How to Quit a Job and Resign on Good Terms

Laveta Brigham

Table of Contents In briefReflect on why you want to leave and what you are moving toward.Get your finances in order.Be discreet with your search.Resign gracefully.Prepare to leave.Think about your other professional relationships.What to do nextFurther reading In brief Take time to consider why you are leaving and what you […]

In brief
  • Take time to consider why you are leaving and what you want in a new role.
  • Be discreet with your job search.
  • Get your finances in order if you plan to resign without a new job. 
  • Leave on good terms: It is important to your long-term career.

Resigning is a big and sometimes daunting decision, but it is often essential to advance your career. If you do it right, you may leave your job on good terms, with excellent references and a new challenge on the horizon that is better suited to your preferences. It is all about knowing when to leave, doing it respectfully and having a solid plan for your next move. 

Before you decide to quit, think about why you want to leave and how you expect to benefit.

Reflect on why you want to leave and what you are moving toward.

Think about why you are considering leaving and whether it is the right time and the move to make. According to a 2018 survey of more than 1,000 job seekers by staffing firm Addison Group, 81% were dissatisfied with their existing work environments, while 76% of workers said that being passed over for a promotion would lead them to seek other jobs and 47% were unsatisfied with their salary or compensation. Other factors may include how the role fits into your lifestyle or relocation plans. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if you are making the right choice. 

What to consider:

  • How would a new job align with your values? 
  • How would you benefit from making the change? 
  • Could the negative elements of your current job be an issue in a new role? 
  • Could you take the financial hit of resigning without another job lined up? Will you be eligible for unemployment benefits?
  • If you are unhappy with your job, is there any way you could change it to make it better?

Karen Shnek Lippman, an executive search consultant, says it may be time to leave a job or explore new opportunities “when it is clear that the company and/or its leadership are not going to invest in your team, division or professional growth and are not on board with your solutions—or providing any themselves.”

Get your finances in order.

Depending on whether you plan to move right into a new job or spend some time looking for a new one, you will need to consider the financial ramifications.

  • Find out when your last paycheck will be and if you will be eligible for unemployment benefits. 
  • If you have health-care coverage, check how long you would be covered and whether you can obtain health insurance through Cobra, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which may enable you to keep your coverage but with some additional costs.
  • If you have a 401(k), you will need to decide whether to cash out with a tax penalty, roll it into a new one or move it into an IRA.
  • Look into other benefits you might receive, such as life insurance. Speak to your provider to find out whether it is portable, meaning it can be taken with you if you leave your job.
Be discreet with your search.

If you decide to start job hunting while still working, do it as quietly as possible if you don’t want your employer to know you already have one foot out the door. You should get your résumé in order and start networking with people in your industry you can trust to be discreet. Think about who can see your LinkedIn activity and whether your résumé has been posted on job sites, since employers looking for candidates with similar skills may come across it. Avoid using your employer’s phone, email or computer to job-hunt, since some managers track those activities. 

Resign gracefully.

If you have found another job or come to the conclusion that you want to or need to leave, try to do it on the best terms possible. How you decide to leave could have an impact on your long-term career. You may want to use your colleagues as references. Avoid assigning blame to or creating animosity with any of your colleagues, who may be contacted by your future employer during background checks.

If you do have constructive criticism for your colleagues, give it in person rather than in an email. To help ensure a smooth exit, don’t tell other employees that you are leaving before speaking to your boss. Your manager shouldn’t find out you are leaving from someone else.

When you speak to your boss:

  • Try to resign in person, if possible. It is considered more respectful than sending an email and is typically appreciated by managers.
  • Give your employer appropriate notice that you intend to leave. The standard time is two weeks, although there may be circumstances under which that isn’t possible. 
  • If you are asked to train a replacement, plan the handover process so it can be accomplished within a reasonable timeframe that works for both you and the employer.
Prepare to leave.

In the final days with an employer after resigning, you should make some final preparations:

  • Gather your personal items and back up any personal emails, documents and contacts on your work devices. Clear your browser history and remove autocompletion for logins and passwords. 
  • Don’t take any physical or intellectual property belonging to the employer. Taking the latter in particular could land you in legal jeopardy.
  • Tell your colleagues how much you appreciate them. You may wind up needing them as references later or working with them again in the future.
Think about your other professional relationships.

If you are not a full-time employee or a contractor, you should still follow the suggestions above. However, you might also want to let clients or other professional contacts know you are leaving. It is important to do this because you may want to do business with them in the future and a smooth transition will make that easier. If you have a manager, you should discuss this with him or her before you reach out to clients.

What to do next
Further reading

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