What do you feel when you think about quitting a job? The average worker feels negatively at first. You might feel resentment toward your employer or coworkers. Fear or apprehension for the future. Sadness about saying goodbye to your current routine.
All of these feelings are understandable. But they’re not the only way you’re allowed to feel when you quit your job. Quitting can actually be a good thing. It might even be worth celebrating!
Sometimes it’s better to see resigning as a new beginning rather than a regrettable end. It could be to protect your mental health, upgrade to a higher-paying gig, or even start your own business. These first-hand stories from entrepreneurs across industries are all great examples of such scenarios. Their accounts—plus a few tips on responsible quitting—will help your professional transition be much easier and more positive.
The downsides of quitting your job
Most times that I’ve talked to people about quitting their jobs, the overwhelming sentiment they expressed was disappointment. Still, they often felt that the choice was a necessity. In most cases, they were leaving a toxic workplace. And though they recognized the need to escape the harmful space, there was an inescapable feeling of mourning the place where they’d spent so much time and built genuine relationships.
That’s a part of quitting that we can’t ignore: The workplace isn’t just somewhere we go to clock in and earn money. It’s the site of new friendships, learning opportunities, chances to build one’s self-confidence, and a source of self-identity.
According to a 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center, only about 30% of people in the U.S. have viewed professional roles as “just a job to get them by.” But of course, this sentiment varied by income and was more present among full-time workers.
Young adults, ages 18-39 in particular, were far more likely than other age groups to view their jobs as “steppingstones to a career.” This signaled the long-term value they saw in their roles.
Further, most people who were either self-employed or worked in nonprofit and government jobs felt that their role gave them a sense of self-identity. Some also felt socially fulfilled by their jobs to some extent.
A recent survey showed that people generally categorize 35% of their workplace coworkers into some type of friendship. Fifteen percent were seen as “real friends,” and another 20% as “only-at-work friends.” Most of these friendly connections form within just a few weeks to months.
Clearly, a lot of your personal life and values are tied to your job. Leaving it behind means breaking off a pretty significant part of your life. It could disrupt your self-perception. It’s no wonder that leaving a job can be tough—and that celebratory announcements of quitting are as shockworthy and attention-grabbing as Demma Rosa R.’s
When quitting your job is good—stories from real professionals
Quitting can be difficult. But it doesn’t always have to be negative. In fact, it may be in your best interest to view a job departure with optimism. See it as a fresh start in your professional life. That’s precisely what Demma Rosa R. did.
In a recent viral LinkedIn post, Demma Rosa R. celebrated her departure from a high-level job at Meta. She celebrated her experience in the role, reflecting on the opportunities to learn about herself, the positive connections she made with coworkers, and the “safe microenvironment” that allowed her to flourish in the job.
At the same time, Demma didn’t sugarcoat the reason for her departure. She stated, “Unfortunately, the broader culture at Meta just wasn’t compatible with my personal values, ethical priorities or approach to work.”
Normally, many people would allow such conditions to drive them out of a workplace with burned bridges or sour sentiments. Somehow, Demma saw the bright side.
In the wake of the Great Resignation, more people could benefit from what I call “joyful quitting,” like Demma. These stories of joyful quitting from entrepreneurs and other professionals can help you do just that.
Build a business and don’t go it alone
Quitting a job doesn’t always start two weeks before you leave. It doesn’t even have to be a solo venture! In some cases, such as that of Alex Birkett, Co-founder of Omniscient Digital, you might begin the exit process before you even realize it—and take a few friends along the way.
“I built my content agency while working full-time,” Birkett says. He worked on the agency for three years on nights and weekends with his two co-founders. “Eventually, we realized that we either had to jump in and work on it full-time or consciously decide to keep it as a side project.”
Once the team hit $1M in annual revenue, they knew it was time to quit their full-time tech jobs and take the leap into the new business. Birkett is thankful they took the time to build a strong foundation before leaving their jobs. Still, like Demma, the strong start didn’t completely eliminate the mental challenge of quitting.
“Quitting was mostly psychological. It was terrifying,” he recalled. “But two days after doing it, I felt this surge of freedom and motivation–coupled with a bit more stress, but it was good stress.”
Birkett advises aspiring entrepreneurs to take advantage of opportunities to use your talent to its fullest potential. Otherwise, you’re selling yourself short by staying in an unfulfilling workplace.
A smooth transition into self-employment
Quitting doesn’t have to be a sad experience, even if you’re leaving for the sake of your mental health. In fact, this motivation for leaving a professional role can lead to the highest levels of optimism for a future career. Take it from Milo Cruz, CMO of FreelanceWritingJobs.
“I quit a previous job for the sake of my mental health, and it was the best decision I made throughout the pandemic,” Cruz recalls. “I was feeling burnt out and underpaid, but I stuck around for the sake of my team…. But I realized that nothing was going to change. Staying would only mean resenting my job, so it was clear I had to charge and make changes on my own.”
Cruz transitioned into freelancing shortly after leaving his job. The direct control over his workflow helped to ease the stress he was once subject to at work. Plus, taking the leap into self-employment helped to open many doors for expanding his network and improving his “client-nurturing skills.”
Because of all this, Cruz urges workers to prioritize their mental health. Whether you have aspirations of entrepreneurship or joining a new company as an employee, your wellness isn’t something to compromise on. Otherwise, you risk hurting your professional growth altogether.
Choosing family over the corporate grind
Leaving a job can free up time for your family. Though it can be upsetting to leave a career that pays well, time with your family can never be replaced in the same way a salary can be. That’s what Peter Hoopis, owner and CEO of Peter Hoopis Ventures, learned when he left his 25-year grind in the finance industry to start a business that better fulfilled his personal interests and family needs.
“I realized you can always make money but cannot earn back time,” Hoopis said. Soon after leaving his organization, he started his new company to explore his passion with his family while also earning a living. “What I love most is spending most of my time now with my wife and daughters, making beautiful memories and leaving a legacy together.”
Hoopis’s story is an excellent example of what it means to make your passion your career in a way that doesn’t compromise your love for the hobby. This is crucial, as people often find that turning your passion into a career often undermines the former.
Researchers have found that although you can glean positive outcomes from turning hobbies into hustles, it can also have negative effects, including burnout and psychological distress. Thus, you must be careful about how you incorporate your hobbies into your work.
When you strike the right balance, you can even bring your loved ones into the fold and recover time lost during your previous job. This requires clear expectations and extensive preparation.
Quitting your job joyfully and responsibly
Quitting can be just as fulfilling as accepting a new job offer. You just have to know how to do it right. These tips will help you make the transition as smoothly and responsibly as possible.
1. Make sure you’re quitting for the right reasons
One of the worst mistakes you can make during career transitions is “job hopping.” Take it from someone who’s had numerous jobs in early adulthood: Future employers will ask why your resumé has so many short-term gigs.
It’s not so bad if you usually take seasonal work. That’s easy to explain, especially in industries prone to contract work. However, if it seems like you can’t hold a job for longer than a few months, it might raise red flags for future employers.
That said, make sure you’re quitting for the right reasons (and make them clear in your letter of resignation). Don’t just up and leave your job every time you get bored or catch a new, fleeting interest. Take the time to think about how the transition will help improve your financial stability and long-term career prospects.
Sample Resignation Letter
Your Name Position Company
Supervisor/Manager Position Department Company
I am writing to notify you of my resignation from [company]. This will take effect two weeks from [current date].
My departure is due to [briefly yet clearly explain reason for resignation].
It has been an honor to work for [company]. Thank you for the opportunity.
If leaving your current job will give you some forward momentum in your professional life without compromising your financial security, then by all means—quit!
2. Have a budget and a network to hold you over
Quitting isn’t the end of the story. You need to be forward-thinking when saying goodbye to your current role. Particular matters you need to focus on as you transition out of your job are your savings and network.
Reckless quitting can leave you in a desperate place that may lead you to accept any job you can get. This will only set you back in your professional life and lead you to regret your job departure.
For example, a recent Pew Research Center survey showed that most workers who left their job during the Great Resignation were either unemployed the next month or left the labor force altogether.
That said, it’s best to have a bit of money saved up in case the job search takes a while. Even better: I recommend securing another job before putting in your two weeks’ notice for better financial security. The best way to do this is to start applying for jobs before submitting your resignation letter.
At the same time, having a solid network can also help bridge the gap. It’ll be easier to get your name out there and may reduce the time needed to land a new gig altogether. Your connections might recommend you for jobs or send potential clients your way.
This is why it’s best not to burn bridges with the people you currently work with. You never know when you’ll need a new reference. Heck, you don’t even know if you’ll need to return to your old job. Leave on good terms when you can.
3. Continue your professional education
Don’t be complacent with your current skills and offerings. Think about how you can take advantage of continuous learning opportunities to sharpen your industry knowledge. This could help you qualify for higher-paying gigs in the future.
The same PRC survey showed that 60% of workers who switched jobs in early 2022 saw a real wage increase over the previous year. That type of growth is only possible if you keep your hiring appeal in good shape.
Leaving your job with grace and joy
Quitting doesn’t have to be a trainwreck or a pity party. In many cases, it’s best seen as an opportunity to turn your life around for the better. These stories are proof of that.
Still, that doesn’t make the decision any easier. After all, a job isn’t always just a job—it’s where your friends and aspirations all come together.
Because of this, it’s imperative to resign with dignity, grace, and optimism. These first-hand anecdotes will help you do just that, all while setting you up for a more fruitful professional future.