How to Give Notice When You Leave a Job

how to give noticeWhat are some “best practices” you should follow when it’s time to quit? Reader T asks about how to give notice when you leave a job…

We’ve discussed in the past about how to know if it is the right time to move on to a new job, how to interview while working, and how to transition files to other coworkers after you give your notice — but I would love to hear everyone’s stories of how they actually gave their notice. Procedurally, logistically, how does one “give notice”? Whom do you tell? In person or via email? How have Corporette readers given their notice when they have left a job in the past?

Congratulations on your new job, T! We have talked about how to quit gracefully, how to quit when your mentor is your boss, and how to handle exit interviews, but not in a while, and I’m excited to hear what readers say. Personally, every time I’ve quit I’m surprised at how maudlin I become. Even with jobs I couldn’t WAIT to quit with some dramatic “blaze of glory” action (um, remember this story about the flight attendant sliding to freedom?), I’ve inevitably sat across from my “evil” soon-to-be-former boss and gotten teary-eyed about how much I would miss everyone. So, hey. For my $.02:


  • Tell your boss first. If you have several people above you, think who would be MOST upset about hearing it secondhand, and then make sure to tell that person first. (I don’t mean this in an “aww, she’ll really miss you!” kind of way — I mean it in the “she’ll feel slighted/look dumb if she doesn’t know first” way.) Don’t mention it to other colleagues, junior supervisors, subordinates, etc. — if you want to keep that professional connection open, your boss needs to hear it from YOU.
  • If several people on your team might be upset to hear it secondhand, make several appointments during a single morning so you can tell all of them seriatim. During this conversation they may ask who else knows, in which case I think it’s fine to tell that person, “I just spoke to X, and at 11:00 I’m going to speak to Z.” I’d suggest scheduling your appointments on the hour because you never quite know how the conversation will go: Some people may want to immediately talk about transition details (who gets what, let’s bring X up to speed, etc), some people may say “OK, we’ll miss you, HR will set up your exit interview,” and the talk is done in three minutes, while still others may want to reminisce about the times you’ve worked together and the fun you’ve had.
  • After you’ve told everyone on your team who absolutely, definitely needs to hear it from you, there’s likely someone in administration who needs to hear it — HR, a VP, payroll, an office manager, etc.
  • Be prepared to leave THAT DAY if you have to. Depending on what job you’re leaving and what job you’re going to, you may be asked to pack up and leave that day. If you have any personal stuff on your work computer (or, gasp, you’re using your work email for personal reasons), stay late one night before giving notice and take a few hours to get those ducks in a row. Similarly, if you keep any clothes in your office you wouldn’t want your secretary to have to box up and send to you (hey, I’ve kept workout clothes, extra pantyhose, and more), make sure you have those packed in a special bag ready to go.
  • BUT: be prepared to have to stay 2-4 weeks. It really depends what’s normal at your company and your level.

I know some friends have arranged vacations for the time between two jobs — and others who have started straight away.  (Take a mini vacation if you can!)

Ladies, what are your thoughts on how to give notice when you leave a job? Who hears it first — and how did those conversations go? What have your experiences been regarding timing? 



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  1. Big Law. I started by calling the partner I did the most work for (who was also a mentor). Then I told my work BFF (a senior associate). Then I called the head of my practice group. Then I told all other partners I was currently working for, and my secretary. I’m pretty sure this was all in one day. Over the next couple weeks I gradually told associates in my office and partners I had worked for in the past, though many of them found out from other people. Basically, anyone that you would want to hear the news directly from you should be told the day you start telling people, because news travels fast.

    I gave several months notice, but I had a unique situation since I wasn’t going to a competitor. I also wouldn’t have been devastated if they’d asked me to leave that day and given me a three month vacation. I knew they wouldn’t though, and indeed they kept me working until the very last minute of my last day.

    All of these conversations were in person (wherever possible) or over the phone when the person was in a different office. Email is not ok.

    • +1 to all of this for BigLaw.

      It was customary for associates to give two weeks’ notice; I gave slightly longer. I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to leave immediately, particularly as most departing associates were heading to clients rather than another firm.

    • Rosslyn Lawyer :

      +1 to working until the last minute, no matter how much notice you give. Both times I’ve quit a law job, I’ve had to put my foot down in order to avoid working late on my last day.

    • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

      I left a firm (that I have now returned to) and gave 5 weeks notice. I was staffed about 10 cases, and was the lead associates on multiple. 2 weeks seemed inadequate to properly transition.

  2. If you manage people in your role, have up to date performance reviews ready on each of them. In the event you leave quickly (because of your new role or you asked) your direct reports should not be penalized on their next annual review because there is a big gap in their direct management.

  3. Anonymous :

    I’m the same person from yesterday. Just assume here that I am kind of stupid about certain things.. this is only the job I’ve applied to in years…

    I had a job interview yesterday and I want to send a thank you of some sort. Can I send a thank you letter as a pdf in an email directly to the individual people I interviewed with? I would personalize and send different thank yous to all interview panel people. Should I mail a letter (I flew to another city for this interview so it would take some time to get there)? Should I mail a card or is that too informal these days?

    Basically I am worried I will make the situation worse somehow by doing this wrong.

    • Just write emails to everyone – no scanning handwritten notes or snail mail.

      • Anonymous :


      • Anonymous :

        Sorry – Can I just send the thank you in the body of the email or should I send an attachment with a pdf typed letter saying thank you?

        • Anonymous :

          Just in the body is fine.

        • Body of email is fine and, in my experience, standard/the only way I’ve received (many) thank yous. A thank you note in any format is not going to make the situation worse unless it’s long, elaborate or asks the interviewer for something. It should do nothing more than exactly thanking the person for their time.

          • Anonymous :

            I just don’t want them to think that I am crazy or needy or high maintenance.

            I’ve had a number of junior lawyers and law students work for me and in my line of work I really value the ability of them to just do their job with little assistance, need for feedback/affirmation and monitoring. In some ways I work in a less formal environment than a lot of you in big law.

          • Yes, just type the note in the body of the email – no attachments. These should be 3-5 sentences max.

            Dear Firstname,

            [Thank them for taking the time to meet with you] [Say 1-2 sentences about things you particularly appreciated hearing more about, and/or follow-ups on how you would be a good candidate] [Close, e.g., remain very interested in joining you at XYZ and look forward to hearing from you.]


    • Senior Attorney :

      Did you figure out the identity of the Mystery Third Interviewer?

      • Anonymous :

        I emailed the HR person I was working with and they have not replied to me…

        I asked a friend who did the same interview and he only had the two people we were supposed to. His interview was half as long as mine. So I have no idea what this means if anything.

  4. Big law in a small market (so really like small-to-medium law) – I made an appointment with the managing partner and told him. He must have immediately notified HR, because my secretary came into my office within a minute of me getting back to tell me she just got a mass email from HR announcing that I was leaving the company. It made spreading the news easy. I gave two weeks notice and was really hoping they would tell me to just leave because I had no work to do (a large part of the reason I was leaving), but they didn’t, so I hung out in my office for two weeks and watched DVDs on my computer.

    • It depends on the job and your role when you decide how, when and for how long the notice should be. When I was serveing subpeenies, I gave notice and stayed thru the end of the week, b/c I did NOT want to leave them high and dry, and I had alot of paperwork (proof of services) to fill out and get NOTARISED b/f I left.

      But if you have a schlockey boss, feel free to give notice, and pack your stuff up and leave within a day or 2, b/c the next firm is alway’s wanting for you to start imediateley! I know when I got this job, the manageing partner wanted me in the next day, but I told him he would have to wait for me until the next week, b/c of my loyalty to the subpeenie firm. In retrospect, I should NOT have been that nice b/c all they did was pinch my tuchus and ooogle me and tell me that I would be great in bed with them. TRIPEL FOOEY ON THEM!

    • Small to medium law for me also. Called the partner in charge of associates and asked to meet. Saw her in person and informed her. She asked if I wanted 5 minutes to tell anyone else in person before she notified all partners by email. I said yes, and went to tell two of the associates and two of the partners that I worked most closely with. She notified all partners by email shortly thereafter. I offered 2-3 weeks notice as an appropriate time that it would take to transition my files. Probably the next day or so HR sent an email to everyone at the firm.

  5. Anonymous :

    also, you should be prepared from hearing from people/colleagues who heard through the grape vine.

    And with my family law practice, it was also imperative to be able to tell Judges and Court Staff– which takes a certain level of finesse, especially with off color questions about why you’re leaving and where you are going.

  6. mplsmomatty :

    I think Kat has really solid advice that you should be ready to leave that day, if asked. In my experience (former MidLaw), it is much more likely that you’ll leave same day if you are going to another firm than if you are going in-house. I would also add in the list of to-dos before giving notice to fully back up your iPhone and make sure your contacts are stored somewhere besides your work Outlook. On your last day, IT will wipe your phone.

    • Anonymous :

      Really? Did you sign some paperwork to that effect when you started? I’ve had my work email stop working (and obviously I removed it because I don’t care) but if my company tried to wipe my personal phone I’d laugh as I walked out the door.

      • Anonymous :

        I think the “wipe your phone” applies only to work-provided phones.

        • Anonymous :

          It applies to the phone your work email is on, even if you bought the phone yourself and also use it for personal purposes.

          • Anonymous :

            What? That is cray. I agree with Anon at 1:49 that I would just laugh if someone told me they wanted to wipe my personal phone. I have never heard of this in BigLaw.

          • I work in data security and we would only advise an employer to wipe an employee’s phone if the entire phone was routinely used for work purposes such that it would be difficult to separate work and personal. If the company’s policy is for work stuff to be confined to a single app, then the app will be wiped and removed from the phone, as it was when I left Biglaw.

          • Anonymous :

            Emmer – do you know if the company has any recourse if they don’t have a policy about this, though?

          • mplsmomatty :

            +2 to Anon at 2:30: for me, this was my iPhone and I had had IT add our work email on as an Exchange email when I started. They explained this was the policy if you added the work email (which of course everyone did). Agreed that if your email is confined to a secure app then they can just wipe the app, but we were just experimenting with such an app when I left (2 years ago).

  7. I’m going to a holiday reception after work at a country club, sponsored by a bank we do business with, the invitation specified “business attire.” I wore a black and ivory glen plaid wool pencil skirt, black silk sleeveless shell, and a short red blazer, with black tights and black “shooties” ( I hate that word, but it is descriptive) with 3 inch heels, and a long gold necklace with translucent beads that looks kind of festive. I was shooting for classic, professional but sort of Christmassy, now I’m wondering if I just look dowdy. I really could have worn this outfit 5 years ago, the only thing new is the shooties. It’s just a come and go reception, and I’m sure I’m overthinking it, but I’m tempted to run home and put on a bright blue wrap dress with black pumps.

    • Sorry, meant to post this on the other thread, feel free to delete!

    • Anonymous :

      I honestly don’t think a pencil skirt and heels can ever be dowdy.

      I find that men never dress up for these things and just show up in their norm work attire so I do that too now.

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