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How to Resign From a Job Professionally

Resigning from a job in a professional manner is important for future references and job opportunities. Here are the steps to resign professionally:

  • 1. Provide a respectable reason
  • 2. Provide a formal resignation letter
  • 3. Be prepared for situations that may arise during your resignation
  • 4. Keep it positive
  • 5. Resign in person
  • 6. Give a reasonable amount of notice
  • 7. Offer to train your replacement
  • 8. Let your close coworkers know personally

Make your resignation a smooth transition for yourself (and your coworkers)

When you decide it’s time to move on from a job, you’ll probably have a mixed bag of emotions. Make it an easy and smooth transition for yourself (and your coworkers), by quitting your job in a professional manner.

A professional approach not only makes your two weeks notice easier, but it also helps to keep your future career prospects intact. Below is advice on what to do before you resign, the steps to take to resign from your job professionally, and what you should do after you’ve handed in your resignation.

Illustration of different types of jobs

How many jobs does the average person have?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker will have 12 jobs in their lifetime. Even if some of those job changes are due to promotions or terminations, it’s likely there will be many resignations in the mix.

What should and shouldn’t you do when you’re thinking of resigning?

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Do ensure you’re resigning for the right reason

Really think about why you’re looking to quit. If you’ve had an amazing job offer, it’s probably going to be worth the leap. If you’re feeling burnt out, stressed, or anxious from your work and you just want to quit to get away from it, it might be best to speak to your manager first.

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Don’t talk to colleagues about your decision before your manager

Your manager should always be the first to hear about your departure. Don’t let them hear about it through the grapevine – this could seriously jeopardize your relationship with the company.

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Do talk to family and close friends about your thoughts

It’s always a good idea to talk about big changes with those who have your best interests in mind. Additionally, discussing the situation can help you to clarify your own thoughts and move you towards a final decision.

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Don’t act on a rash decision

Think about your decision for a while. Sleep on it. Whatever you do, don’t leave a job based solely off of an impulsive decision.

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Do make sure your new job offer is finalized first

There’s nothing worse than handing in your notice only for a job offer to fall through. If you’re leaving for another job, it’s best to hand in your notice after you’ve received a signed written offer letter first.

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Should you leave your job before you get another one?

Every situation is unique and personal, so there isn’t really a right or wrong answer. It’s always a safer decision to leave a job with another one lined up due to the risks of leaving spontaneously. That being said, if you’re financially prepared to take some time off, it can be a good idea to step back to focus on your next move.

How can you resign professionally?

1. Provide a respectable reason for leaving

It’s highly likely you’ll need to share a reason for your resignation. Your boss will probably want to know why you’re resigning and your future employer will be interested in what motivated you to look elsewhere. You should always be tactful when speaking about your decision to leave your current position. Doing so will help you remain on good terms with your soon-to-be previous employer.

We’ve listed out some of the best and worst reasons to give when you’re resigning.

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‘Good’ reasons for resigning

While quitting any job can be hard, these are some totally acceptable reasons to move on and help to aid a smooth transition.

“I’m changing career paths”
“I’ve been given a better opportunity elsewhere”
“My job has altered due to organizational changes”
“I’m navigating family circumstances”
“I’m experiencing health issues”

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‘Bad’ reasons for resigning

Even if they are true, you shouldn’t give a reason that might be offensive, or cause someone to question your work ethic or ability.

“I think I may be fired”
“I’m bored at work”
“I don’t get along with my co-workers”
“I don’t like your boss”
“The job is too hard”
“I haven’t been given a promotion”
“Friends/family have told me to quit”

Illustration of people spreading news

Make sure your resignation story is the same for all parties.

It’s important to keep your story straight, especially as there’s always a chance that a hiring manager could ask your previous employer your reason for leaving during their reference check. If the reason they provide doesn’t match the reason you gave, it could be seen as a red flag.

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2. Provide a formal resignation letter

During your resignation, you should provide your manager with a formal written letter that reiterates your decision and the important elements of your resignation. Here are some of the most important components to include in your resignation letter:

  • A short and clear statement expressing your resignation
  • The date when your resignation would become effective
  • The reason(s) why you’re leaving
  • A mention of your gratitude for the time you’ve spent at the company
  • Your signature

Looking for a template? Here are some great examples of resignation letters.

3. Be prepared for situations that may arise during your resignation

You may be escorted out after giving your notice

There are occasions when you could be asked to leave immediately instead of working through your notice period, such as if you’re moving to a competitor. Be prepared – you may be escorted by security without being allowed to clear up your desk. If this happens, remember, it’s not personal. Chances are your manager is simply following corporate policy.

You may be given a counteroffer

While you’re making your resignation speech, you may be surprised if your boss makes you a counteroffer. It’s a good problem to have, but it can throw you off track. Before you discuss your resignation, make sure you know what it would take you to stay at your current job – if you’re thinking “nothing”, stick to your guns. If you’d stay for a higher salary or better benefits, consider your ask.

4. Keep it positive

It’s worth it to be remembered in a good light, even if you’re leaving the company for negative reasons. Keep your story positive – be respectful of current employees and share some of the things you’ll miss about working there.

Box with belongings illustration Saying the wrong thing can hurt you in subsequent reference checks – in the long run, it’s never worth it to lash out or say something in haste.

5. Resign in person

If it’s possible, it’s always better to resign in person rather than over the phone, or, worse still, via email. Schedule some time to speak with your manager so you can talk about your decision face-to-face. If you can’t meet in person, schedule a video call instead.

6. Give a reasonable amount of notice

The minimum amount of notice is generally two weeks, but be sure to check your contract – it could be more. If you can stay longer than the minimum ask, your current employer is highly likely to appreciate it – it’ll give them more time to find a replacement. Your manager will remember you for it and you’ll be able to leave without causing too much disruption.

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What if you can’t give 2 weeks’ notice?

Some job offers, or a personal emergency, may not allow you to give much notice at all. In this situation, you should apologize for the inconvenience, show your gratitude for their (hopeful) understanding and try to be as helpful as possible in the time you can give.

7. Offer to provide training for your replacement

Similar to providing adequate notice, offering to train your replacement will help support a smooth exit and take some of the pressure off of your manager and team. Make a list of your most important tasks and mention tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way. This is something you can provide to your manager to help with onboarding, or, if you’re sticking around for long enough, you can share this advice directly with your successor.

8. Let your close coworkers know personally

It’s always a shock when it’s someone’s last day and you had no idea they were leaving. Be sure to let your coworkers know about your resignation personally– after letting your manager know first of course. Ideally, you should speak with close coworkers in person. Use these conversations as an opportunity to share your gratitude for getting to work with your coworkers and exchange personal information with those you’d like to stay in contact with. Later on, send out a “goodbye” email that includes anyone else who should also know too.

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Leaving a job is a great time to gain professional contacts and build up your network. Share details such as your personal email and LinkedIn profile with those with who you’d like to stay in contact with.

Max Chan

What’s the best time and day to resign?

“There’s never a perfect time to announce your resignation. I think as long as you do it privately and your manager is the first one to know, that’s all that matters.”

Max Chan, founder of
ChanWithAPlan.com

What should you do after you’ve handed in your resignation?

After you’ve handed in your resignation, you may wonder what to do with yourself while you work through your notice period. First and foremost, it’s really important to leave on a positive note – this period of time will strongly influence how you’re remembered by the company.

Keep working

Resist the temptation to take it easy – it’ll be far better for your reputation. If you decide to spend your time hanging out in the breakroom instead of tying up loose ends, you’ll be remembered for it, regardless of the hard work you completed during your tenure. As part of the steps on continuity in the resignation, work with your manager to determine which projects should be finished up and remain focused on completing them.

Save your personal files

If you have a work computer, you might have some files that you need personally, such as contact information or photos. Consider saving these to a USB, or email them to yourself before your last day.

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Heads up!

Whatever you’re saving should be your own work that doesn’t contain any confidential information about the company. And before you take anything from your work computer check that’s it acceptable in your corporate policies – you could get into a lot of trouble otherwise.

Put yourself out there

Have you always wanted to connect with a specific executive or someone else in the company but haven’t known how to ask? Now is a good time to put yourself out there and ask them for a chat, or even invite them out for a coffee. If they say no, never mind – you’re leaving anyway. But if they take you up on your offer, you’ll get a great opportunity to get to know someone you’ve admired.

Enjoy your last day

Your final day might be the last time you see many of the people you worked closely with, so make a great lasting impression. Have a “goodbye” chat with your manager and your team about the good times you’ll miss, bring in cupcakes (or something fun) if you’re in an office space as a friendly reminder of your nearing departure. And, if you’re comfortable doing so, organize an after-work gathering to celebrate with coworkers outside of your formal work setting.

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Ending on a positive note

Leaving a job isn’t easy, but ending on a positive note is the best thing you can do for a pleasant and professional send-off. It will allow you to feel more relaxed about your decision and your coworkers will appreciate the smooth transition. People remember how you leave a company, so hold your head high, keep a smile on your face, and focus on the good times. All the best in your next adventure!

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