I'm currently employed as an engineer. I've been at my current job for about 4 years. I'm quite happy with the work, and with my coworkers, and with the working environment as a whole; I honestly have no complaints with my job. And I'm pretty sure they have no complaints with me.

BUT: I'm starting to feel disenchanted and fatigued with the sub-industry I'm in. And looking candidly at myself, I don't think I'd be happy staying in that sub-industry long-term; I'd much rather move to a particular different field.

Now, in a position of some importance to the company, as the lead engineer on one of the products. My team is small, and there's nobody currently on it who could reasonably be expected to take my place without a long and unproductive learning process... and the company doesn't plan to hire anybody else for the team in the foreseeable future. (It's not just a matter of skills: there's a lot of knowledge about my product that someone would need to absorb before taking over, during which time the product could stagnate and lose market share.)

Would it be appropriate/safe/a good idea to give my company a heads-up that I plan to up and quit at some point in the not-so-distant future, to give them lots of lead time to hire or assign or groom someone to replace me?

Some other potentially useful information: I'm quite hireable -- if my employer decided to fire me tomorrow, I wouldn't have any trouble finding a new position, other than the normal annoyance of applying and interviewing and relocating and whatnot. And my managers are friendly, and not retributive... I can't see them firing me early as punishment for not showing enough company loyalty. The field I'm looking to move to has plenty of openings, but I'd rather take as much time as possible to find a position that I'd actually be happy in.

Edit: Some have indicated that this question is a duplicate of "How can I prepare for getting hit by a bus?". Although there are some similarities, the core of the question is about the wisdom of giving advanced notice of departure, and peripherally, what one can do to prepare themselves and their employer for a known eventual departure. "Getting hit by a bus" is an intrinsically random event-- with perhaps different concerns as far as preparation is concerned.

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    You might find this question about getting hit by a bus really, really related (is it effectively the same question)?
    – enderland
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 15:13
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    @OllieJones and teego, if you think this should be reopened, please consider giving this an edit. The best way to convince others to help reopen a post is to address the perceived problems with the post. As people who see what others do not, you have the power to help clarify. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 0:58
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    @teego1967 - Yeah, I know you did, but if you want to actually do something about it, there are tools at your disposal you can use to help get the post reopened. Suggested edits is the most powerful one of them. With that said, you don't have to edit, but someone, anyone editing this post to clarify it bumps it back into the reopen review queue, where all our 3000+ reputation reopen voters will see it and can vote to reopen it, further improve it, etc.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 5, 2014 at 4:40
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    @teego1967 - What we typically ask askers to do is explain -- constructively, without insulting others -- how the post differs from other similar posts. Editing to explain that does 3 things: 1. It puts the post back in review. 2. It makes sure the people who don't get it, regardless of what you think about them, don't simply post the same answers again, and 3. It helps both avoid the post getting close votes again and may also encourage more reopen votes. Commenting can help too, but editing helps even more.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 18:40
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    Elric, you can make these edits too. Just FYI. The post has 3 reopen votes. It just needs two more. Hope this helps clarify how our process works.
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 18:41

5 Answers 5


Don't do this.

General Charles de Gaulle was famous for saying "the graveyards are full of indispensable men." Business continuity planning is very much the task of the generals: the business's executives. If they have a vital product line and a shallow bench (just you), that is the result of them doing their job poorly. They should be developing understudies and backups for everybody, not just you. It's up to them.

Look, giving two years' notice is just strange. Your co-workers will have had no experience with an announcement like that. People don't necessarily think straight when you tell them you're going to leave their company. You're proposing a very dramatic move.

Don't do this. If you do, it may damage your career. It certainly can't help you very much, and it probably won't help your employers very much. If they aren't already planning for business continuity this action of yours won't get them to do it, it will just freak them out.

You can encourage your company's executives to plan for continuity, and you can do your professional best to groom some of your co-workers to do part or all of your job. It's always good to work yourself out of every job you do. But don't be dramatic about it.

You can encourage them to plan for continuity without taking the hit to your career that will come by pre-announcing your departure.


Would it be appropriate/safe/a good idea to give my company a heads-up that I plan to up and quit at some point in the not-so-distant future, to give them lots of lead time to hire or assign or groom someone to replace me?

Your desire to give your company lots of lead time is commendable, although two years seems quite excessive. I assume the required notice period is far shorter than that, so one would have to assume that the company wouldn't go under due to a shorter notice. As they say "What if you were hit by a bus?". Many (most?) companies have a succession plan in place for critical employees.

Is it appropriate? That's really something only you can judge. I've never heard of a 2-year notice, and I honestly don't know of any company that couldn't replace someone (no matter how critical they may be) in far less than 2 years. Perhaps your situation is unique in that regard.

Is it safe? Again, that's something only you can judge fully. Remember, that the company doesn't need to be vindictive to start acting on the knowledge that you won't be around for the long haul. Once someone hands me their notice, the prudent thing for me as their manager to do is to hand out important assignments to others, to get cross-training completed, to avoid raises and bonuses, to avoid promotions, etc. I may not get rid of someone, but I need to start planning for their absence immediately.

Is it a good idea? In my experience, 2 years notice wouldn't be a good idea. In my life, and in my work, things change far too rapidly to have that sort of a 2-year plan. If I committed to sticking around for 2 years, but an interesting position came up after 1 month, I might feel committed to the 2 years, and thus lose out. Additionally, if the company changed such that I might want to stay after all, being on a 2-years-and-I'm-out track could be very awkward.

We often feel as if we are irreplaceable (or perhaps replaceable only with super-human effort). In reality that is seldom the case - everyone can be replaced.

For me, I would give only the standard notice period, and then perhaps a bit more if I were a critical worker. And when I gave my notice, I might be willing to negotiate a longer period if asked.

But I can't foresee a situation where I would ever give a 2-year notice, unasked. Your mileage may vary.

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    "I've never heard of a 2-year notice" -- in academia you in effect get this, for example if you employ a doctoral student in another role (teaching assistant or whatever) you know when they're intending to leave. When they actually leave might vary a little. If the employer has their act together they could treat it the same way they'd treat knowing that someone is due to reach retirement age in 2 years and has every intention of retiring. Then again, if the employer has their act together then the questioner wouldn't be trying to nudge them into making a succession plan. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 10:45
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    ... but yes, handing in a literal 2-year notice is a different thing from letting it be known that you'll probably be around for 2 years, give or take. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 10:48

It's nice of you trying to look after your employer's interests, but the most important thing should be your interests. Two years is a very, very long time. Your plan today may be to leave the company in two years time, but who knows what happens in two years? Circumstances in life may change. Three months from now you may get a brilliant job offer that you can't refuse. In two years, something might happen that makes your current job 10 times more interesting and you want to stay. 23 months from now you might get seriously ill and your employment might give you some protection which disappears because you gave 24 months notice. That's just some extremes, but lots of things can happen in two years.

By all means make sure that you are not hoarding information and that you are more easily replaceable, but giving 24 months notice doesn't help you.


Rather than give you company a 2-year notice - that's unheard of, unrealistic and there is a pretty good chance that the management wouldn't know what to do with a 2-year notice, I suggest that you work yourself out of your job ASAP.

Systematically train the members of your team to take over from you. You should do it anyway, because you could get iced by an ice cream truck at any time anyway :) Hopefully, getting your team members up to your level won't take two years out of your life. Document your knowledge as much as possible.

And when the time comes, put in your two-weeks' notice and don't look back.


Let's deal with a couple of things. If you told your employer now that you were leaving in two years for some specific reason (Say your husband is graduating then and you know a location change will happen), would they hire someone in the meantime to get knowledge transfer? The answer is generally no. No one wants to pay for two people to do the same job. If there is someone junior they might want to get up to speed who already works for the company, then maybe, but still unlikely.

If you bring up this information now, what could you expect from them? If I know someone is committed to a career change (as seems to be your reason) then I would not assign them the best projects or give them the highest bonuses or payraises or any promotions that come along in the meantime. Better to give the rewards to someone who is not committed to leaving at this point in time. So to tell them now, you may not get many rewards in thr near term, but the company will likely still not get around to replacing you and doing knowledge transer until you actually leave. So exactly where is the benefit in doing this?

The only time I have seen this play out well was if the person was enrolled in some kind of education that would result in them moving to a totally new field and they wanted to remain employed while they go to night school but have the responsibilities scaled back (and possibly be assigned to non-travel positions) because of the added burden of studying. In that case the reward is the scaling back and the associated lower payraises and bonusues and less interesting work are the price. If you want to do this feel free, but there is generally a price. If you need the time to get that law degree though, the price is trivial compared to the time you get. If you don't have something like this in mind, then you are better off not letting them know.

If you do bring it up, don't think of it as giving notice, think of it as giving information about your plans. Plans change sometimes, so try to keep it more infomral than giving notice. And technically it isn't giving notice unless you have an actual date.

If you feel there is a need to help the possible transition at some later date and you feel concern for how the copmany will be able to handle it, then rather than bringing it up this early, you might be wiser to start making sure what you do is documented and that it will be organized in such a way that it will be easier for someone to take over when you leave.

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