How Unemployment Works

Quitting a Job

Worried that you're going to get fired? It can be better to resign than to get fired, but if you're facing layoffs, it's usually a good idea to hang in there so that you can collect unemployment insurance or maybe even severance pay while you're looking for a new job.

If you do resign to keep from getting fired, your record with the company will say that you quit, and you can tell prospective employers that you left your last job voluntarily. Additionally, if you hope to return to your company one day, perhaps in a different position or department, you may be barred from being rehired if the company’s records shows you were fired.

It’s a good idea to talk to an employment lawyer before resigning and to read all applicable company documents. If your employer wants you to quit but has no legal reason to fire you, perhaps he or she is trying to force you to quit. You could pursue legal action instead, try to obtain a favorable separation package or file a grievance with the company or your union. If you're suffering from discrimination, try to stay at your job and file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If possible, report the discriminatory behavior to a supervisor. You are legally protected from retaliation for filing with the EEOC.

If you’re just dealing with general unhappiness or restlessness with your job, it’s better to hold on to the job and look for a new one while you’re still employed, especially during these tough economic times.

If you do decide to resign, do so in writing, and give at least two weeks' notice. Continue fulfilling your responsibilities until your very last day of work, and don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you or that could be considered cause to withhold your final pay. Leave your files and other materials in order to facilitate your successor’s transition. Look at the employee handbook to see if you’re entitled to any benefits or compensation for unused vacation or sick time.

Some companies ask employees who are leaving to do exit interviews. Be careful during this interview -- using it as a forum to list all of your grievances or to complain about specific employees or supervisors could backfire later in your career. You may be working with some of these people in the future, asking them or their colleagues for references or encountering them in another situation.