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How to Quit Your (Civilian) Job


Your first job after leaving military service may be a great opportunity… or maybe you took the first civilian job offered. Regardless of why you're looking to change jobs, you decide to quit your current job. Maybe you got a better job offer, or maybe it's time to start your own business. Perhaps you'd like to retire or need to take time off to care for a family member, or yourself. It's time to walk away from work you enjoyed.

Change is exciting and also scary. Regardless of the reasons you are leaving, there is a right (and a wrong) way to quit a job. When leaving your job, remind yourself:

  1. The business world is a small place. Leaving in a storm of expletives and paper tossing – no matter how justified you feel behaving this way -- can haunt you your entire career. Leaving a job in a huff can stir up gossip and negative feelings that last well beyond your outburst, particularly online.
  2. Your reputation is your most valuable asset: It says who you are, what you value and how you offer value to others. Keep your reputation in tact when you leave a job. Clearly state what you liked about the work, thank your employer for the opportunity, and hand in a resignation letter.
  3. If you have constructive input, offer it in a professional way. Instead of saying, "This place sucks! You all are losers!" you might say, "This isn't a fit for me. I have struggled to form and maintain healthy relationships here, and now it's time for me to move on." This does not imply you are at fault, but you are indicating the environment isn't healthy, for you.
  4. Do not say you're being paid more, respected more, or given more career validation in the new role. You might feel vindicated sharing that someone else finds you more valuable, but it comes across as petty. Unless you want to stay in your current job and are attempting to renegotiate your salary, this tactic only hurts your reputation.
  5. Thank your employer for the opportunity to work for them. Even if the work was not a fit for you, they invested in you and when it doesn't work out, that's not completely their fault. Graciousness goes a long way when leaving a job.
  6. Say goodbye to your colleagues and team members. Don't belabor the reason you're leaving or how great your new job will be. Again, it appears to be gloating and is petty. Let them congratulate you.

Leaving a job is not easy. Even if you don't like the previous employer or work and are moving to your dream job, you are closing a chapter on a part of your personal and professional history. Leaving with class and grace reflects positively on you, and it models behavior that others will admire. The military taught you honor and dignity. Show your civilian employer that those qualities don't leave you when you take off the uniform.

Related Topics

Veteran Jobs Military Transition

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Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at and on Amazon.

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