I'm working in an organization that is mostly filled with university graduates. They usually stay here for a year or two and then move on to another job. I've worked here for 4 years now (since graduation) and became a somewhat important part of the "core" team that's more permanent. However I think it's time to look for a better place to work.

Why do I want to leave:

  • There are no chances for promotion. The hierarchy is very simple, there are maybe 3 tiers and I won't get any higher in any foreseeable future.
  • The salary is decent, but I know I could be doing better and there aren't any reasonable chances to get a raise.
  • I simply want to try something new, challenge myself in a new environment.

Currently, I'm solely responsible for maintaining 2 projects and I'm responsible for 95% of development of another one. This project I'm developing is reaching a stage when it'll be released for the first time. So I thinks it'll be a good moment to look for other career options, as I'll be able to include this finished project in my CV.

I have good relations with my employer and I'd like to make sure that my leaving won't cause too many problems. So when should I share my plans with my boss? Right now, when there is still a lot of time to find someone who will replace me, so I can help with introduction? In a couple of months when I'll start looking for new job? Or as late as possible, when I'll have a solid offer somewhere else?

  • 27
    When to tell your boss? After you secure a position elsewhere, no sooner - you could easily find yourself out of a job before you expected it otherwise. If your employer finds a replacement for you in a month and you haven't even started looking, how do you think that will work out for you?
    – user34687
    Feb 15, 2016 at 13:09
  • 5
    You must have seen many people leave in the last 4 years. Did any tell anyone before they had an offer? If so, how did that work out for them? Feb 15, 2016 at 15:36
  • @Moo Depends on where OP lives. Where I live an employer can't just fire you because he found a replacement. We have a binding contract with our employers and you can't be randomly terminated on grounds other than stealing/sexual assault/lying/other stuff that makes sense. Less important things are NOT a valid reason to fire someone on the spot, for example if someone comes in late all the time you are required to officially warn him and give him the chance to improve his behaviour.
    – Kevin
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:00
  • @Kevin Sure, but that doesn't really help much. Either you're fired in three months, or they'll find a way to get rid of you sooner (if it's worthwhile). I've seen this "protection" avoided more often honored (including the time-verified way of "We're promoting you! Let's have a glass of champagne with the CEO. Oh, wait - alcohol in the workplace. You're fired. Bye-bye.").
    – Luaan
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:09
  • 3
    So much can go wrong with a pre notice. What you can do is have your projects in order with good documentation so that a competent person can take over. Have a project notebook for each project.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:13

3 Answers 3


General answer: As soon as you have an offer in hand.

Worst case, your employment can be terminated as soon as they hear you're looking for another job, even if it makes zero sense for them to do so.

I have seen this, it does happen. Often.

Quitting a job is normal, as is firing someone. If people tell you quitting your job is unfair, they are abusing your kindness. If they fire you try to tell them firing you is unfair and see what happens.

  • 1
    Whoa, that would be very counter productive for them, as they'll have unfinished project with no one knowing anything about how it's done, but I'll keep that advice in mind...
    – Maciek
    Feb 15, 2016 at 13:13
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    @Maciek That's what the notice period is for. If you have a short notice period, that's because they want to be able to fire you on short notice.
    – Peter
    Feb 15, 2016 at 13:14
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    @Maciek having an unfinished project which can be picked up longer term by an employee likely to be around longer than you is a better situation for an employer than risking the main developer disappearing at any point.
    – user34687
    Feb 15, 2016 at 13:15
  • 3
    Does vary somewhat depending on where you are/local business culture, but generally this is the answer - any 'unfinished business' is a failure of their management and continuity planning. Not your fault.
    – Sobrique
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:01
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    I would like to point out that there is nothing wrong with a long notice period. "I want to leave but I don't want to leave you hanging, so let's set the termination date for 2 months out" is totally acceptable. Rather or not your new job will wait that long is another question.
    – coteyr
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:31

Peter certainly isn't wrong, in that it is a good general answer. Its certainly the safest.

It doesn't happen all the time, however. It really depends on your relationship with your supervisor. I have seen plenty of times where an employee says they are looking for another job and the supervisor is supportive, and even times where a supervisor encourages the person to start looking elsewhere, in a positive, career growth way (I work in HR). They all have had one thing in common: an type of mentor/mentee relationship. They've typically been at low level positions, or at positions that are supervisory but not executive so the person would be looking for an executive role elsewhere.

In that time, its all about open communication about the search process and when you've got a new professional home, the department and team you're leaving is better prepared and everyone is happy. I've even done it at my positions as I've gained professional skills, because the ability for growth in the organization was obvious and well known. At university's, sometimes there just isn't a place in the budget to advance people.

If that's not your situation, I would probably personally go with Peter's answer.

  • Yep, I've seen a case where the employer actually helped the employee. It was mostly by suggesting some offers/contacts from employer's business partners, hoping to maintain good business relationship with the employee even without direct employment contract.
    – liori
    Feb 15, 2016 at 16:43
  • +1 I have also seen quite a few cases where hinting at wanting to do something else (traveling the world, maybe starting your own company, etc) created a positive result for both sides. If there's a very strong mentor/mentee relationship as described by Randy, the mentor is likely to warn the mentee to keep silent if the chance to be fired is high. However, the potential benefits of telling the company in advance are small, and the potential drawbacks are not.
    – Peter
    Feb 15, 2016 at 17:18

I wouldn't tell them before I had a new job lined up. What I would do (and have done) is to negotiate a start date that's far enough in the future that gives enough time to wrap up everything you are working on. So then you can go to your boss and say "I'm leaving, but I'm giving four weeks notice so we'll have time to turn over my projects". Even if the work isn't finished by the time you have to leave, you've still given a good-faith effort to your employer and you shouldn't have anything to feel bad about.

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