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Feeling guilty shouldn’t stop you from taking care of yourself and your career. In today’s economy, switching jobs is often the surest way to get a significant pay raise, and it’s common to do so every few years.
“We all kind of grow out of things, and that's a really normal process,” says Emily Frank, a Denver-based career counselor and coach who helps clients through her private practice called the Career Catalyst.
If you’re feeling guilty about leaving a job, experts recommend keeping the following points in mind.
Quitting may be better than staying
Think of it this way: Once you know you’re ready to move on, you probably notice a change in your attitude that makes work feel more like a drag. Is that a good thing for your coworkers and your employer?
When you’re feeling bored or unchallenged, it’s time to start looking for your next job move, Frank says. “Boredom isn't good, and we don't do our best work when we’re feeling unengaged.”
It’s normal to feel a sense of loss
The guilt you're feeling about leaving your job may indicate that you care. You’ve invested time and energy into your work, as well as into your work relationships, says Jackie Cuevas, an Orange County, California-based human resources professional known on TikTok for giving career advice from “your friend in HR.”
“Obviously there's a sense of guilt, because you're like, ‘man, I'm leaving a lot behind,’ or ‘I have a lot of projects that I haven't finished and they have to hire my replacement,’” Cuevas says.
“You have developed a bond with people that you work closely with. So it's only natural and human to feel this feeling of guilt whenever you leave anyone behind.”
You can help with the transition
Channel your feelings of guilt into helping your coworkers and boss prepare for your departure. While it’s common to give two weeks’ notice that you’ll be leaving, standards vary depending on your industry and role. Give enough notice so that you have time to hand off projects, record any important notes or procedures and delegate responsibilities.
Bear in mind that you probably won’t answer every conceivable question before you leave. While it’s kind to offer to stay in touch if the team you’re leaving behind has questions after you’re gone, it’s not required. And you shouldn’t leave that door open just because you feel bad.
Focus on doing your best to help with the transition and then let the rest go, Cuevas says. “It's up to management and the team to be able to really be solutions-focused and essentially figure it out.”
Your next chapter needs your attention, too
Wrapping up at an old job can be stressful. But your next phase needs your energy, too. Perhaps you’re moving to a new city or taking on a new level of responsibility.
If you can, take some time between ending one job and beginning another so you can decompress from the stress of your exit and shift your attention to what’s ahead of you.
It doesn’t have to be a lot of time — it could be a few days or a week. If, in order to get a bit of that transition time, you must give little notice at your old job, that’s a valid choice to make.
“You want to be able to close the door and get your mindset ready for this new, exciting position,” Cuevas says.
Should you feel guilty for quitting your job without notice?
Sometimes, circumstances require you to quit a job without notice, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that.
It’s true that giving some notice before quitting your job would be the preferred route. It could help you maintain a professional relationship with your boss or coworkers. You never know when you might need help from people in your network.
But giving notice is not required and, in some instances, it may not be advisable, says Frank of the Career Catalyst.
You may decide to leave your job immediately because your new job starts right away or you are facing some kind of personal emergency. In those events, you may not be capable of doing your best work at your old job, and it’s probably better for everyone that you resign without notice.
If the fault is not on your end but lies with a harmful work culture, leaving immediately could be a way to protect yourself.
“If a workplace has gotten really bad, if there are bullying behaviors or sort of abusive treatment going on, then those are the times when you should throw professionalism out the window,” Frank says. “You just need to get out of there.”