How to Resign from a Job (Step-By-Step Process)

By Mike Simpson

Figuring how to resign from a job is a must. Today, practically no one spends their entire career with a single employer simply moving up the chain. Instead, most professionals actually end up in 12+ jobs over the course of a lifetime.

Resigning is actually very common in the workforce, too. During just a single month (August 2019), nearly 4.5 million people left their positions. That was about 3 percent of the workforce. Wow, right?

That means resigning from a job is kind of a normal part of life. And that means you don’t near to be afraid of it.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to tender your resignation right. By knowing how to resign with grace and dignity, you can cement your reputation as the consummate professional, keep career doors open, and more.

So, if resigning from a job is part of your future, and you want to make sure you tackle it properly, we’ve got your back. Here’s what you need to know.

What Does Resign Mean?

Before we dig in too deep on how to resign from a job, let’s pause for a moment and look at some important questions; What does resign mean, anyway? Isn’t resigning the same as quitting?

It’s true that many people use the terms “quit” and “resign” interchangeably. And, yes, the two concepts do have a ton in common. In the end, whether you quit or resign, you are voluntarily ending your employment with a company.

However, “quit” and “resign” are also a little different. Generally, “quit” is just a bit more informal, while “resign” leans formal.

According to Merriam-Webster, resign can mean “to renounce by a formal act.” Quit, on the other hand, simply means “give up,” according to that dictionary.

Sure, it’s a little nit-picky. But the thing is, each can have a unique place. Typically, if you decide to stroll into your manager’s office and shout that you’re leaving immediately, you’re “quitting.” If you go a more traditional route, providing two weeks’ notice in writing, going through HR exit procedures, and the like, you’re seen as “resigning.”

Yes, you could say that’s splitting hairs. But it is a difference, nonetheless.

Additionally, “resign” and “quit” may be viewed differently. If you tell someone that you just quit a job, it can come across as a little defiant or rash, even if your reasoning actually makes complete sense. If you say that you resigned, it can seem a bit more somber and metered.

We’ve actually covered how to quit your job in-depth before, and you’ll likely see some similarities to that process here. But it is important to understand that, while the terms and approaches have a lot in common, how they are viewed by others can vary.

Are You Sure You Want to Resign?

Okay, here’s another critical point we need to cover. Before you officially resign, pause for a moment. Really reflect on that decision, and ask yourself a few questions.

What should you ask? Well, first, try, “Am I leaving for the right reasons?” You really want to understand what is spurring your decision, as well as if resigning is the best solution.

Hey, we all have bad workdays from time to time, and we can all get frustrated, angry, or upset. We may *think* that resigning is the best way to get away from something that’s making us unhappy. But should you make that decision while you’re in the midst of an emotional moment? Usually not.

If you do, you may be overlooking potential solutions that can fix the issue that’s prompt you to resign. You may be walking away when what you should be doing is reaching out for help or support, a move that you could come to regret.

Now, if the reason you’re leaving is a long-term problem and all attempts to find a solution have fallen flat, you may not be in that boat. And that’s okay. What’s important is really looking at the situation and making sure that leaving is the best choice, not just a fast one.

But you don’t want to stop there. You also need to make sure that you’ll be okay if you do resign. Remember, when you leave a job voluntarily, you may not be eligible for unemployment. And, if you don’t have a new job lined up already, that means you need to have another way to support yourself, like money in savings or another income source for your household.

It’s also crucial to realize that your benefits may go away when you resign, too. If you’re using company-provided health insurance, for example, that may go away after your last day.

Spend a little time reflecting before you officially resign. That way, you can make sure it’s legitimately the right move before it’s too late. After all, once you give formal notice, you may not be able to take it back.

Step-by-Step Method for Resigning from a Job

Before you tender your resignation, you want to make sure you’re approaching the situation properly. By using the right process, you increase your odds of leaving on good terms and without encountering any undue surprises.

If you’re trying to figure out how to resign from a job, here’s a step-by-step guide that can help.

Get Your Ducks in a Row

Once you know that you’re leaving for the right reasons, you may be tempted to write that resignation letter and get on with it. Don’t.

Instead, spend a little time making sure your ducks are in a row. What that involves depends on why you’re leaving. For example, if you accepted a new position elsewhere, then you want to get a formal offer in hand that has an official start date. It’s also smart to finalize any details for your new position now, particularly if any aspect of your new employment is up in the air.

If you’re shifting away from a bad situation, then you might need to review your finances to make sure you can cover a gap in employment. It’s better to handle this planning before you leave your job so that you know you’ll be alright.

Create a Transition Plan

Yes, there’s another step you need to take before resigning from a job. By sitting down and creating a transition plan, you can make sure that you’re an asset until your very last day.

Typically, every professional has duties that need covering when they leave. If you outline a plan for handling those over, you can make sure you don’t leave your soon-to-be-former coworkers in the lurch.

Now, your transition plan might get overridden by your manager, and that’s okay. By having one ready, you’re demonstrating that you’re a professional, even when tendering your resignation.

Write Your Formal Resignation Letter

Writing your formal resignation letter can take a little time. You want to make sure that you come across as polite and even grateful for the opportunity this company provided you.

Not sure how to get started? No worries. We’ll give you a rundown here in a minute.

Print Your Letter of Resignation

While it might seem a little old-school, printing your letter of resignation is a good idea. In fact, you may want to print a couple of copies, as well as have a digital one ready for emailing. That allows you to provide a paper copy to your manager, as well as the human resources office. But, if they prefer email copies, you’ll be able to send one right away, too.

You may also want to print a copy of your transition plan, depending on how formal or in-depth it is. That way, you can reference the print out when you speak with your manager, as well as give them a copy.

Have a Meeting with Your Manager

Ideally, your manager should be the first person you tell. They’ll have to make sure your duties are covered, for one. For another, your manager shouldn’t end up hearing that you’re leaving from someone else; that won’t reflect well on you.

Schedule a meeting with your manager instead of dropping by. That ensures your conversation remains private while also guaranteeing that you aren’t catching them at an inopportune moment.

Give the News Properly

When you’re meeting begins, be straightforward but kind. There’s a good chance your manager is going to be caught off-guard, so you want to focus on being polite. However, clarity is also a must. Make sure that there’s no doubt about your intention to leave.

State that you’re resigning tactfully. You may want to open by expressing your appreciation for all that they’ve done for you and then pivot to let them know you are officially tendering your resignation while handing over the letter.

You should also share when your last day will be. Additionally, let your manager know that you want to make the transition as smooth as possible. You can mention that you’ve created an initial plan and that you’re happy to work with them to ensure things go easily.

MIKE'S TIP: At this moment, you are at risk of being let go. There’s a chance your manager will just tell you to leave now. If that’s the case, do so gracefully. Shake their hand and prepare to exit. As you do, you can speak with your coworkers briefly about your exit, but avoid badmouthing the company or your manager. Instead, let them know that you resigned, express your appreciation for them, and ask for their contact information. Then, pack up your stuff and head for the door.

Be Ready for Questions

There’s a good chance your manager will have some questions. They may want to know why you’re resigning, for one. If they do ask, give them a brief but honest answer, like your desire to pursue other opportunities or take your career in a new direction. You aren’t required to share more, so don’t feel obliged even if they press.

Your manager may also start asking questions about your current responsibilities or projects that are in the works. If that’s the case, be as open and thorough as possible. Remember, you want to ease the transition, so share any detail that can help there.

Follow Any Other Resignation Notification Procedures

For some, handing a resignation letter to your manager may be enough to start your exit process. However, some companies may require more. You might need to send your resignation letter to HR or notify another member of the leadership team, for example.

Usually, those procedures will be in the employee handbook. If you can’t find anything specific, you can ask your manager about next steps during your meeting. If they aren’t certain, contact HR for guidance.

Assist with the Transition

With the notifications in the proper hands, it’s time to focus on the transition. Assist your colleagues as much as you can. At the same time, begin removing your personal items from the workplace and schedule turn-ins for any company-provided equipment.

During this phase, you can also start informing others. You might want to speak with your coworkers before you begin packing, ensuring they hear the news from you.

Request to Stay in Touch (and Ask for References)

As your last day draws near, it’s time to start networking. Ask your colleagues if they would be open to connecting on LinkedIn. You can also request LinkedIn recommendations (as well as offer to write some for them), as well as professional letters of reference.

Exit Gracefully

Once you’re getting ready to leave on your last day, exit gracefully. Express your appreciation to your manager and coworkers and offer well wishes. Make sure everything you need to turn in is handled and that your workspace is clean and ready for the next employee.

By having poise and professionalism, your final impression in that workplace will be a positive one. And, in the end, it’s always best to leave on a high note.

Common Mistakes People Make When Resigning from a Job and How to Avoid Them

While resigning from a job is always tough, certain mistakes can make a challenging situation much harder. That’s why it’s important to avoid as many missteps as possible.

One of the biggest ones is not giving enough notice. If you’re offering less than two weeks (or less than what’s listed as required in the employee handbook), you’re putting your employer in a tough spot, not unlike if you quit without any notice. That isn’t going to win you any friends, so make sure you are providing a reasonable amount of notice whenever possible.

Another mistake is talking to anyone else before informing your boss. Your manager shouldn’t hear about your resignation through the grapevine. That’s just bad form. Make sure your boss is the first person you talk to at work, period.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to your colleagues, just that you should wait until after your manager knows. Once you’ve had that meeting, it’s smart to spend time saying goodbye and expressing your appreciation to everyone. That keeps those connections strong, even as you move on to something new.

Finally, resist the urge to be negative, even if the situation you’re leaving is horrible. Badmouthing makes you look bad, regardless of whether your complaints are justified. It’s always better to focus on the positive when you talk about the company, ensuring your reputation stays intact.

How to Write a Resignation Letter

We’ve actually done a deep dive into how to write a resignation letter before, but here’s a quick overview.

First, make sure you maintain a professional and polite tone. Being cordial gives you a chance to leave on a positive note and could increase the odds that the company will allow you to finish out your two weeks and not just ask you to hit the road immediately.

Second, be definitive. Ambiguity isn’t your friend here. Make sure you explicitly state that you are resigning from your position and when you want your last day to be. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to state your exact job title, position number, manager’s name, and department, just to make sure that whoever reads your letter knows exactly who you are.

After that, be pleasant when you prepare to sign off. You can thank the company for the experience or otherwise express your appreciation. Just make sure you’re genuine when you do.

Once that’s done, sign off with your name, phone number, and email address.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, figuring out how to resign from a job doesn’t have to be a challenge. By taking advantage of all of the tips above, you can handle the situation with poise and professionalism. That way, you won’t have to worry about burning bridges or making the situation harder on anyone than it has to be. Instead, you can be part of a successful transition while ensuring your reputation remains pristine.

Good luck!

About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.