So you got offered your dream job, got accepted to graduate school or decided to take some time off to travel the world. The first thing you have to do? Resign from your current job.

Although deciding to resign from a job is a big decision and might involve some uncomfortable moments, it doesn't have to be a negative situation. You don't want to burn bridges, as you never know when you'll need a reference, want to work with your company as a consultant, discover a mutual friend or industry contact, or bump into a former colleague in a professional or social situation.

Read on for more information on how to resign from a job gracefully, allowing you to move forward with a positive relationship.

Resignation Letter

Things You Will Need

Employee handbook
Offer letter

Step 1

Make your decision – alone. When deciding whether or not to resign from a job, don't discuss the decision-making process with your colleagues or supervisor unless you are prepared to have to address them immediately. You don't want to rumor mill to start circulating gossip unless you can deal with the consequences.

Step 2

Be prepared and know your rights. Take the time to look through any materials that have been given to you on behalf of your company's human resources department including an employee handbook, manual and your original employment contract. Check to see if there are policies on the minimum amount of notice that you must give, severance, use of company property, references, healthcare and other benefit transfers, and unused vacation time. Also, if you're leaving for another job, make sure you have the terms in writing.

Step 3

Use your benefits wisely. If you know you'll lose your vacation time when you resign your position, use as many days as you can before your last day. However, be careful not to create an unprofessional atmosphere. You don't want to be the person who comes back from a two-week Caribbean cruise to announce that they will be leaving in two weeks. Find a balance between using your benefits and taking advantage.

Step 4

Talk to your boss. Make an appointment – springing it on them might incite a negative reaction – and have a verbal statement prepared before going in. Be honest about your reasons for leaving, and share information on what could be improved if they ask, tactfully. Don't complain. You should also prepare a proper resignation letter, making copies for yourself and human resources, to leave with your boss at the end of the discussion.

Step 5

Give enough notice. You'll know from your employee handbook if there is a minimum amount of time, but two weeks is considered an acceptable amount of time. If you've been at the company more than five years or have recently taken on a new client or role, consider giving more than the standard two weeks. Be prepared, however, to have to leave right away. Some companies will escort you out immediately.

Step 6

Consider a counteroffer ahead of time. Would you be interested in staying at your company if they gave you a raise? What about if they doubled your salary? Decide at what point you would stay at your current job and at what point you would still resign and stick with it. If you need time to consider a counteroffer, ask how much time they need and have an answer prepared at that time. If you're not interested in any counteroffer, make it clear that your decision is final.
When you decide to resign from a job, it doesn't have to be hard for you or your employer. Let your company know you want to make a smooth transition, and execute it. Do your best to close out any open projects you have, create a status report for any that will remain open, and train your successor if you have access to them. Remain positive and upbeat as you move towards your final days to build bridges with colleagues that will become future contacts.

Tips & Warnings