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How to Quit with Class

8 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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I asked, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

My ECD and I stepped into a conference room and I closed the door behind me. We sat down and he said the first words, "So, when are you leaving?"

It took me by surprise. I was dreading the awkward "I'm Quitting" conversation, but he seemed to jump past all the pleasantries, getting right to the point.

"I've enjoyed working here, but it's time for me to move on." I told him I was heading to another agency and gave him my two weeks' notice.

Now, I've been on the other end of the quitting conversation, with creatives giving me their notice. Throughout both sides of the process, I've realized there are things I never prepared for.

I wish I knew about those things from the start.

Quitting and moving onto another job is probably the quickest way to progress in your career. Though, that doesn't mean it's the easiest. Not only is finding that next gig hard, but quitting your current job can be intimidating in itself.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. It's easy to justify staying at a job, just because you don't want to go through the awkward process of quitting.

What you may not realize is that, along that process are some unexpected moments. Nobody tells you about them, but if you're prepared, quitting could be the best move of your career.

So, it's time to learn to be a quitter…

Before You Talk to Anyone

You'll probably go through a few weeks or months of interviews and decisions leading up to your actual quitting day. During all that time, there are some things you should do.

Collect Your Work

Creatives, your portfolio is probably even more valuable than your resume. Hopefully, you updated your portfolio, which probably helped you get that next job you may be going to. Either way, make sure you collect the work you've done while at your job. As long as it's not against company policy, grab a flash drive or login to dropbox and upload the final versions (and working files) of all your projects. You won't get this chance again.

Collect Personal Contacts

The next most valuable thing in your arsenal is your network. Your network is simply everyone you know, and the people you've been working with are part of that. You don't know where they'll end up or you'll end up, and staying in contact could be important. Make sure you get everyone's personal email and phone numbers, so that you can keep in touch.

(WARNING: Once you start doing that, people will get suspicious, and ask if you're quitting. DO NOT TELL THEM ANYTHING YET. Just make up an excuse, like you actually want to talk to them or something.)

Giving Notice, Getting a Counter Offer, and Getting Escorted Out

Giving Notice

"Giving notice" is simply letting your company know that you're resigning. They usually call it "two weeks' notice" because that's the standard amount of time that people give their company to find a replacement.

However, unless it's noted in your contract, you could quit and leave that day. But, I wouldn't recommend it, as it could piss people off, and you don't want to burn any bridges. Give them a little time and remember to follow these steps when giving notice:

  1. Who to Tell - First person you should talk to is your direct manager. They'll have questions, but after that, you should talk to HR. They'll make it official.
  2. Make an Appointment - Keep it professional and put it on their calendar. It'll give you a chance to prepare yourself, too, so that you don't feel rushed.
  3. Prepare a Resignation Letter - This isn't as scary as it sounds. Honestly, it's just an official letter from you saying that you're resigning and when your last day is. All you need to say in it is:

    "To Whom It May Concern,

    This letter serves as formal notice of my resignation from my position as [JOB TITLE] at [COMPANY], effective [DATE].Sincerely,

  4. What to Say - Starting the conversation is the hardest part. The trick is, keep it simple and clear. Once you're in the room together, simply say, "I wanted to talk to you first, because I've really appreciate my time here. However, I'm putting in my two weeks' notice. My last day will be [LAST DAY]." They'll probably ask you questions like, "Is there a reason? Are you going somewhere else? Did anything happen here to make you want to leave?" Be prepared with what you intend to say, so that you're not scrambling in the moment. But you aren't required to say anything at all (unless you're going to a competitor, which we'll talk about later). Anything else you decide to tell them is up to you.

Getting a Counter Offer

This is where it can get even more difficult to quit. If you're extra-valuable to the company (as in losing you would be bad for them or they really like you) you may get what's called a "counter-offer." A counter-offer is when your boss asks you for the opportunity for your current company to make you an offer to stay.

Now, don't expect a counter offer, because it doesn't always happen. But, be ready for it. They may ask what your prospective job is offering you. You don't need to tell them this. What you should tell them is what it would take for you to stay. That may be the same pay the next job is giving you, it may be a promotion, it may even be something completely different.

Also, lots of people use a new job as a way to get a promotion at their current job, and it bites them in the ass. You need to be ready to take your next job once you make that resignation meeting with your boss.

Getting Escorted Out

If you're going to a competitor, you may actually be escorted out immediately once you resign. Like, immediately immediately (which is why you should collect your files beforehand).

This will come up when/if your boss asks where you're going. You actually need to let them know if it's a competitor, because they are legally required to take you off the premises, if that's the case. I've worked with several people who have gone to work on other car accounts while I've been on Toyota, and they've been escorted out, so that they don't have any access to trade secrets.

It can be awkward, but it's not an insult. It's just policy. Unless you're a crazy person. Then, it's so you don't go nuts on everyone.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Don't Burn Bridges

If you haven't been escorted out of the building, use the next couple weeks to make the transition from you working there to not working there as easy as possible.

Why? Because quitting is kind of like firing your employer, so how would you like to be fired? With dignity and consideration, of course.

Plus, It's a small world, my friend. Future employers may ask your current agency about you. And then, unofficially, people talk. You want them to say nice things.

Gather Your Files for the Next Person

Hopefully, you went through and found all your final projects and collected them for yourself. Great! Now, do the same for all your work-in-progress.

Whether it's on your laptop or on some cloud/server storage your company uses, make sure all your files are organized and easy to find for the next person to fill your shoes.

Prepare a Transition Document

Once you've collected, organized, and saved all your working files somewhere, put a document together to make it easy for your company to find everything. On it, you should include:

  1. The projects you've been working on.
  2. The location of all those projects' files.
  3. The point person on that project.
  4. Any urgent notes about the project (deadlines you know about).

This is actually a lot of work, but is incredibly valuable to keep a good relationship with your agency. You never know, you may come back one day.

Plus, it's just a good thing to do.


There are some things you probably never think about, but remember to deal with when leaving your job. Usually HR can help you with them:

  1. Health Insurance - If you're quitting a job with benefits, remember that you'll need to make sure you're covered by either your next job, or you've got independent health insurance lined up. In America, every month without insurance comes with a penalty.
  2. Retirement Accounts - You may have had a 401k or other investment plan. Usually they come with you, but you have to do some paperwork to make sure it transfers.
  3. Life Insurance - This is a big one, for those of us that like to be prepared for the worst. But, if you had life insurance with your company, it doesn't follow you once you leave.

Exit Interviews

If you aren't already getting one, request an exit interview.

It's the opposite of the interview you got when they wanted to hire you. This is your chance to let the company know what they could do better, what you liked about working there, and what you think it could become. Usually, it's with HR, and consists of an in-person session, as well as a written response with prompts they give you.

But be careful of what you say. Be honest, but don't be insulting. Throwing people under the bus when you leave is pretty unclassy, and will definitely leave a bad taste in the agency's mouth because of you. However, if someone was horrible, have that conversation with HR, especially if they were the reason you left. Don't blame them, but be tactful in how you bring up what could be improved.

Also, if certain people stood out to you as being great, make sure you note it. It's good to say good things about people that do good things.

Exit interviews can be really helpful for a company. Because the ones that care, that actually want to improve their work culture, will pay a lot of attention. Usually, the don't want people to quit, and this gives them a chance to figure out how to make their place better.

Is it Okay to Quit?

Ad agencies are a unique animal: while you don't have to quit if you've found an agency you love, most people move around every 2-3 years. So, it's pretty expected that you'll leave at some point.

But even if you're not at an agency, quitting is a pretty normal part of any career. Almost every company will be fine with you moving on (and the ones that aren't...well, it's a good thing you're leaving, then).

Whether you're prepared for that next step is up to you. Are you going to a new job? Or maybe you have no plan? Either way is absolutely fine, as long as you're fine with it.

You're taking this next step, and yours is the only opinion that matters.

Thanks for reading!

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