How to quit a job you just started

Photo by  Frank McKenna

Photo by Frank McKenna

This happens. It happens all the time.  People quit jobs weeks, sometimes days after they start them and it's OK!

It's going to be a reality in your career that you're going to find yourself in a job that just isn't right for you and you're going to find it hard to tell those very nice people who hired you, that it's just not going to work out.

You're going to be thinking about it day and night. You're going to imagine the scorn you're going to face from the new colleagues you just met and the employer who believed everything you sold them in your interview.

Don't stress about it, this happens a lot and it's OK.

Many years ago I found myself in a job that was good. The people who ran the business were lovely, my colleagues were lovely, the work was OK and the conditions were good too. The studio was located near a really amazing produce market which meant lunchtimes were filled with limitless fresh food options. I was surrounded by cafes and I could walk to work every day.

Three weeks into this new job, something wasn't right. I could feel it in my belly and I only realised it when I saw an for a Design and Strategy Director that was right up my alley. It was a hybrid mix of digital, technology and brand strategy work that would see me leading a team. The client mix was similar but the challenge was far greater — at that point in time, for me, the potential of this new job was perfect. 

I applied.

I rang in sick.

I went to the interview.

A couple of days later, I got the job.

Boom! There I was, having to resign from a job that I was in for all of three weeks.

I felt guilty. I felt bad! It was like I had made a shit load of promises and I was about to break them all. I was miserable. 

I organised a meeting with the MD of the organisation (the woman who hired me) and explained to her that:

  • The job wasn't right for me
  • I felt I needed to explore a very specific part of my skill set
  • I've been offered a new job and I'm going to accept it

She was a little annoyed but didn't show it (she was a professional). She asked me some questions about what they could've offered me in the way of job role to have kept me, if the conditions and value of the organisation were aligned with my own and wished me well when she realised I had made up my mind.

I breathed a sigh of relief, walked out and into the new job within a few days.

If you're stuck in a job that you've only been in for a short time and you're looking for ways to leave — here are some things to consider.

You don't owe them anything — and they don't owe you anything

Being employed is an agreement between you and your employer. You've agreed to work there for an agreed salary that is paid to you at agreed intervals, be it weekly, fortnightly or monthly. That agreement is between you and your employer and beyond that agreement you don't owe them anything.  Unless you've agreed to very specific terms, don't feel that you have to stay in a job for a specific amount of time. Termination clauses exist in contracts to enable both parties to terminate the agreement — nobody should make you feel bad for actioning that clause especially if they've agreed to it too!

Saying that, they don't owe you anything either, so don't act surprised when they choose to act on clauses that you've agreed to either. 

Be honest, truthful and kind

No one likes a smart-arse. No one likes arrogance and there is no reason to manufacture lies as to the real reason why you're leaving. If it hasn't worked out for you, that's fine. Don't rub it in, don't blame and don't make it sound like your hand was forced — own the decision and move on. 

Be professional

Handle it professionally. Don't get personal and don't blame. Call a meeting with the person who hired you and tell them first. Don't tell everyone else in the business before you tell them, this is what children do in primary school and you're not in primary school. Handle it like a professional and you'll have their respect.

Don't waffle

Don't beat around the bush and don't waffle. Don't surprise them, just tell it to them straight. The first words that come out of your mouth should be "I wanted to tell you I'm resigning and explain to you why." Done.

Don't burn bridges

The world is small. Your industry is even smaller. Don't piss anyone off and don't give them any reason to say you're an idiot. Walk into every conversation with the intent to have them say 'what a wonderful person' (or similar) when you leave the room.

If you're not happy, leave

I've worked with a number of people in my 26 years who's idea of a good day was a day filled with complaints about their employer, their circumstance and the conspiracy that the world is simply out to make their life terrible. If you're not happy in your job, leave.

Don't talk to everyone about it. Leave. Don't blame everyone else. Just leave.

It's ok. It really is OK.

Resigning from new job is a little embarrassing. You've just had a few weeks of interviews, the employer has had to sit through them all, you've attended a couple, you've spoken highly of your credentials, capability and passion for the role — and now you're bailing. I get it. 

But it's OK. It's just business. The employer has every right to make your role redundant so why can't you exercise your right to leave? It's just business.

If they make you feel bad...

Some employers are going to make you feel terrible for resigning so soon. If they do, be grateful that you know who they truly are, beneath the facade they put up for you. Be grateful that you don't have to put up with them any more. Don't feel bad. Smile and thank them for showing their true colours.

Keep moving forward.