Deciding to leave your place of work is a big decision and seldom an easy one. Regardless of whether you were offered a better role at a different company or you’re starting a work-from-home job, submitting your resignation can be a nerve-wracking moment in your career.
But it’s also a moment that reflects your professionalism. Following the right etiquette can help you move on to the next phase of your career with grace and respect.
Here are the nine steps you need to take to resign from your job with class.
1. Prepare Ahead of Time.
There’s the off chance that you’re asked to leave as soon as you hand in your resignation, even if you give them notice. (This is a standard procedure for many companies if you are leaving for a competitor.) Therefore, it’s essential that you prepare ahead of time in case you don’t get a chance to go back to your desk or computer.
Before submitting your resignation, delete any personal files on your work computer and make sure you already have the contact details of colleagues with whom you want to stay in touch.
2. Write a Proper Resignation Letter.
Taking the time to write a formal resignation letter is not just a professional courtesy; it’s a wise document to have on hand should there be any quandaries with your last paycheck. It doesn’t need to be lengthy; two to three paragraphs is plenty.
Use a formal but amicable tone, and clearly state your intention to resign, listing the date that will be the last day of your employment.
You could also use one or two sentences to explain why you’re leaving, but this is optional. If you do decide to include a reason, be very careful about your wording. A resignation letter is not the place to air out your grievances. This is a document that will stay on file in the company’s HR department for years, so avoid writing anything that can come back to bite you later.
You can refer to these resignation letter templates to help you draft this important document.
3. Give as Much Notice as You Can.
Although two weeks' notice is the professional minimum, your former employer will likely be grateful for more notice. Obviously, this is only an option if you have flexibility on the start date of your new role.
Less than two weeks' notice is unprofessional in most cases. Not only will you burn bridges with your ex-employer, but if your new employer (or client) every catches wind of your exit strategy, it won’t make a great impression. (The world can be very small this way!)
4. Resign in Person.
Especially if you work in an office, resigning by text, email, or phone is not respectful or professional. If your boss is a busy person, schedule a 10-minute meeting with them ahead of time so you can hand them your resignation letter in person.
Although there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” time of day to have this talk with your manager, resigning first thing in the morning can be optimal as you can catch your boss before they get into the day’s work, and they can start making the necessary arrangements on their side right away.
If you work remotely, this may not be an option, in which case you can opt to inform them by a video call or by phone.
5. Offer to Help with the Transition.
Assure your manager that you will help train your replacement or otherwise assist in any way you can to make your departure a smooth transition for the company. If you can, try to brainstorm a couple of ideas ahead of time for how to proceed with the transition and offer them to your manager at the time of your resignation.
This can help soften the blow to your employer, especially if they considered you a key team member. It also reassures them that you aren’t about to leave them high and dry!
6. Meet with HR.
Chances are, you’ll be asked to participate in an exit interview with the HR department. Like your resignation letter, you want to choose your words wisely in this meeting, as anything unprofessional you say can be documented.
They will ask you about why you’re leaving, and this is your chance to provide useful, fact-based feedback tactfully. For example, you could mention if you felt there wasn’t any opportunity for growth or you found you weren’t able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
This meeting is also a good time to ask for all the information you will need about your last payment and any unused vacation or sick days.
7. Keep it Positive.
It could be that your time with your company was not all that great, and perhaps the issues you experienced during your tenure there are what drove you to resign in the first place.
Regardless, keep the energy positive and don’t use these last few weeks to gripe about everything you disliked about the job or what you think is wrong with the company. Don’t make your resignation personal, and avoid bragging about your new opportunity to colleagues.
8. Exercise Integrity.
Although you don’t need to go into details or provide explanations about why you’re leaving, don’t try to deceive your employer. For example, if you’re leaving for a competitor you should tell them (although perhaps not who that competitor is.)
If you make up some story that isn’t true, they will probably find out sooner or later anyway, and it’s just not classy.
9. End on a High Note.
Rather than coasting for the last couple weeks on the job, work your hardest to clean up your desk, prepare your replacement, and otherwise make way for a seamless transition.
Show up on your last day to say a proper goodbye to your colleagues and boss, and thank them for your time together. If it seems appropriate, you might even be able to ask your old boss for a letter or reference.
How you make your exit from an organization is yet another metric that others use to gauge your professionalism. And you never know when those old business relationships will reappear in your life down the road.
Leave with an air of gratitude, and you will make the experience of your departure a more pleasant one for all parties involved.
What tips do you have for submitting your resignation letter? Drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you! If you enjoyed this post — please share it on your favorite social media site.
Corrie Alexander is a content creator and logistics nerd from Toronto, Ontario. Her climb up the corporate ladder cultivated her interest in the topic of career development, a passion rivaled only by her love of exercise and strong coffee. Visit her website, thefitcareerist.com.