How to Resign Professionally: 5 Essential Rules

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Resigning from your job is an emotional process for all sides. It’s a big life transition for the person leaving the job and is challenging for the employer as they now need to find a quality replacement.

Ultimately, when you’re resigning from your job, you want to do it professionally and leave on good terms. And it’s in your best interest to do that for a variety of reasons.

First, you want to have a good reputation in your industry. Secondly, you want to have the potential for future job references available to you. Thirdly, you may ultimately want to work for the old company or boss again sometime down the road so you’ll want to leave that door open. And, finally, leaving on good terms and making the transition easy on the company that invested in you is simply a good thing to do.

To that end, this article provides five rules for how to resign professionally.

1. Inform Your Boss First and Via a Conversation

It’s understandable to dread a conversation with your boss about resigning. But your boss needs to be the first person you tell and you need to tell them in an actual conversation. Ideally, you would do it in person, but a Zoom meeting or call if necessary is fine too.

It may be tempting to want to send an email, or I’ve seen people just stop showing up without informing anyone, but actually telling your boss is an important professional courtesy. Additionally, having a conversation with your boss enables them to understand why you want to leave, with may lead a favorable counter offer for you.

2. Be Positive

Even if you are leaving because you’re frustrated with your boss, the company, your job or some other reason, don’t use your resignation as the chance to air your dirty laundry. There is very little upside to doing so and you may damage relationships that would be important to maintain in the long-term.

When explaining your reason for leaving, keep it focused on your excitement about whatever you’re doing next.

3. Provide Sufficient Notice

To help make the transition out of your role as smooth as possible, you’ll want to provide sufficient notice of when you’re leaving the company. Generally, you want to provide at least two weeks notice of your departure so the company can prepare and you can document anything that they may need to set your successor up for success.

4. Stay Engaged

It’s common that when people decide to leave for another opportunity, they “check out” of their current job. You can’t get a hold of them, they won’t commit to any new work, etc. Don’t be that person as that’s a surefire way to leave unprofessionally.

Even if you interviewed with and are leaving for another company bear in mind that your existing employer is still paying you. And with that being the case, it’s important to continue to do your job professionally.

Similarly, you’ll want to do whatever you can to set up your successor for success. So be sure to ask your boss about documentation, videos, or whatever they need you to create so whoever takes over for you has what they need to be successful.

5. Return Company Property

This last rule should go without saying, but I’ve heard enough stories around this one that I feel like I need to call it out. Be sure to return company property by whatever deadline the company specifies. 

Your boss is going to have enough to worry about in finding your replacement. Don’t make that person worry about having to track you down because you didn’t return the laptop in a timely manner.

Conclusion

Resigning from your job can be a nerve-wracking and challenging process. But if you follow the rules above, and maintain the right attitude about it, you can do so professionally, painlessly, and on good terms.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and a marketer and business professional with over 10 years of experience. Dan writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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