Career Planning

How to Resign From Your Job

Resign With Professionalism and Leave a Positive Final Impression

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When you resign from your job, you terminate or end your employment with a particular organization. You can resign from your job in a way that reinforces your professional image and keeps current employer relationships positive for the future.

Or, you can resign from your job in a way that causes your employer to remember you as a jerk and say, good riddance to your leave-taking. Your choice. You have both options.

But leaving the employer feeling good about your resignation is recommended as the best option—even when it is painful and you just want to get away.

You can resign and keep doors open for future opportunities by building, not destroying, relationships with colleagues and customers. Use these tips to effectively resign from your job while leaving a positive final impression in the minds and files of your employer.

Are You Sure You Want to Resign From Your Job?

Before you resign from your job, do a self-check.

  • If you are leaving for another employer, do you have your job offer letter and start date in hand? Even with legal documents, employers have been known to renege on job offers. You don’t want to offer your two weeks' notice if you don’t have a new job waiting when you resign.
  • Are you resigning from your job without another job waiting? Be careful if you need employment income. Good jobs are tough to find. You may want to rethink your decision until you have a job in hand or you're prepared for unemployment.

    Sure, it’s easier to job search when you’re unemployed; you have lots of time. But, employers show a preference for hiring employees who are successfully employed—by someone else, often doing a job similar to that of their open position. Don’t spoil your chances for a new job when you resign.
  • Angry with your boss? Your company? Feeling used and abused by your employer? Don’t walk out in a snit or make a spur of the moment decision to resign that you’ll regret later. You can maturely and secretly job search while you’re currently employed. Don’t leave or give notice until you’re ready to resign from your job. Meantime, you may want to hold onto your job.

    Prepare to Resign from Your Job

    You never know how your employer will react when you resign from your job, although your employer’s past behavior when other employees have resigned, may give you a reasonable expectation.

    You don’t know if you’ll be able to work out your two weeks' notice or if you’ll find yourself standing in the parking lot, so organize your current projects, and clean up your business and personal work space, computer, and desk drawers before you resign.

    You don’t want to remove family pictures, for example, because that would spark suspicion that you are job searching or preparing to resign, but do remove work samples and other items that will help you get started in your next job.

    (This is a general observation, too; depending upon your relationship with your employer, and in a best case scenario, you have shared that you are job searching and why, and you may even have received support and leads from your employer.)

    Remove personal information from company property like laptops and smartphones. Make sure that you have your address and phone lists and work samples that you’ll need going forward in your career.

    For example, you’ll want to have copies of employee handbooks, job descriptions, and other positive contributions that you made at work for your portfolio moving forward.

    (While your actual work products and contributions belong to your employer, samples and templates give you a head start in your new job.)

    Some employers will kindly give you copies of personal information that you have stored on your computer, smartphone, and other electronic devices after you resign. Some won't. So be prepared for the worst case scenario before you resign from your employment.

    Resign by Notifying Your Boss

    You owe your first discussion about the termination of your employment to your boss. He or she, or Human Resources, when notified that you are resigning, will likely ask you for a resignation letter. This letter is for your permanent employee file and for your employer to prove that you resigned and were not fired or laid off.

    While you may be tempted to dump all of your frustrations about your job or employer on your boss, think positively.

    You are moving on and you want to leave a positive final impression.

    Tell your boss what you are doing; skip the why unless it is a positive reflection on you. Thank your boss for all of his or her help and support. Make positive statements about your experience with the company, how much you learned, the opportunities that your job provided, and so forth.

    You have absolutely no reason to burn bridges, that may prove useful later in your career, by leaving a negative final impression when you resign.

    The same goes for Human Resources and your resignation letter. Polite, positive, and brief are key to how you need to resign from your job. Write professionally and in a forward-thinking manner when you resign.

    Offer Assistance with the Job Transition When You Resign From Your Job

    Two weeks' notice is standard and expected practice when you resign from your job. Your employer may not take you up on it, and you may find yourself walked to the company door when you resign, but you need to offer your help and transition assistance as a courtesy.

    Offer to train your successor or the person who will fill in until your successor is chosen when you resign. Write manuals and operating procedures that describe the steps that you followed in key components of your job if you do not have these developed already.

    Fulfill client engagements and introduce your replacement to customers and vendors. You can even offer to continue to answer questions and help when you have started with your new employer, with his or her permission, of course, unless you help during off-work hours.

    Your efforts to make the transition seamless for your employer when you resign from your job will be remembered and appreciated.

    Do keep your start date commitment to your new employer. As much as your former employer may need your help—and some never seem to realize that you are leaving until the day before you go, the employer is just that—former. Don’t start on the wrong foot with your new employer to appease your former employer when you resign.

    Follow an Employment Ending Checklist When You Resign

    This employment ending checklist tells you what the employer will cover when you resign from your job. Use the employment resignation checklist to prepare yourself for your last day. Plan to turn in any company owned property you use such as your laptop, smartphone, keys, door cards, and badges. Pack up your personal office items and remove a few every day so that you avoid the last minute overload.

    Prepare your exit questions involving benefits, COBRA, final paycheck, and more, so that you can ask before leaving on your final day. Schedule a quick meeting with HR staff to make sure that you have answers to all of your end of employment questions.

    You’ll also want to prepare for a future that you can’t yet see. Ask for a reference letter. Make sure that you are connected with colleagues, bosses, and friends on LinkedIn and Facebook. Former colleagues change jobs, move on, and become difficult to contact over time. Plan to periodically stay in touch even as you move into the next chapter of your employment.

    Participate in the Human Resources Exit Interview When You Resign

    When people ask about participating in exit interviews, you want to encourage them to take the time. Depending upon your employer, however, you may want to respond to the questions asked cautiously. If you have genuine ideas for improvement that might benefit the employees who remain, respond positively to the improvement questions.

    The exit interview is not an occasion, however, to cuss out your former boss, complain about how you were treated by the company or air your grievances about why you resigned.

    The time to have shared these issues was when you were employed and able to affect your job and company. At an exit interview, the only thing these opinions affect is how the employer will regard you after leaving.

    Just as you resigned from your job verbally to your boss, wrote your resignation letter, and spent your final two weeks, professional, positive, polite behavior rules the day. The one thing you don’t want to leave behind you when you resign is a bad impression.

    Say Goodbye with Class and Professionalism When You Resign

    If you have worked out your two week's notice, you will have the opportunity to email a formal note to say goodbye to your colleagues. Make sure that you include a brief statement about where you are going to seamlessly close this chapter in your employment history.

    You will also want to include a personal email address and a personal phone number where colleagues can stay connected and reach you if needed. Remember that on your last day, your employer will discontinue your access to email and telephone accounts, since you are no longer an employee, unless you and your employer have made a different agreement.

    Last Thoughts About How to Resign From Your Job

    These are the major issues you need to consider when you resign. Who knows when it will be your turn to resign from your job—professionally, politely, and looking for a positive future relationship with your former employer and coworkers?

    Sample Resignation Letters