A guide to quitting your job (and why every 20-something should do it)

A guide to quitting your job (and why you need to do it)

An article I read recently urged young people to quit their jobs.

As someone who quit her first job out of college (a gig I stayed with for two years) to move across the country and go to grad school, I couldn’t agree more.

I still remember the day I told my boss I was leaving.

With multiple people on maternity leave, the company taking on new clients and other big changes, my department had been stretched thin for weeks and was about to get even busier. But I’d been keeping the news of my acceptance into grad school to myself for months and couldn’t contain it any longer—it was time to drop the bomb. So after one of our department’s weekly meetings, I asked my manager if we could speak privately—an uncommon request. Walking down the hall toward his office, he said jokingly, “I hope you’re not leaving us.” I started, “Well…” and told him my good news. And I quit.

The Atlantic article explained what a study on youth unemployment revealed about the benefits of quitting:

“Jumping between jobs in your 20s, which strikes many people as wayward and noncommittal, improves the chance that you’ll find more satisfying—and higher paying—work in your 30s and 40s.

“People who switch jobs more frequently early in their careers tend to have higher wages and incomes in their prime-working years,” said [Henry] Siu, a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics. “Job-hopping is actually correlated with higher incomes, because people have found better matches—their true calling.””

I certainly hope that’s true. And in my experience, I’ve found other benefits as well.

The act of quitting your job builds courage. There’s nothing scarier than giving up your paycheck—possibly the first steady source of income that allowed you independence—and telling your boss you’re leaving. It takes bravery to decide it’s time to move on to something else and then act upon that realization.

It also requires serious planning (and soul-searching). You’ve hopefully put a lot of thought and consideration into why you’re quitting your job and what you’re looking for wherever you go next. If it’s more money, no shame in saying so—identify exactly how much money and put into writing the steps you’ll take to earn it. If it’s room for growth, fine—make a timeline of where you expect to be in five years and talk with potential employers about how you’ll reach that goal. If it’s not having to answer to a boss, make sure you can be productive working on your own and are comfortable playing multiple roles in self-employment.

If you’re going to quit your job, a few words of advice:

Give fair notice. No matter how uninspired a job might be, unless your work conditions are unsafe or completely unprofessional, it’s not fair to walk out on a day’s notice. Don’t burn bridges by going out in a blaze of glory. Ask your boss for a private meeting (be kind—don’t do it on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon) and give at least two weeks’ notice. Because I knew the department would need me, I gave my boss seven weeks’ notice and helped train my replacement.

Don’t focus on the negatives. Unless you’re in the tough position of quitting a job you just started (only to realize it’s completely, 100 percent wrong for you), don’t talk about what you didn’t like about your job. Maybe you were bored as hell, maybe the job wasn’t what you thought it’d be or maybe your boss’ managing tactics grated on your every last nerve—quitting time is not the time to offer critiques. Unless specifically asked what about the job could be improved or convince you to stay, speak only about what you learned or got out of the experience in a positive way. It’ll soften the blow of your departure and make you look like a class act.

Say thank you. Handwrite letters to your manager or boss, the coworkers in your department, the CEO and whomever else you worked closely with or for as a way of showing thanks. These are the people you’ve worked alongside in an important stage of your life. Thank them for being part of it. The handwritten part will floor anyone who thinks Millennials don’t value old-fashioned etiquette.

Above all, don’t quit your job if… You’re living paycheck-to-paycheck. You don’t have something else lined up. You genuinely love your job. (If so, congrats! And why are you still reading?! Go to happy hour with your coworkers already.)

When I quit my job, I realized no one is irreplaceable.

After what felt like an eternity (but was probably only a minute or so) of my rehearsed resignation, I was relieved to see my boss smile as he congratulated me on getting into school. He was sad to see me go but said he pegged me as someone who was itching to do something a bit more creative and might not stay around forever. And I realized then that quitting isn’t more of a shock to anyone else than it is to you. Do good work and as long as the industry is sound, you can probably hang on to the same gig for a while. (And in an economy like this, we should be thankful for any job.) But unless you’re lucky enough to land the dream gig—or close enough to it—in your 20s, if you can afford to risk it, why not try on a couple of things until you find the right fit? You’ll never say you wish you did when you had the chance. And if it leads to bigger paychecks in the future, even better.

Have you ever quit a job? What did you learn?