In my short time since graduating from college, I've held and left three separate jobs before switching over to self-employment. If you're about to quit your job, you'll need to decide how much notice to give your employer. Should you give two weeks' notice? Or is a longer timeframe more appropriate? I’ve put together a list of questions I considered when deciding how much notice to give. Hopefully it will help you figure out how to quit a job gracefully.
1. Does Your Employer Have a Notice Policy?
The first thing I did before I quit any of my jobs was to consult my employee policy handbook. Your company will usually detail what you need to do when it comes to giving notice. In all three of my cases, the official employee handbook policy stated that I needed to give two weeks' notice in order to leave my job on good terms.
Your company policy may be different. Some companies require four weeks. Other companies may require even more time, while yet others will require no notice at all, depending on the industry and how scheduling works.
2. What’s the Standard for Your Industry and Culture?
If your employer doesn't have a stated policy, you'll want to at least give the amount of notice that’s standard in your industry. While the majority of America seems to accept two weeks' notice, it varies from country to country. And even in the United States, some industries prefer a longer notice period.
For instance, my family found out that it’s customary to give four weeks' notice for nurses in our area only after my wife gave two weeks' notice for leaving her first job.
Her company made a four-week schedule for its nurses, so this made sense in retrospect. It was a little embarrassing for my wife, but they let it slide because it was her first nursing job.
3. How High Is Your Position in the Company?
The higher you move up within a company, the more complicated things may get. If you're in a senior leadership or other critical position, you may need to provide more notice so that your employer can line up a replacement before you leave. Of course, whether or not you give the extended notice is up to you.
4. Could Your Employer Leave You Out in the Cold With a Longer Notice Period?
Unfortunately, if you give more than two weeks' notice, your employer could easily leave you out in the cold. Some of the companies that I’ve worked for had a habit of letting people go the second they give their notice. Thankfully the companies usually paid the employees during that time. However, your employer may not have to do that if she lets you go immediately after you hand in your notice.
The states where I’ve worked are at-will employment states. This means that I could quit at any time for any reason, and my employer could fire me at any time for any reason. Both sides can take advantage of that arrangement, but it's best to follow policy so that you don't burn any bridges. You just have to hope that your employer will honor your notice period and let you work it out.
Especially with this in mind, it's wise to have a plan in place before you give your notice. Make sure to check job boards like Jobscan to find opportunities in your area.
My Choice: Why I Decided on Two Weeks' Notice
At the end of my employment at my previous jobs, I decided to do what was right for me. I could easily have stayed for a month or two to help the company transition in a more orderly fashion, which my employers would have loved. However, after some deep thought, I knew that giving only two weeks' notice would be best for me. Plus, it followed company policy.
I needed to move on to new areas, and I knew deep down that should the company have had to let me go for any reason, they wouldn't have given me two weeks' notice. I would have been out the door that day.
When it comes time to give your notice, you have to do what's right for you. You no longer owe the company you work for any more than the standard notice period. Give your notice and get on with your life.