How to Resign From a Job the Right Way

How to Resign From a Job the Right Way

Resigning from your job can be a challenging process to go through. No one wants to leave their current employer on bad terms, particularly when considering the importance of job references when applying for new jobs. The network you build as you progress through your career can help you secure future positions while building a reputation that will follow you throughout your professional life.

To help you navigate this process effectively, we will walk you through the right way to resign from your job gracefully. In this article, you’ll learn:

What to do before you resign

Let’s start by exploring some of the considerations you want to keep in mind before you officially resign from your existing position.

Consider your options before submitting your resignation

Before turning in your two weeks’ notice, you should consider the following questions:

  • Can any issues with your current position be fixed? If you are unhappy with your current position, try speaking with your manager before deciding to leave. They may not realize you’re unhappy or may be able to make changes that convince you to stay. For example, if you want more advancement opportunities, your boss might work with you to map out a career path with defined goals and milestones to reach the level you seek.
  • Are your skills in demand? If you determine that leaving your job is the best option, make sure you understand the market for your particular skill set. This will help you determine how easy or hard it may be to find a new job. If demand for your area of expertise is not high, you can gain insight into skills that you can build to gain a greater edge. Remaining in your current position while you improve your skill set might provide you with greater stability.
  • Do you have a new job offer? If you do not have a new job offer, you may experience a lapse in income, and you may have to dip into your savings to cover the difference. Many people rely on their jobs for health insurance and related benefits. You will want to ensure you can cover these costs without a lapse in your coverage if you don’t find a new job immediately.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

If you don’t have a new job lined up just yet, you’ll want to ensure your LinkedIn profile and resume are updated. It’s essential that both accurately reflect your skills and experience in your field so you can put your best foot forward when job hunting.

The sooner you start working on these items, the better. When it comes to your resume, it takes considerable time and effort to think back on previous accomplishments and figure out how to describe them as effectively as possible. This can be especially true if you’ve been in your current role for a while and haven’t touched your resume in years.

It can be even trickier to update your LinkedIn profile because it’s public. If your employer or colleagues see that you’ve suddenly overhauled your profile, they may connect the dots and realize you’re gearing up for a job search. The same is true if you ask contacts to provide recommendations or endorse your skills and experience. Plan ahead and add this information gradually, if you can.

Decide on an adequate notice window

Next, you want to give adequate notice. Two weeks’ notice is standard. It gives your employer enough time to transition your duties and start looking for your replacement. It also gives your coworkers time to adjust and determine how they will cover your role while it remains open.

However, there may be some situations where you want to provide your employer with a greater amount of time. For example, if you have worked at the company for a particularly long time, you might just feel better about giving them a bit more notice, so the transition is as smooth as possible. You may also want to give more time if you know that the hunt for a replacement will likely take a while given the seniority or skills required.

Keep in mind that you may have also signed an employment contract at the start of your job specifying the window you have to give before you can set the date of your last day. Make sure you review this paperwork to see if you have to abide by a particular resignation window.

What to do when you resign

Now the time has come to officially resign from the position. When you resign, you’ll want to keep these important steps in mind, as they can set the stage for a smooth transition and ultimately help you leave on good terms.

Schedule a time to talk to your manager and resign in person

You’ll want to schedule a meeting with your boss to resign in person before submitting a formal resignation. Making the process more personable helps people understand that you want to preserve the relationship as much as possible. The two of you can also start preparing for your departure.

Depending on your job, “in-person” might take different forms. If you work in a traditional office setting, you’ll want to schedule a face-to-face meeting. On the other hand, if you work remotely, an “in-person” resignation will likely occur over video chat.

This meeting is one that you want to have ample time blocked off for because your manager will likely have a few questions for you, like whether you have a new position lined up or what might have influenced your decision to leave. You can go into as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable providing.

Above all, keep your answers professional and to the point. Be honest, and let them know what you enjoyed about the position but also know you can use the time to discuss areas that were frustrating. Remember, you may also have an opportunity to provide more candid feedback to the human resources (HR) team later.

Submit a formal letter of resignation

After you speak with your manager, you may want to submit a formal resignation letter. This letter should be sent to human resources and your manager, and it should include:

  • The position you’re resigning from
  • A proposed end date
  • Offer your gratitude for the opportunities the job has given you

The most important factors to remember in a resignation letter are professionalism and consideration. The letter may have a lasting impression on your former boss and could impact your reputation.

Connect with HR on an exit interview

In many organizations, HR will want to conduct an exit interview with you to learn more about what impacted your decision to leave and overall experience with the company. They may ask you questions about:

  • What factors led you to resign from your position?
  • Do you feel like you had a reliable supervisor and/or manager?
  • Did you feel comfortable within the company culture?
  • Do you believe you were set up to succeed?
  • What did you like most about working here? What did you like least?

Remember that the exit interview allows you to speak more honestly and openly about your time with the company. Focus on providing constructive feedback with concrete examples. If you felt you weren’t set up to succeed, for example, then HR might want to hear about times where you requested additional help or resources and how it was handled.

If you need to call out some negative experiences or challenges with specific people, try to be as objective as possible. Ultimately, your feedback can help the organization improve and provide a better work environment for those who remain.

Outline a transition plan

You know that leaving your job may disrupt the workflow of your colleagues for a little while. Demonstrate your professionalism by helping your coworkers manage the change successfully. Help those covering your job, and your eventual successor, manage your responsibilities by doing the following:

  • Outline your regular responsibilities and duties, including when or how often they need to be completed.
  • Note any important points of contact that you need for your job. Make a list of the names and contact information of clients, account representatives, or vendors, as well as internal partners.
  • Note where you are in your different projects. Highlight what you expect to finish before you leave and any projects that won’t be completed before then. For the latter, detail the status of each project, key collaborators, and information or files needed to keep things moving forward.
  • Write down any important processes you follow for your regular tasks; for example, the process for tracking the monthly budget or updating a section of the website that you were responsible for.

Make sure all relevant documents and logins are shared with whoever will need them

Think carefully about all of the different documents, logins, and other important information you manage as a part of your job. You will want to ensure that your team can easily access this information once you have left the position. This might mean writing down login information, changing the ownership of any digital files or folders, and ensuring invoices and renewal notices are sent to the right people. And make sure to only share this information with people you are authorized to share it with. This will help ensure your successor has everything they need to pick up where you left off.

Return any equipment

You will also need to return any equipment issued to you as a part of the job. This usually includes your computer, as well as peripherals such as a keyboard, mouse, or headset. Ensure you do not leave anything personal on these devices, including photos, apps, or passwords you may have stored in your browser.

You will also need to vacate your desk space. If you’re still working remotely, arrange to visit the office so you can go through your area and take any personal belongings home with you.

Say thank you

In your final days at your current position, you will also want to make sure you give a proper thank-you to those you worked with. There are several ways you can express your gratitude.

For those you worked closely with and any mentors who offered great career advice, you might send a personalized note describing the impact they have had on your time at the company and your appreciation. If possible, you may even want to meet with them one-on-one over coffee or a Zoom call. Nothing is required. It’s entirely up to your own personal preference.

In addition, many people like to send a group email to their team or department so they can thank many colleagues at once, including those they may not have been able to reach out to individually. If you decide to do this, you might talk about how you have enjoyed working with them, that they have helped you grow as a professional, and you want to remain in contact with them once you’re gone.

Block out time during your notice period to say thank you and goodbye to coworkers. Chances are people will want to meet with you or stop by your desk, and finding time to chat with them can be difficult if you don’t plan ahead.

Offer (and ask for) recommendations

Also consider taking a moment to speak with specific colleagues and managers to offer—and ask—for recommendations. You can use these recommendations in a variety of places, such as LinkedIn. The people you approach may also be willing to serve as references in the future. A good rule of thumb is to offer recommendations before asking for any of your own.

Stay connected

As you take care of your goodbyes and thank-yous, you may find that there are a few colleagues you’d like to stay in touch with. Consider giving them your personal email address or phone number and be sure to grab theirs as well. You never know when these connections will prove valuable down the road.

What not to do when you resign

As you go through the resignation process, you also want to keep in mind that there are a few you should avoid. These mishaps can mar your exit and damage your reputation moving forward.

Don’t just submit an email

Remember the importance of speaking to your manager in-person when you resign. Resigning by email can seem abrupt and unprofessional, and it can leave your boss with questions about why you’re leaving. Unless you have a unique situation, you should consider scheduling an in-person meeting or video chat with your supervisor to inform them of your resignation.

Don’t boast about your new job, if you have one lined up

No one wants to hear about how much better your new job or company is compared to your current one. Although you can certainly let people know about your new position, be tactful and diplomatic when discussing it.

Don’t speak negatively about your current job or team members

Just because you are getting ready to leave your position doesn’t mean you should open an avalanche of complaints or frustration with your current work environment. This is not the time to unleash every grievance you have. Focus on maintaining a professional demeanor.

Keep in mind that you can offer constructive feedback when you speak with your manager and HR during the exit interview. Even then, though, you don’t want to turn the conversation into a venting session. Stay objective and offer constructive feedback where you can.

Don’t drop the ball on your current projects

You might have only weeks left on the job, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your responsibilities. How you approach these final weeks will say a lot about your professional character, and your colleagues will notice.

Make a list of tasks that you want to accomplish before you leave. Keep the list reasonable, noting that you will also have other tasks to take care of concerning your resignation, such as meetings to transition projects and information. However, having this list in hand can help you remain focused

We’re here to help you throughout your professional career

Leaving one job for another is something you’ll encounter in your career, probably multiple times. Doing it the right way helps to bolster your professional reputation, puts you on solid footing when requesting references from previous colleagues, and leaves the door open with your current employer should you ever want to return.  

Upwork makes it easy for independent contractors to find exciting freelance jobs, great clients, and the chance to showcase their skills. See how you can start to build your profile today and get started on your next professional move.


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How to Resign From a Job the Right Way
The Upwork Team

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