your basic tasks, or show a new employee around the office.
 
You’ll probably end up having a meeting with your managers to talk about your transition. Let them know that you’re doing what you can to finish projects and tie up loose ends.
 
If you have to leave a project in the middle, talk with your boss about what you can do to help someone take your spot.
 
Whether you write a report or actually train your replacement, you’ll end up leaving a good impression on your boss.

13 | Don’t Accept the Counteroffer

man typing on laptop

This wouldn’t be a proper checklist before leaving a job if I didn’t mention the obvious:
 
Make sure you’re making the right decision before you quit.

And if you know you’re making the right decision, then don’t accept the counteroffer.
 
If there’s any doubt in your mind whatsoever, then you should think twice about leaving. Ask yourself if it’s possible to work things out.
 
Think about all the reasons you started with the company in the first place.
 
Your boss might try to influence you to stay by offering you a raise, bonus, or promotion.
 
They think you’re worth these things or they wouldn’t offer it. But, if it takes you leaving for them to offer that to you, then it’s probably a sign that you’ve outgrown the company.
 
Know your worth and move on.
 

14 | Go on Vacation

cocktail sitting on beach

Because, why not?
 
When was the last time you took a mental health day off?
 
Whether it’s a day trip or a weekend getaway, a job transition is a perfect opportunity to allow yourself to decompress before you hop right back into it.
 
Plus, it lets you disengage from your old job and get excited about your new one.
 
So go for it!
 
Let me know in the comments, what’s on your resignation checklist?
 
And as always, thanks for reading.

Jamie Cohen is a Career Coach and HR Manager for EndThrive. After graduating with a B.A. in Human Resources Management, Jamie obtained his MBA from the University of Georgia. He became the lead HR Researcher & Engagement Manager for Operations, Inc. before branching out on his own as a career coach. Connect with Jamie on LinkedIn.

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8 thoughts on “14 Smart Things You Must Do Before Quitting Your Job”

  1. I’m getting ready to change jobs. This was really helpful. thank you.

  2. Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? I really like the design and content.

  3. Thank you I Needed This advice and more on how to do all the computer stuff when leaving. So don’t tell your manager tell the big boss???

    • Hi Patty, great question. I recommend telling the person who makes the hiring and firing decisions. So if that’s the big boss, then go to them. Or of course, you can talk to both – which might be better suited for your situation.

  4. Thanks so much for this article. I’m in the current situation.

    • You’re welcome Lenny!

  5. What are your thoughts on taking your vacation ( with the time off you’ve earned) right before resigning? I know my boss would not pay me for the hours after resigning.

    • Great question! If you’ve earned it, it’s yours. I say take the vacation before resigning, for sure. Especially since you know your boss won’t pay you for it.

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