When Is It Too Early to Let an Employer Know You're Leaving?

Don't quit your job until you have a firm offer in hand from your next employer.
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When you're changing jobs, it's too early to tell your employe that you're leaving if you don't feel confident enough about your last job interview that you'll get an offer. Put off giving notice to your employer until you have a final, written and accepted job offer in hand from your future employer. Otherwise, two weeks is the typical notice period, and even that can depend on whether you have an employment agreement, the type of job you have and the relationship you have with your employer.

Employment Agreement

    When you have an employment agreement that contains a termination clause, you're bound by the terms of that agreement to provide notice within a given period -- usually 30 days. The notice period may vary, but not adhering to those terms may be considered a breach of the contract. But if your employment agreement states you should give 30 days' notice, there's probably nothing wrong with giving 30 days plus an extra day or two. That ensures there's a full 30-day period between the time your employer receives the notice and the date on which your resignation becomes effective.

Duties and Responsibilities

    Depending on your responsibilities, you may want to provide more than the standard two-week resignation notice. If your position is difficult to fill, you might give your employer three to four weeks instead of the usual two weeks' notice to ensure that the company has enough time to explore all of its recruitment options. For difficult-to-fill positions, some employers embark on a regional or even national search for employees. In this case, the sooner your employer knows that you're leaving, the better, so the company can find a suitable replacement.

Job Search

    If you're searching for another job, and leaving your current one is merely an intent, it's too early to let your employer know that you are leaving. There are all kinds of ramifications to jumping the gun and telling your employer that you're leaving when you don't have another job waiting for you. Your employer could feel that you're no longer loyal to the company. As a result, your employer could simply invoke the employment-at-will doctrine and sever the working relationship without having to provide you with a reason.


    Many people incorrectly assume that employment-at-will is one-sided -- it's not just employers who have the right to terminate an employee at will. An employee also has the right to terminate the working relationship at will, without any reason or advance notice. If you feel that giving your employer advance notice of your intent to leave the company will make the remainder of your time uncomfortable, you might consider your options under the employment-at-will doctrine. In this case, even two weeks might be too early. Check your company's policies and the state labor laws, however. Some state laws prohibit employers from refusing to pay unused vacation or sick time upon an employee's departure. Other states' laws are silent on this subject, leaving employers to devise policies that penalize employees who quit without notice.

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