Illustration by Sofia Bews.

We’ve all heard the stories. A hotel employee announces that he’s quitting his job via marching band. A reporter leaves her job live, on air (with expletives). Fred and George Weasely ditch Hogwarts with tremendous flair.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve worked enough crappy/boring jobs and felt trapped in enough clubs and organizations to really cheer for these folks. These people are moving on. They’re announcing how they expect to be treated. They’re taking big steps to make themselves happy.

But it’s important to note: These are rare, maybe-once-in-a-lifetime quitting episodes. This is not how you leave every job or activity that doesn’t work for you. Most of the time, for most of your life, when you’re done being part of something, it’s a good idea to quit in a way that honors what a mature, thoughtful, hard-working person you are. With respect and dignity. Not with a marching band. Not with a cake that lists every terrible thing your boss or coach ever said to you.

Please don’t misunderstand me here: It is totally OK to quit. Truly. You can stop, and for whatever the reason may be. Maybe you have a great new opportunity. Maybe the job is truly awful, and even though you’ve tried hard to make it work, you’re miserable. No matter what, though, if you possibly can, quit with respect and dignity.

Why should you? Why calmly, politely leave a situation that’s not working for you anymore or actively making your life awful? Why not cover your evil boss’s cubicle with 12,000 Post-Its that all say “I QUIT”?

…Because you respect yourself. You deserve to quit like the level-headed boss you are. Also? Life is long, Rooks, and people remember. If you quit an activity or a job in a spiteful, public, or “immature” way, that’s called burning a bridge. Your boss will remember, you coworkers will remember, your friends will remember. Ten years from now, one of your old coworkers from the job you very vocally quit might be a boss at a place you badly want to work for. Trust me: They will remember you. The way you quit was probably a funny story they told to other people at the time, but do you think someone who remembers what happened will think you’re a great candidate to hire at their company?

Probably not.

Do Future You a favor and put some thought and care into quitting. Here’s how:

1. Decide for sure.

Are you out? For real? You’re done—even if they beg you to stay? What if they offer you more money, or offer you new perks or privileges? Know, going in, what might affect your choice to stay or go.

2. Do not tell coworkers or teammates you’re quitting before you talk to your boss or coach.

One of them might spill the beans accidentally, and that looks bad for you. This literally just happened to me! It sucked! I told a friend I was leaving the job we both worked at, and she announced it in the morning meeting before I had said anything to my boss. Not only did it make me look incredibly unprofessional, it affected the relationship I had with my current boss, whose recommendation I needed for my new job. It also almost affected my ability to move on to my new, similar job, because I had signed a no-compete clause when I accepted my old job. Hooray.

3. Schedule a time to meet privately with whoever is in charge of whatever club, activity, or job you want to quit.

It’s important to meet one-on-one with the person you work for or who’s in charge. It’s respectful and polite. Plus: Bosses and people in charge do not like to be caught off guard.

4. Be direct.

You don’t need to hem and haw and make small talk for 20 minutes and feel guilty before you get to the point that you’re quittin’. You can just say, “I wanted to meet with you to let you know that I’m going to be leaving this [job, club, organization].” You don’t have to apologize.

5. Give as much notice as you can.

For jobs, giving two weeks’ notice is standard, but sometimes you get a new job in a hurry, or are moving, or really cannot abide the idea of two more weeks in a hellscape of a situation.

Giving notice for a job looks like this:

  • Two weeks: “I’m putting in my two weeks’ notice. Friday the 23rd will be my last day.”
  • Less than two weeks: “I’m sorry I can’t give you a full two weeks’ notice, but things happened too quickly. Next Wednesday will be my last day.”

Giving notice for an activity looks like this: “I’m going to quit the track team. I’m happy to run in the meet next Saturday, but that will be my final meet.”

6. Thank the person in charge.

You don’t have to say you enjoyed your time in the activity or job. If you did, though, it’s great to say so! You can simply say, “Thank you for the opportunity. I appreciated it and learned a lot.”

Being respectful to yourself and respectful to the person/people you’ve been working with is just—it’s the right thing to do. It’s social currency, a way our society keeps things civil. It also serves your future self, and gives you peace of mind. You know that you acted in the best way possible.

And now, my Rooks, it’s time for me to announce that this here is the end of my Life Skills column—at least in its regular form. I have absolutely loved writing Life Skills, and we’ll still continue Life Skills! Just not every month. I’ll be writing other articles for Rookie too, which I’ve really missed. Besides: Y’all are PhDs in the School of Life! You’ve got this. I love you all, graduates, and I’ll see you here soon! ♦