Whether you are leaving a job because you need a change, are relocating, or have a better opportunity, there is a right and a wrong way to deliver your resignation. Your current employer and coworkers may be valuable contacts in the future, so you don’t want to burn any bridges on your way out.
A professional approach to quitting makes the process smoother and easier and may help you grow your network. This article covers eight steps to handle the transition professionally.
1. Make Sure Quitting Is the Right Choice
Before quitting your job, make sure that it's actually the right choice. You don't want a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
If you are leaving because something in your current job is frustrating you or making you unhappy, it's worth investigating if there is a way to improve the situation where you are. Consider taking some time off or enlisting the help of a trusted person within the company. It's rare that any group of people or job is perfect in every way, so if you are running from a problem, you may find more in the new place.
However, there are many valid reasons to leave a job. If you know it's time, and you've considered your options, you've completed step one.
2. Don't Tell Your Co-Workers Until After You Tell Your Boss
Once you are sure you are quitting, every step you make moving forward is designed to preserve your reputation and any goodwill you have developed.
Always keep your intentions to yourself until you can give notice to your boss officially. If management finds out you are quitting before you are ready, you could face backlash or be fired.
No matter how close you are to your coworkers at work, they shouldn't be privy to information about your resignation until after the news has been delivered to management. At the very least, it puts them in an awkward position.
It's your supervisor or manager's job to inform the team that you are leaving. If you have friends you value in that workplace, you can tell them you'd like to keep in touch after you tell your boss you're leaving.
3. Plan for the Best Timing
Sometimes the timing is out of your control. As much as possible, you want to pick a time that won't leave your team in the lurch. If you're in the middle of a big project, your boss is out of town, or another team member just resigned, staying until things settle down will reflect positively on your professionalism.
If you've accepted another position and must start in two weeks, or your spouse has been transferred and you're moving out of state in a month, then the timing is out of your hands. The best you can do is work with your boss and co-workers to create the smoothest transition possible.
4. Decide How Much Notice to Give
Whenever possible, you want to give at least two weeks' notice. Sometimes an employer will appreciate more notice—particularly if you hold a position that is hard to replace. It can take much longer than two weeks to find a qualified candidate to fill a position.
You may also be asked to leave the day you give notice. As a contingency, be prepared to leave the day you tell your boss.
Even if you feel like you'll never see or talk to these people again, don't burn bridges. You never know when you might want a reference or when you might run into a co-worker or boss from this job in another professional setting. If you do a good job, you will leave this job with more professional connections and a better network than when you started.
In some circumstances, you don't have to give two weeks' notice, but these are rare. For example, if you are in danger, a situation is abusive, or you have a medical problem and cannot work, then quitting and leaving immediately may be the best or only option.
5. Write a Resignation Letter
While the best resignation strategy is to tell your boss in person that you are leaving, you want to have a letter ready to hand them after the conversation. Write your resignation letter in a professional format as you would any business letter.
Keep it short and sweet. Two or three paragraphs are enough. The resignation letter is a formal confirmation of your intentions and timeline. It should include the following:
A statement of appreciation for the job and the company
A confirmation that you are resigning (possibly including the reason, but not necessary)
Your planned timeline for departure
6. Talk to Your Boss in Person
Once you know your timeline, contact your boss or supervisor and let them know you need to meet with them as soon as possible for an important conversation. If you cannot meet in person, then by phone or video call works as well.
An email would be the last resort because it lacks the personal touch, but you can only do your best to reach them. If the time before you leave is limited, telling them sooner is better than waiting for an in-person meeting.
When you tell your boss you are leaving, start your resignation with an attitude of gratitude. Let them know you appreciate the opportunities you had while working with them.
You can keep the conversation short and to the point. Thank them and let them know you are leaving and when. Then, either hand them the resignation letter or follow up with an email with all the important information.
If your manager asks you follow-up questions you aren't comfortable answering, you can let them know you are "still ironing out the details" but would be happy to chat with them more once you're established in your new role.
7. Wrap-Up Loose Ends
Once you've given your notice, you'll want to ensure you leave everything for your team and your replacement. Here are a few things you can do to make that happen:
Schedule meetings with your coworkers to discuss projects you are working on together.
Ensure HR or your supervisor has all the information they need to access your work email, computers, etc.
Clean out any important items from your desk.
Return company property like phones and tablets.
Update your contact information, so people can still get a hold of you after leaving the company.
8. Stay Positive When Leaving the Company
Being positive when you leave a company will help you feel good about your decision. It also makes it easier to network and get referrals in the future.
When leaving, be polite and professional, and thank your co-workers for their time and effort with the company. A simple email is all it takes to keep things amicable: "I've decided it is time for me to move on from my position at Company Name. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and hope we can stay in touch! Best wishes!"
Leaving a Job the Right Way Is a Win-Win
Change is part of life. Hopefully, you are leaving your current job for bigger opportunities with better potential. But regardless of why you are quitting, taking the time to do it the right way preserves relationships and keeps more doors open for you down the road.
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