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Don't Burn Your Bridges—How to Keep in Touch With a Job You've Left

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

When resigning, it's important not to burn your bridges. There are many reasons to resign from a job—a better opportunity may have come your way, or your family is relocating, or it may simply be a strategic decision on your career path. Almost 50 million people left their employment voluntarily in 2021, and a career opportunity was the most common reason.

However, leaving as part of a strategy requires careful planning to leave doors open for future opportunities. And keep in mind that the open doors may involve your former employer in several ways.

Why Keep a Relationship With a Former Employer

A former employer can affect your future career opportunities in various ways. Consider the following.


No matter how long you may have left a job behind, it is likely listed in your resume as part of your employment history or job experience. Prospective employers and HR hiring managers may include contacting former employers as part of their due diligence. Maintaining a cordial, professional, and even friendly relationship with employers in your wake may result in favorable recommendations.

Job Opportunities

It might seem strange to think of a former employer when considering future career opportunities. For many years, returning to a former employer was not recommended and was even considered distasteful. Employers were discouraged from hiring former employees, too. But times are changing.

Recent labor shortages are one reason, as employers often have to include former employees in the hiring pool. But also consider this scenario: you leave your employment on good terms because of an opportunity that did not exist for you with your current employer. However, that opportunity opens up after you leave, and your employer can now offer you the position, with the added advantage of the experience you've gained at your new employment.

Industry Networking

Some of the most successful professionals get to where they are because of their personal network within the industry. Collaboration and communication with other industry professionals can create opportunities and contribute to success. So your past employment is not just a page in your book but a resource for your future.

Keep Your Relationships With Former Coworkers

In addition to your employer, former coworkers may be a part of your future. Like employers, they may be contacted for character references by your prospective employers. If your new job is in the same industry, you may end up working with them again. No one can know the way past relationships will affect the future.

How to Exit Without Burning Bridges

An important part of resigning without burning bridges is your resignation letter. Resignation letters are essential to maintaining a professional and courteous relationship with past employers. What makes a resignation letter become a factor in future opportunities?

  • Submission. It is considered professional and courteous to submit intent to resign at least two weeks before your exit date. A letter or an official email is considered the best way to submit your resignation.

  • Tone. The tone should be professional and positive. For example, rather than saying, "I can no longer work in this environment," instead say, "I appreciate all that I was able to learn as part of this team, but I have been offered an opportunity to work with a team that will expand my experience and abilities." The proper blend of gratitude, honesty, and positivity can do much to maintain a professional relationship.

  • Components. Your resignation letter should clearly state your departure date. Additionally, it should include a genuine expression of gratitude and a positive reason for leaving. Finally, extend an offer to help find and train a replacement.

How to Stay in Touch and Keep the Door Open

After you depart on amicable terms, it is important to keep the relationship alive. Staying in touch establishes your professionalism in proactive ways. Even though you may have made every effort to make your departure professional, a void may have been created.

You may have had the reputation of being industrious and quite competent, but that may not be true of your replacement. Or there may have been things you were doing that went above and beyond the responsibilities of your position, while your replacement may just be clocking in and out. Think of your former employer's frustration, should that prove to be the case.

Also, questions may linger in the minds of your former coworkers. Were you dissatisfied or unhappy? Was there some negative reason for leaving? Staying in touch lays all these concerns to rest. What are some ways to stay connected on a professional level?

  • Communicate. By phone or email, you could express genuine interest in how things are going with former coworkers or your employer. This may even present an opportunity to assist with consultation or brief training and advice that may further solidify professional relationships.

  • Consult. Don't be above asking for advice in the form of a consultation. Asking a former employer for advice dignifies them and assures them you hold no malice toward them. You still maintain professional control since you will ultimately decide whether to use the advice or not.

  • Collaborate. Your new position may give you some room to collaborate with former coworkers without breaching any agreement you have with your new employer. Look for these opportunities and use them to stay professionally connected.

  • Network. Social networking apps for professionals allow you to stay connected within your industry or with related industries. It will take more than being a passive member; you'll need to invest time and energy in being active and maintaining a presence to stay in touch.

  • Socialize. You may have moved on to a new professional opportunity, but friendships can be maintained through socializing. Lunch dates, going out for a drink, or other opportunities to get together may also provide neutral settings for maintaining professional relationships.

Benefit From Healthy Professional Relationships

The professional relationships you build along your career path are part of your journey. Whether you benefit from their recommendations, profit from collaboration, or realize new opportunities due to networking, you'll be happy you didn't burn any bridges. And never discount the possibility you'll end up working together again. Think of ways to stay in touch with past employers and coworkers, and you'll experience more peace of mind and positivity on your path to the ultimate career.

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

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