How to Quit a Job You Just Started, According to 16 Experts

Sometimes, a new job isn’t what you had anticipated it would be. You may be feeling like you want to leave already, even though you have just begun.

But the question is, how do you quit a job you’ve just started?

In today’s labor shortage, it’s not uncommon for a person to accept a job offer only to start work and get another, better, offer. So how do you tactfully quit a job that you’ve only had a couple of weeks?

Assuming you haven’t signed an employment contract, you are free to leave without giving a reason, however, you don’t want to burn any bridges. I have been on both sides of this situation and here is my advice:

Be honest

It’s reasonable to expect that a candidate for the open position for which you are hiring is applying to other positions. Don’t be afraid to explain why you chose the other position, but focus on the things the other position offers, not what you don’t like about the position you are leaving.

I had one worker who took the job, went through the training and then was offered a job working construction that paid 4 times what I was paying! I really couldn’t blame him and he was very diplomatic in his departure. I would hire him again if given the opportunity.

Be grateful

You don’t want to create the impression that you aren’t thankful that the company hired you, so be sure to thank them for hiring you and wish them well in finding someone to replace you. I’ve taken jobs that someone else vacated after a very short time and was glad to get them.

Don’t use the new job as a bargaining chip

I have only accepted one counteroffer to keep me at my employer and from that point on the owner of the company resented me. I was seen as disloyal and as an extortioner instead of someone who wanted to stay put, but not at the expense of his career. I wasn’t using the new job as a bargaining chip but I was perceived as doing so.

What I learned is that if your company doesn’t value you now, it may pay you more with a proverbial gun to its head, but it won’t value you anymore.

Related: How to Tell a Potential Employer You Have Another Job Offer

Acknowledge the inconvenience and even cost you caused them

Recognizing that your short tenure creates an inconvenience and costs the company money shows maturity and business acumen.

Don’t dwell on things but a simple apology (“I realize this puts you on the spot and I am sorry for that, but this opportunity is something I really have to pursue”) can soften the blow and open the door to working with the company in the future should things not work out at the new opportunity.

Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D.

Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D.

President, Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd.

There is never a good enough reason to quit a job you just started; honor it.

This is except in the case of a family health emergency and assuming, also that there is no abuse. Quitting a job for any other reason, including getting an offer that pays significantly more, will almost assuredly harm the person’s reputation and, in the long-term, they will regret it.

Now if there is a health emergency, simply go to the boss and explain it to them. If there is abuse, complain, in writing, to the owner/HR and leave. Other than that, you made a commitment, honor it.

Every employee’s worst nightmare is to start a new job at a new company only to realize once they arrive that they’ve made a terrible mistake. And although these situations can be traumatic for the unlucky employees who find themselves in them, they’re not exactly unique.

By some estimates, roughly one in four new employees will quit a new job within ninety days. In fact, these situations are so common that they even have a name: Career Mulligans (a Mulligan is a golf term which means do-over). So for those unfortunate souls mired in these types of career cataclysms, they can find comfort in knowing that they’re far from alone!

Do not panic

Should you find yourself staring down a Career Mulligan of your own, the first thing to keep in mind is to not panic. It’s easy to lose your cool in these types of situations, but that won’t help solve the problem and will only make things worse. Take a deep breath, keep a cool head, and realize that everything is going to be fine.

Ask yourself the reason you want to quit the job

Is it because you’re feeling overwhelmed with the type and quantity of work you’re being asked to do? Did your employer bait and switch you after the interview process? Is it your manager? The commute?

Think long and hard about the real reasons you’re feeling disaffected and whether or not they’re likely to improve over time. Everyone gets overwhelmed at work and experiences some level of anxiety and doubt when they start a new job, so you need to make sure that yours is the kind that points to irreconcilable differences rather than merely a temporary speedbump you just need to power through.

Related: How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed at Work

Approach your manager and provide an explanation

Only after you’ve carefully considered the reasons behind your desire to quit and decided that they’re not going to change should you approach your manager and have a tough conversation.

Ideally, you should do this as soon as you realize that the new job isn’t going to be a fit. Tell your manager that the role isn’t a good fit for you and that you’ve decided to go in a different direction.

This will be like ripping off a Band-Aid: it’ll hurt for a short while, but then you’ll realize how painless it actually is once the initial sting wears off. Managers hear this type of thing all the time, so you may be pleasantly surprised at how well they take this news.

Never just stop showing up for work

That is the worst thing you can possibly do. Never, ever, ever do that. You’re a professional, and that’s not what professionals do. So suck it up, own it, and deliver the uncomfortable news so that everybody can move on.

You deserve a job that excites and motivates you just as much as your employer deserves an employee who actually wants to come in every day and give the job their best effort.

We’re all looking out for our own best interests, and nobody is going to fault you for looking out for yours. After all, if you won’t, then who else will?

Deb Woolridge, SPHR SCP, SHRM, MSED

Deborah Woolridge

Human Resources Consultant

In HR, we know that the cost to recruit in terms of money and time is huge but still, we have to be prepared for such possibilities as rare as they happen.

As an HR professional who recruited and on-boarded employees and as an HR professional who found herself in this situation, I wanted to offer my cogent guidance:

  • Unlike the work world of the past, few people stay for the length of their career life. Movement is expected if you are a job seeker and creating a career path. Life is more stressful or stressful in a different way. Accept that.
  • With that in mind, if you took a position that met your basic needs like income and desire to work, honor the need to have taken care of that.
  • But, be true to yourself and if you suddenly find you are in the wrong spot and able to leave, or that opportunity you wanted came through and you want it, honor that. You will stay longer, not wistful, and happier.
  • Know that there still are others who want and can do the job so your employer will have options. It is just a time-waster but that is not your problem.

With these above in mind;

  • Be honest and let your manager know right away so that they can re-post the position or go to their second candidate.
  • Keep your message brief. The opportunity you wanted and know you are more right for has come through and you have decided to take it.
  • Be prepared to be let go the same day. It makes no sense for them to keep you on unless you can still add value.
  • Accept what they have to say. If they complain that you misled them or that they spent so much money to get you started, etc. pay it no mind. You are not staying.

In my particular situation, I had been seeking a full-time position for about five months and then, through word of mouth, obtained a contract position. I was still looking for the permanent employment but the well ran dry so I let it go. I began the contract position on a Monday and by Thursday, I finally received an offer for the full-time position I was initially rooting for.

Yes, I agonized about it. Stay with the contract because I made a commitment to them or take the full-time permanent position. It was very difficult to tell the contract employer that I had to leave. They were angry and at the end of the day, I was told not to come back. I felt really bad but my decision was right for me. And my life counted.

Kevin Ovalle

Kevin Ovalle

Senior Vice President, Anderson Frank

Hiring the perfect employee can be a costly and time-consuming exercise that employers will want to avoid repeating at all costs. So when a new recruit wants to leave the business soon after joining, then it’s natural for employers to ask why.

It may sound obvious, but make sure you’ve thought through the decision fully, and be prepared to answer that difficult question when it comes.

Keep your answers honest and constructive

You don’t have to go into detail. There’s no use burning bridges, as you never know when you may encounter these people again in future, especially if you’re working the wrong job but the right industry.

You may hate your new boss and colleagues, but saying that you’ve found the company culture difficult to adapt to puts a far less controversial spin on it.

You may wish to point to something that’s making you unhappy and explain how it could be resolved, but that you understand this solution isn’t feasible and that it’s in everyone’s best interests for you to move on.

Whenever I’ve encountered that approach, it makes it feel like a much more considered decision and easier to accept.

Have the conversation in person

Ultimately, there’s no avoiding the fact that this is a difficult thing to do, especially as the best way to do it is in person. It can be an awkward discussion to have face-to-face but don’t do it via email.

Complete the notice period

It’s better to confront it head-on, conduct yourself properly, and work your notice period as normal right up until your last day. Leave the company with a good impression of you, especially as you may be in need of a reference from them in the not too distant future!

Lola Salvador Akinwunmi

Lola Salvador Akinwunmi

Career Strategist | Founder, LolaSal, Inc.

Quitting a job regardless of the length of time worked is always nerve-racking much more when you just started and have decided it isn’t a great fit for a myriad of reasons. As in all things show respect and don’t burn bridges on your way out; be professional and courteous as best as you can.

Give two weeks’ notice

If you are quitting within the first three months of employment, while it isn’t necessary except if stated in your contract, you do not have to give the customary two-week notice, however, it is key that you quit in the most tactful way.

Hand in your notice in person. Granted you might feel embarrassed don’t be tempted to text or phone in your resignation or quit through your Human Resources office. Set up a meeting with your boss and hand in your resignation. Depending on the organization, you might not need to work the full two weeks, but still get paid.

Don’t badmouth your boss; colleagues or organization

Regardless of how you feel, don’t go about speaking badly about your soon-to-be boss; colleagues or company to anyone within or outside the organization and most especially not on Social Media. It’s not worth the hassle. You surely don’t want to complicate your exit or have to deal with legal actions for slander.

Gracefully bow out and make note of the lessons you learned or the red flags you missed during the interview process for future reference.

Don’t slack off

If you are able to give notice and would be working those two weeks, awkward as it might feel do put out your best effort. You may need the recommendation of your colleagues and /or boss.

Your attitude will demonstrate how you will be remembered after you’ve left. Being productive will leave a positive impression on their minds and may even make them see things from your point of view. Express gratitude and set off to your next job with no ill will.

Martin Luenendonk

Martin Luenendonk

Top Business Growth Expert | Co-Founder & CEO, Cleverism

Sometimes a new job doesn’t work out. It does not turn out to be as bright and shiny as it seemed to be while interviewing. However, quitting the job so soon after being hired can be a sticky situation.

Meet face-to-face with your manager

Thus, the right approach is once you have decided you can’t stay in the workplace, it’s time to meet face-to-face with your manager and tell him your decision in person. You should explain to him why you’re leaving, and you give them a standard notice period.

Mention reasons that focus on aspects of the job that the job position did not fit your strengths or interests. Though resigning in person is terrible and awkward, it shows the professional attitude and helps you quit the job without burning any bridges.

Submit an official resignation letter

Even though you have explained the reason in person, you should still submit your resignation letter in writing. Your letter of resignation should be brief, polite, professional, and mention about the last day you are going to work with the company.

David Chie

David Chie

CEO, Palo Alto Staffing

Honesty works a long way

This is always a challenging situation. But things happen, the way you act will define the impression these people have of you in the future. Over the past several months we have seen a rise in people applying a common dating trick to their full-time positions and “ghosting”. This is not OK.

It doesn’t matter how bad the situation but you never want to burn a bridge. You never know when you might have to work with these colleagues in the future.

The best course of action here is, to be honest with all parties. If the position is not working out, let your manager know and give them notice to find a replacement.

The worst thing you can do is leave this employer in a worse situation than when you started. Just remember most companies have a 90 day probation period and this is where both you and the employer have the opportunity to evaluate each other.

Dory Wilson

Dory Wilson

People Development Expert | Founder, Your Office Mom

Keep it simple

Rather than develop an elaborate story, keep it simple. I see too many professionals trying to create a complicated back story or lying unnecessarily to justify quitting.

Instead, send an email to your manager, and get right to the point. You don’t owe anyone a lengthy response, just a two-week notice.

Please accept this email as notice of my resignation effective in two weeks. I appreciate having had the opportunity to work at XYZ Company, even for such a short time, but I now realize this was not the best career move for me. Please let me know how I can help with the transition.

Often people feel compelled to cite a more specific reason, so if truthful, mention a long commute, educational pursuits, or an upcoming relocation.

Although jobs are sometimes not what we expect, or there are signs of a dysfunctional team or a toxic boss, I don’t recommend citing those reasons for leaving.

Related: How to Tell Your Boss You’re Quitting

If there is an exit interview, that is a more appropriate setting to share issues. When you start complaining about the dysfunction, or toxicity, it can go off the rails fairly quickly.

You don’t want to burn any bridges because you want a decent reference and you never know when you will cross paths again, so part amicably.

Steven Lynch

Steven Lynch

General Manager of Legal Division, Lucas Group

Be gracious and apologetic but most importantly, be honest

While it’s hard to have the courage to admit you’ve made a mistake and feel it isn’t a fit, life is too short to be in a career or position that is making you unhappy.

By being honest and upfront as soon as you feel confident in your decision, you will save the company the additional money, time and energy it takes to continue the onboarding process, which will ultimately frame you in a more positive light once the dust settles.

Joe Bailey

Joe Bailey

Business Development Consultant, My Trading Skills

Be tactful in your resignation

Do it respectfully and in person, honestly explaining why you need to leave the job. You should also have a formal resignation letter to back up your verbal resignation. Do whatever it takes not to burn any bridges unnecessarily.

Give adequate notice

This is dependent on the terms of your employment contract.

Be honest, sincere and apologetic

Do not make up weak excuses for empathy sake. Most employers will be able to see right through these.

Bottom Line: Quitting a job you just started can be done right if tact, honesty, sincerity, and proper procedure are employed.

John Crossman, CCIM, CRX

John Crossman

CEO, Crossman & Company

Here are my tips on how to quit a job you just started:

  • Be honest.
  • Go tell your supervisor immediately.
  • Give two weeks notice and work hard until the last minute.
  • Help with the transition.
  • Assist in finding and training a replacement.
  • Speak well of the company.

Nate Masterson

Nate Masterson

Business Consultant | CMO, Maple Holistics

It can be uncomfortable to quit a job you just started, but there are better ways to do it and worse ways to do it. If you think that your job and connections there may be of help to you in the future, you’ll want to take extra care to not burn any bridges upon your departure. As such, you should make sure to end things properly.

You should give two weeks’ notice or whatever is stated in your contract

Be honest with your boss about why you’re leaving, albeit nicely. If you’ve decided to pursue higher education, that’s likely the easiest excuse.

Yet if you feel that the work simply wasn’t for you or you were offered a better job elsewhere, let them know while expressing how grateful you were for the opportunity to work there. This should mend things and make quitting less awkward.

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Founder, Remote Bliss

Although you might feel bad about quitting a job you just started, it’s not your fault circumstances have changed. Whether you got a better offer or a gut reaction the new position wasn’t for you, it’s best to do what’s right for you in your career.

Remember that even though an employer might be disappointed, they understand you’ve got to act in your own best interest when it comes to advancing your career.

Give your new employer two weeks’ notice and prepare an explanation

This is important so they have time to find your replacement. Although you might give them the heads up over email, try to set up a face-to-face meeting for your full explanation. Prepare what you’re going to say so you can be articulate at the moment, even if you’re feeling uncomfortable.

By taking these steps, you can avoid burning bridges and leave the employer on as good terms as possible. And remember, even if the meeting is awkward, you’ll be out of there soon and on to bigger and better things!

Joni Holderman

Joni Holderman

Chief Resume Strategist | Founder, Thrive! Resumes

Submit a formal letter and give enough notice

The good news is that if you quit a job in less than 3 months, you can simply leave it off your resume. Such short-term gigs are irrelevant, especially when the job simply wasn’t a good fit. Using years only for dates may help conceal any gap in employment.

The best practice is to quit in writing and to give your employer two weeks notice. Most employers will let you leave immediately rather than working during those two weeks.

William Taylor

William Taylor

Career Development Officer, Mint Resume

Be honest but tactful and give a reasonable notice period to find a substitute

I believe honesty is the best policy. Instead of giving lame excuses, state the real reason but remain tactful. Apologize for the inconvenience you caused the company. You wouldn’t want to burn any bridges so try to keep the relations cordial. And, give the employer a reasonable notice period to arrange a substitute.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I handle the emotional stress of quitting a job I just started?

Quitting a job can be emotionally stressful, especially if it’s a job you were excited about at first. Here are some tips to help you manage your emotions during this time:

Give yourself time to process: Don’t make rash decisions or act until you’ve had time to think things through. Take a few days to process your emotions and consider why you want to leave.

Talk to a trusted friend or family member: It can be helpful to talk to someone you trust about your decision to quit. They can offer support and guidance as you navigate this difficult time.

Focus on the positives: While it’s important to acknowledge the reasons why you are leaving, try to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Think about what you learned and how you grew during your time at the company.

Create a plan for your next steps: Having a plan for your next steps can help you stay in control and feel less anxious about the future. Having a plan can be very reassuring whether that means searching for a new job or reflecting on your career goals.

What should I do if I regret quitting my new job?

It’s not uncommon to second-guess your decision to quit a job, especially if you haven’t found a new job yet or are struggling financially.

Here are some tips to help you handle this situation:

Assess your options: Take a step back and assess your options. Is it possible to reapply for the job you quit, or are there other positions within the company that would be a better fit for you? If not, what other employment opportunities are available to you?

Talk to your former employer: If you resigned on good terms, you should discuss the possibility of returning to the company. Be honest about the reasons for leaving and explain why you’re interested in returning.

Address the reasons why you quit: If you’re considering returning to your old job, it’s important to address why you quit in the first place. What needs to change for you to feel fulfilled and successful in your job?

Don’t dwell on the past: While learning from past experiences is important, it’s not productive to dwell on what could have been. Focus on the future and the opportunities that are available to you now.

How do I cope with the financial consequences of quitting a job I just started?

Quitting your job can have financial consequences, especially if you don’t have a new job lined up. Here are some tips to help you deal with it:

Create a budget: Review your expenses and income to create a budget that reflects your new financial situation. This will help you see where you need to cut back and where you can save money.

Consider temporary work: If you need to make ends meet while looking for a new job, you can take on temporary work or freelance projects. This can help you earn money while looking for more stable employment.

Talk to your creditors: If you have outstanding bills or debts, you should talk to your creditors and explain your situation to them. They may be willing to work with you on a payment plan that fits your new budget.

Take advantage of resources: Many resources are available to help the unemployed or underemployed, including job placement services, career counseling, and government assistance programs. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

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