How to Resign From a Job and Protect Your Future

Whether you’ve landed a new job or are just quitting, it's best not to burn any bridges. Get tips on how to leave your company the right way.

How to Resign From a Job and Protect Your Future

Tips to learn how to resign from a job.

Daydreaming about how to resign from a job? Since you're reading this article on Monster, the answer is probably yes.

Maybe you're looking for more money, a new career path, or flexible hours. Or you're part of the 57% of employees who want to quit because of their boss. Whatever the reason you'd like to leave, the overriding truth is that you're not happy in your current job!

Your challenge is to not let that discontent show, especially not with a grandstand on your way out the door. Why? Because your job may end, but your reputation (and need for references) lives forever.

Don't assume anti-defamation laws will protect you from a bad reference. Legally, an employer can reveal your unfortunate exploits as long as they tell the truth. If your social media profiles are public, a prospective employer has access to all your contacts (and your posts about how much you hate your job). You can count on at least one "friend" spilling the beans on your poorly executed exit from a job.

The Right Way to Make a Professional Exit

When you think about how to resign from your job, the first thing that might pop into your head is how to tell your boss. Should you send an email or schedule a meeting? How should you word your resignation letter? When do you tell coworkers? Breathe. Let's be methodical about this.

Here are steps that will help you resign with grace.

How to Resign From a Job With a Plan in Place

Sometimes unfortunate circumstances force you to resign immediately. But if it's your choice to quit your job, you need a resignation plan. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have a solid job offer, preferably in writing?
  • If not, do I have enough money in reserve to tide me over until my next paycheck?
  • What if I'm asked to leave immediately? (This can happen in jobs that deal with highly confidential information or expensive assets. And bosses have been known to take it personally and give vindictive shoves out the door.)
  • What will I do if my boss offers me a raise or promotion to stay?

What About Timing?

Resignation timing is important, both to you and the company. The classic rule of thumb when planning how to resign from a job is to give at least two weeks' notice. Your company's policy, your contract, or the need to train your replacement may mandate more time. Consider what day and time would be best to resign. To have the most privacy and allow you to quickly leave the office if things get contentious, emotional, or awkward, time your resignation for 5:00 or whenever your workday ends. Resigning on a Friday lets the dust settle and gives your boss time to think about a replacement plan.

Your To-Do List

If you're moving on because of a fabulous offer or you hate your current job and just want out, you have some work to do. In the unfortunate event that you are asked to leave immediately upon announcing your resignation, make time to do these things first.

Revisit Your Employee Handbook

Remember that PDF you haven't opened since orientation? Find it and look up the policy on resignation notice, including how many weeks are required and any rules about how you resign (email, letter, meeting, etc.). Then take a look at any benefits you are entitled to when you leave. Can you cash in your unused sick and vacation days? Is COBRA medical coverage available?

Prepare a Transition Plan

Want to know how to resign from a job and make your boss love you? Have a transition plan. The easier you make it for your boss to replace you and your coworkers to pick up the slack until your job is filled, the more likely you will get good references.

The first part of your transition plan should list your duties. Don't assume your boss will remember them, especially those you took on after being first hired. Make a list of all your current projects, the status of each, and suggestions for reassigning them. Note the location of associated assets and files. Offer to train your replacement, noting what specific items you should cover.

Clean Your Computer

Transfer files that you might want later. Depending on your line of work, this can include graphics you've designed, pieces you've written, reports or results you helped achieve, and contact information of people you want to keep in touch with. Do not take anything proprietary! Remove anything personal on your computer and clean out unneeded files so the person taking over your work can find things easily.

Put Your Resignation in Writing

Writing a resignation letter ensures that your boss and HR know when you intend to leave. A resignation in writing gives you greater control over the tone and delivery of your message. Breaking the news in person with a resignation letter in hand is a polite way to communicate and sustain a positive relationship.

If you are concerned about a bad reaction or feel you are in an unsafe situation, stick with email. The guidelines for how to resign from a job via email are the same. If you send an email, make sure the subject line reads "Resignation – [Your Name]".

The standard parts of a resignation letter are:

  • a statement of intent that you will be leaving your job
  • the name of your official staff position
  • the date of your last day on the job
  • gratitude to your employer for hiring you
  • a highlight of your time there (optional)
  • an offer to train your replacement
  • well wishes for the future of the company
  • your contact info

Take a look at a resignation letter sample to assist you with wording and format.

Say Goodbye

Have an exit interview with your boss or HR before you pack up your things and go home for the last time. If it's not standard policy, you can request one.

Use this meeting to verify benefits, unused vacation days, and any other separation policies. It's also important to say thank-you for the experience you gained, etc. Don't brag about your new job—it can engender bad feelings. And don't be negative about why you're leaving, criticize the company, or disparage your boss. It will not do any good at this point and may affect your chances for a good reference. Speaking of which, this is the time to ask your boss for a future reference.

Don't forget your coworkers! Keep your final goodbyes positive and upbeat, express thanks, and exchange contact info.

Resign Yourself to Better Things

Now that you know how to resign from a job, it might be time to look for your next opportunity. Monster is here to help with that. Take a look at our job listings, and be sure to create a Monster profile. It will put you in touch with recruiters and employers and will allow us to send you more Monster job hunting advice to help you find the best fit this time!

This article is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the professional advice of an attorney regarding any legal questions you may have.