How To Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Leave on good terms.

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Steven McConnell
3 min read

April 1, 2021

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You may not think of resigning from your job as an exercise in personal branding. However, your approach to quitting a job communicates a lot about your professional character – and is likely to have career repercussions down the line.

I highly recommend that – regardless of whether your time with the employer was positive or not – you leave on the best terms possible.

I’m here to show you how to quit your job without burning any bridges. Resignation is an awkward and delicate process at the best of times, so I’m hoping that this article will help you focus on the next stage of your career, faster.

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1. Tell Your Boss First.

You may think that the process of quitting your job begins with you writing your resignation letter.

In fact, it is best to leave that until after you have spoken to your boss. The conversation will flesh out details that you’ll both need to agree on, such as your last day and a transition plan.

Making your boss aware as step one is the most respectful way to quit your job.

Ideally, remove the element of surprise by sending an email prior to the meeting. In that email, simply state that you’d like to discuss the future.

Avoid the temptation to tell your colleagues first, as news travels fast in an office, and it’s not unlikely that your boss will hear the news of your departure from someone else.

This is also the time and place to have an ‘off-the-record’ discussion regarding your motives for leaving. Keep the tone professional and avoid being overly critical.

If you do have concerns regarding your experience with the company, save it for the exit interview with HR. Even then, focus on providing feedback in a constructive manner.

2. Write Your Resignation Letter.

Your resignation letter goes on record, so make it professional. This is not an opportunity to complain. Focus on the facts and keep the tone positive.

Aside from the basics like the date, your boss’ full name and job title, your letter must include the following things:

  • your intention to resign,
  • your last day,
  • the transition plan
  • a thank you.

Also, don’t forget to sign it!

If you feel the need, you can also include any positive impressions of your time with the company – whether it relates to working with your team or the company culture.

It is also a good idea to thank your manager personally for the opportunity. Finally, mention any mentors you may have had.

Importantly, you do not need to include your reasons for leaving or where you’re going. (You will probably be asked those questions by HR, but you don’t need to include the details in your resignation letter.

3. Tell Your Colleagues.

Many of us form close relationships with our teams and colleagues.

Ideally, you should inform them of your decision face-to-face. If you’re really pressed for time, or the political landscape doesn’t allow you the opportunity to roam the office floors, you can send a goodbye email; it is an accepted way of acknowledging the time you’ve spent working alongside your colleagues.

When sending the email, include a personal email address they can reach you on – but only if you’d like to keep in touch. Finally, take the time to personally thank colleagues or leaders who have contributed to your professional growth.

4. Don’t Close The Door To The Future.

As a general rule, even if you’re leaving a bad situation, avoid writing your resignation letter if you are angry or upset. An official document is not the place to vent your frustrations with the company, the role or other people.

If you do decide to ‘go out with a bang’, there’s no guarantee news won’t travel along the grapevine, particularly within your own network.

Just because you’re leaving doesn’t mean you won’t encounter your colleagues again down the line. By keeping your conduct professional, you keep the door open for future opportunities.

5. Get Your Ducks In A Row.

Quitting your old job means, by extension, looking for a new one.

Are you fully prepared for your job search? In other words, do you know how to articulate your value? Do you have a solid job search strategy? Have you updated your resume?

Remember that the best opportunities often fall into your lap unexpectedly. Make sure that your professional career marketing documents are ready before you need them.

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