How to resign from your job without damaging your reputation

Quitting a job can happen for numerous reasons. Whether you’re taking on a new position elsewhere, leaving a less-than-desirable work environment, or heading into retirement, knowing how to resign from your job is important. It’s a skill everyone must learn at some point.

Before you make it official, evaluate the reasons why you want to leave. (These will come in handy when it’s time to write a resignation letter.) It’s normal to have off days and rough patches, but when all the signs point to quitting your job, it might be time to resign. 

If you can’t stop talking about all the ways your job makes you miserable, can’t focus, or know you can find a better job elsewhere, it’s probably time to call it quits. Even if you love your current job, all good things must come to an end eventually. But how?

Write a resignation letter

When you find yourself thinking, “I want to resign…what should I do?” that’s usually a good sign that it’s time to get to work on a resignation letter

Knowing how to quit a job starts with understanding how to write a resignation letter. You should tailor your letter to the specific circumstances surrounding when and why you’re leaving, but, here’s a basic idea of what to include:

  • Resignation date: Clearly state when your last day of employment will be.
  • Reason: Give a clear explanation of the circumstances surrounding your departure. You can be brief, but be honest.
  • Details: This is optional, but if your reason for leaving warrants a few details it’s ok to include them.
  • Gratitude: If it feels appropriate, thank your employer for the opportunity to work with them.
  • Transition: Touch on whether or not you’re available to help assist with finding or training your replacement and in what capacity, as well as how you will prepare for your departure.
  • Contact Information: Let your employer know where you can be reached after you leave. Having your phone number, email, and mailing address can be helpful for payroll and tax purposes. 

Make sure that you maintain professionalism throughout your letter. Be clear, concise, and polite, and use proper grammar and punctuation. If you need extra inspiration for writing a resignation letter, these resignation letter templates for different situations can help. 

Before you turn in your resignation letter, make sure you don’t have any reservations about doing so. It’s hard to walk back a resignation once you inform your boss, so think things through before you hand in your notice.

Have the conversation

Depending on your relationship with your boss and how your office works, it may be best to turn in your resignation letter in person. Even if your office policy accepts email resignations, you’ll likely have to have a conversation with your boss or human resources about why you’re quitting.

First and foremost, be cordial. Burning a bridge is not the goal here. Just like you did when writing your resignation letter, be clear, concise, and polite. You can also thank them for the opportunity to work together if it feels appropriate.

They’ll probably have questions about why you’re leaving, and while this may feel uncomfortable, it’s best to answer honestly. Think through the potential questions you may be asked beforehand so you’re less likely to be caught off guard when this happens. Especially if your employer gives you a counteroffer to try to convince you to stay, you should be prepared to answer whether or not you would be willing to stay and under what conditions. 

Make sure that before this conversation happens, you don’t tell anyone else about your plans to leave. That’s an unprofessional move that is not likely to go over well if you wish to leave on good terms.

How much notice should you give?

Typically, a two weeks notice is necessary to allow your employer time to find and hire your replacement. This timeframe also gives you the opportunity to tie up loose ends at work and for your co-workers to prepare for the transition.

Giving two weeks notice is customary in most professions, but some circumstances dictate a longer or shorter notice window. For example, if you are managing multiple long-term, specialized projects, it may take longer for your employer to find someone with your expertise to take over.

In some cases, there are some acceptable exceptions when it’s OK to give less than a two weeks notice. This varies from person to person and employer to employer, but health-related reasons is one example. If you absolutely have to give short notice, it’s worth a conversation with your employer to explain the circumstances around why you need to leave sooner rather than later. 

Leave on good terms

Resigning from a job can have unintended consequences if you don’t handle the situation with a modicum of grace and professionalism. Leaving your job on good terms is the best way to make sure 

While it might feel incredible to slam the door behind you and walk away from a toxic workplace without so much as a glance over your shoulder, maintaining your professional dignity means resigning without fanfare. Even in the most unfortunate of situations, it is possible to quit a job and stay in your former employer’s good graces. (After all, you never know when you may need a reference letter or referral.)

It’s important to fulfill the entire length of the notice that you gave in your resignation letter. If you promised to stay for two weeks, keep working hard up until the end. 

Be sure to work to tie up any loose ends at work before your last day. If you have projects in progress, make sure your team knows how to proceed without you. This might mean doing a little prep work before you go or being willing to answer questions, but leaving your co-workers in a lurch just because you won’t have to deal with the fallout isn’t fair to them. 

Even if you’re excited about the prospect of leaving, try to keep your cool throughout the rest of your time at your current job. You won’t regret leaving on good terms.