Little-known fact: Winners do quit...because they get better job offers and want to advance in their careers. You’ll likely have many jobs in your lifetime—Baby Boomers averaged 12 by age 54. Hopefully most departures from one job to the next will be on your own terms. But leaving a job gracefully can be just as important to your career as making a good impression on your first day.
We’ll cover everything you should know about how to give your two weeks’ notice in the most professional way. But first…
What is two weeks’ notice?
Like the term implies, putting in your two weeks’ notice means you’re informing your current employer that you’ll be leaving your job, typically at least 10 business days in advance.
Why should you give two weeks’ notice?
There isn’t typically a rule that demands two weeks’ notice, but it’s a widely accepted standard and more of a professional courtesy than anything else.
“It’s important to leave your current job with your relationship and reputation intact,” says Melody Godfred, founder of Los Angeles–based resume firm Write in Color. “By giving your employer notice, you maintain the goodwill you’ve cultivated while working there and can facilitate a smooth transition.” You give your employer time to figure out what they’ll do once you’ve left while you’re still available to help guide the transition.
How to give two weeks notice
OK, you’re going to give two weeks’ notice. Follow these 11 steps to ensure your departure is seamless and professional:
- Review your employee handbook or contract.
- Tell your boss first.
- Plan what you'll say—and keep it simple.
- Prepare to answer follow-up questions and talk about next steps.
- Have an end date in mind.
- Give your two weeks’ notice face-to-face
- Consider writing a letter of resignation.
- Tell close coworkers and mentors personally.
- Have a story for why you’re leaving.
- Make the transition smooth.
- Leave on a high note.
Review your employee handbook or contract.
Before approaching your manager or HR about your decision to quit, read up on company policies. If your contract describes you as an “at-will employee,” it’s possible your employer will ask you to leave immediately—particularly if you’re heading to work for a competitor. Also take note of any non-compete clauses, and don’t be afraid to seek legal counsel to help you wade through the language, if you think it’s necessary.
If there is any chance your manager could react badly to you giving two weeks’ notice, or if your new job is with a direct competitor, be prepared to be walked out of the office. “Have your affairs in order,” Godfred says. “Give your notice with the understanding that your computer, email account, and more may vanish immediately.” Even if this reaction feels unlikely, it’s better to be prepared than to leave anything behind.
Tell your boss first.
Some of your colleagues might have known you were interviewing, especially if they acted as references for you, but your boss should always be the first to hear the news that you’re leaving. The last thing you want is for them to find out from someone else. You should also refrain from posting any kind of announcement on social media before you’ve formally put in your two weeks’ notice.
Plan what you'll say—and keep it simple.
Many people are uncertain exactly what to say when giving two weeks’ notice, but something simple and to the point is best. Keep your tone complimentary and professional and say something like:
“I’ve so enjoyed working with you here, but another opportunity has presented itself and I’ve made a decision to move on.”
Prepare to answer follow-up questions and talk about next steps.
There are details your boss will likely ask for as soon as you give your notice, so be ready to share them. Think about any likely follow-up questions, and decide what you want ahead of time so you don’t have to do it on the spot. For example, your boss might ask if you are interested in a counteroffer, so decide before the meeting whether that’s something you would entertain.
And be ready to discuss next steps, including how to share the news with HR, the rest of your team, or clients.
Have an end date in mind.
Your boss is likely to ask you when your last day will be, so go into the “I quit” conversation with a date ready.
Your boss may ask you to stay on longer than two weeks to tie up loose ends or assist with training a replacement. Again, you’ll want to refer back to your contract to see what’s legally required of you—but agreeing to stay an extra week or two (as long as you’re able to negotiate a later start date with your new employer) can be a great way to leave your job on the right note.
Give your two weeks’ notice face-to-face
It can be nerve-racking to have this conversation with your boss live, but a direct approach is best. Depending on your relationship with your manager, both your schedules, and whether you’re working remotely, you can schedule a meeting (in person or over video)—or just shoot them a Slack or pop over to their desk and tell them you would like to speak in private today. If you’re both in the office, you can “simply knock on your manager’s door and ask if it’s a good time for a quick chat,” Godfred says. “If they’re unavailable, you can ask for a better time to come back.” And when the conversation is wrapping up, make sure to thank your boss for their guidance and time.
Consider writing a letter of resignation.
Most jobs in the private sector don’t require a formal written resignation, says Muse career coach Alex Durand, founder of Frable Consulting. “Have the conversations first, and if a written resignation is required, your HR rep will inform you.” That said, many public sector positions and those at the executive or board level do require a resignation letter; when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to have one prepared and bring it to your meeting with your boss.
Even if a letter isn’t required, it can be helpful to put something in writing. “After you give your verbal notice, it’s a good idea to follow up with your manager and your HR representative—if you have one—with an email,” Godfred says. “That way, there’s no confusion.” Keep the letter brief and professional. This customizable resignation letter template can get you started.
Tell close coworkers and mentors personally.
After you’ve submitted your formal two weeks’ notice, you’ll want to tell your work friends, close coworkers, and mentors yourself, ideally face-to-face (or if you can’t, video chat, phone call, or Slack work too). These relationships will likely transcend your current employment, and you want to preserve them even as you move on to your next position. So you don’t want someone who has been influential or important in your growth to hear through the office grapevine that you’re leaving. After that, you can tell other people as you see them, and share the news online (find more advice about how to make that announcement here).
Have a story for why you’re leaving.
As soon as you put in your two weeks’ notice, be prepared for everyone to ask why you’re leaving or where you’re going. Position your decision to leave in a positive light—something to the effect of, “I’ve really enjoyed my time here, but an opportunity presented itself that will allow me to grow my skills in a new way,” along with as much detail about your new gig as you’re comfortable sharing.
Make the transition smooth.
Spend your final two weeks getting ready for your departure and tying up loose ends. Prepare a transition plan that lays out your responsibilities and provides suggestions for others who could assume these tasks once you’re gone. This will help your current boss start the reassignment process, plus give you time to train others on your responsibilities. If it’s appropriate, offer to help find your replacement or write your job description. Basically, be as helpful as possible. You can also offer to be available for questions via email after you leave if anything comes up, giving your current team reassurance you won’t leave them in a bind.
Leave on a high note.
Now is not the time to regale your coworkers with your worst experiences at your current company or to loudly proclaim, “This is what I won’t miss!” when something’s going wrong. While you’re leaving, everyone else is staying, and these are people you’ll likely cross paths with again someday, especially if you work in a small industry.
Remember to tell everyone how much you enjoyed working with them and how you hope to keep in touch in the future. And then do! Make sure to add your colleagues on LinkedIn or save their contact info before you go, and on your last day, send out a goodbye email as a final farewell.
Even when quitting a job is a positive move for you, the process can be tricky to navigate. But you’ll never go wrong by staying professional and respectful. Godfred says that “by having integrity and giving notice the right way, you not only preserve your relationship with your employer, you open the door for him or her to celebrate your next step”—so you can too.
Regina Borsellino contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.