At some point during your career, you will likely have to learn how to resign from your job and how to get good references during the process. Maybe you’ve outgrown your current position and are eager to take on new challenges. Or maybe you don’t feel fulfilled in your current position and are intent on finding a new career

Regardless of your specific reasons for wanting to resign, the process may seem overwhelming at first. In this article, we will review key tips and strategies for resigning from your current position and transitioning into your new job — including how to resign without burning bridges and how to make a professional reference list. 

The key to knowing how to resign from a job professionally and respectfully mostly comes down to remaining positive, expressing gratitude, and showing consideration for your employer as you pursue an alternative professional trajectory. Do your best to be kind, considerate, and follow good communication practices throughout the process. 

Reflect thoughtfully on your decision to resign

Before you worry too much about how to resign from a job you just started or how to resign professionally, reflect carefully on your reasons for wanting to resign. There are lots of reasons why people can find it difficult to know how to stay motivated at work

Some of these reasons can be addressed without having to leave your job. If this is the case, it is important to identify this early and address the real underlying issues. If, however, you are experiencing signs of a toxic work environment or have realized that you want to transition careers, offering your official resignation is often the first step in pursuing your professional goals. 

In most cases, if you leave your job voluntarily, you will not be eligible to collect unemployment. If, however, you had a compelling reason for leaving — such as harassment — you may be able to collect unemployment. 

How much notice should you give before resigning?

How many weeks’ notice to resign? Typically, if you want to know how to resign gracefully, it’s important to give at least two weeks’ notice. That said, in some industries your employer may require more time to find a suitable replacement. This is often the case if you have a specialized position. 

Sometimes staying at your job a few extra weeks to smooth the transition is advisable, especially if you want to know how to resign on good terms and how to get good references in the process. If you have another job lined up, check in to see if your start date is flexible. You want to leave your current position as smoothly as possible, but not at the expense of inconveniencing your new employer. Review your company’s official resignation policies to help you best plan this transition. 

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes you will need to know how to resign from a job immediately — whether due to a family emergency, a toxic work environment, an illness, etc. If this is the case, there are still ways to leave your job on a positive note and ensure that you will receive a positive work reference in the future. 

Schedule a free consultation

Contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your college counseling or career coaching needs.

5 steps to take when resigning from your job

It’s important to follow the appropriate steps when resigning from your job. This will help ensure that you leave your company on good terms with management and your coworkers. You never know when you might encounter your coworkers again in a future employment opportunity. This is why it’s important to remain positive and professional when you resign from your position. 

If you are planning to resign from your current position, follow these 5 steps to help smooth the transition and foster goodwill. 


Research your company’s resignation policies.

Conduct necessary research before you talk to anyone at your company about leaving your job. Offering two weeks’ notice is a common courtesy for most jobs, but, depending on your industry and specific position, you may need to offer more notice.

Alternatively, some jobs may require you to leave immediately upon offering your resignation. If this is the case, it’s important to plan ahead by saving any necessary computer files and giving yourself time to pack up your office. 

It’s also important to know that companies are not required to schedule you for your last two weeks once you offer your resignation. This can be an important financial consideration as you move forward.

You will also want to find out other official policies related to resigning, such as whether by leaving you will forfeit any of the following: upcoming bonuses, severance pay, holiday entitlements, insurance benefits, retirement accounts, and company stock contributions. 


Schedule a meeting with your manager.

It’s always best to resign in person. Schedule a meeting with your manager. Keep your request to meet general. (There’s no need to tell them you are resigning before the meeting). Just make sure they put you on their schedule.


Briefly state your reasons for resigning.

Plan out what you are going to say beforehand. Do your best to stay positive while briefly stating your reasons for resigning. This is not a time to air grievances. If you would like to offer constructive feedback, however, do your best to remain positive (or at least neutral). 

During your meeting, it’s important to thank your manager for their time and for the opportunity to work with them. Briefly discuss some positive experiences you had while at the company. Then clearly state when your last day will be. 


Write and send an official letter of resignation.

Are resignation letters necessary? In short, yes. Write a brief, professional letter stating your resignation. Sign and date this letter and clearly state your last day. Send a copy to your manager, HR, and keep a copy for yourself. 


Complete your exit interview.

Depending on your company, you may be asked to complete an exit interview. It’s important to note that what you say during this meeting will be recorded and kept on file. That said, do your best to remain diplomatic. If you had a negative experience at this company, don’t feel like you have to lie. You do, however, always want to remain professional. Your exit interview and your letter of resignation will often be the first documents that your new employer will access. 

5 tips for resigning from your job

Now that you know the proper steps for offering your resignation, let’s look at some tips to help you best navigate this process.


Maintain your work ethic and meet deadlines.

If you want to secure a good work reference after leaving, it’s important not to slack off during your last few weeks. Maintain your work ethic and continue to meet deadlines. You want your boss to remember you as an efficient and competent worker. 

Leave on a high note by working hard to wrap up any loose ends. You may even choose to leave a personal email where you can be reached with any questions — although this certainly is not necessary. 


If possible, resign in person.

If possible, always resign in person. Knowing how to resign verbally is fairly straightforward. Be brief, clear, and kind. Then follow up with an email or a printed-out version of your letter of resignation. If you need to know how to resign in person, these are the best steps to take. 

That said, remote workers will need to know how to resign when working from home, i.e. how to resign over the phone or how to resign over email. The same concepts apply. Be brief and kind. Specify your last day clearly. 


Remain positive.

Do your best to always remain positive and professional. If you don’t have positive things to say about your company, keep your comments brief and general. Again, this is not the time to rant or air grievances. 


Send thank you notes.

Sending thank you notes to your manager and team members can be a nice touch. It will also help ensure that you leave on a positive note and that people remember you well. 


Don’t speak negatively to your co-workers.

Don’t gossip with your coworkers. Keep your reasons for leaving consistent. Tell your coworkers what you told management. This will help keep your reputation intact. 

How to resign when going to a competitor

Depending on your professional goals, you may decide to work for a competitor. If this is the case, you may receive a counteroffer from your current employer, especially if you are a competent worker. Keep this in mind as you bring up the topic of your resignation. 

If you are intent on leaving your current position, tell your manager that you have accepted another job offer and tell them when your last day will be. If, however, there is a possibility that you may want to stay with your current company, tell your manager that you received (not accepted) another job offer, then gauge their reaction. They may discuss the possibility of a counteroffer or they may wish you luck at your next job. Be prepared for either.

Receiving a new job offer can be exciting. Especially if it comes with a higher salary and more benefits. If you receive a counteroffer, however, staying may be worth considering. Reflect on your options carefully before moving forward. Depending on your situation, you may even consider consulting a career counselor.

Key takeaways and moving forward

As you continue your career, you may find yourself wondering who makes a good reference for a job or how to ask for a work reference. Generally, former managers make the best work references. This is why it is important to do your best to leave on good terms by being kind and considerate. 

If you leave your current position with a new job offer, congratulations! If not, your next steps will include preparing a cover letter and practicing your interview skills. Regardless of where you are in your career, if you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance, reach out to learn more about our services