How to Resign From a Job in 9 Steps

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Take a look at the most effective steps to resign from a job while remaining professional, grateful, and open to future opportunities.

[Featured image] A woman talks via video call with her supervisor to resign.

Whether you’re moving on from a job for a new challenge, a new career, or something less positive like a conflict of interest with your employer, resigning can be an exciting or refreshing change. With a good resignation letter and the right approach, how to resign from a job can be as simple as nine steps.

Step 1: Have your next steps planned.

Your resignation should be thoughtfully crafted to bring maximum benefits. Even if you’re in a situation where you are desperate to resign, having a clear action plan in place will help you move on faster in the direction you want than if you quit first and think later.

This means considering the timing of your resignation. Are you in the middle of a project that will be beneficial to finish so you can add it to your resume? Are you making a career change that will require taking time out for training? Can you afford to resign and have a gap in employment? These are questions to consider before planning your next steps towards your resignation.

To minimize any gaps in employment or oversights in upskilling, aim to have a job lined up, interviews secured, a job search plan in place, or a skill-building course in mind. 

Step 2: Prepare your resignation letter.

Once you are certain you are ready to resign, begin writing your resignation letter. Even if you verbally resign, a letter is essential because there needs to be some official documentation. Writing a letter is also a professional approach and respectful to your employer. Follow these steps when thinking about how to write a resignation letter:

a. Include your end date.

To avoid any confusion, include your last day at work. This gives your employer an official date to work towards, it makes your intentions firm and clear, and if it’s in writing, there can be no disputes about you not working through your notice period. With this in mind, check any notice period requirements with your HR department or on your employment contract. A two weeks’ notice may be the standard, but this isn’t always the case. You can inform your employer even earlier as a gesture of goodwill.

b. Thank your employer for the opportunity.

Maintain your professionalism by thanking your employer and showing gratitude. Even if you are struggling to find anything positive to say about your job or employer, you can still express your thanks for the opportunity. If you have had a positive experience, you can give details of what you’ve particularly enjoyed or learned. If you want to express a reason for leaving, this is a good time to do it. However, it’s best not to go into too much detail, as you don’t want to create any negativity that may cause you problems later on. Keep your message concise and maintain a professional tone.

c. Offer assistance with transition and training.

To foster a good partnership with your employer, you can offer assistance with any transition period between you and your successor; proactively offering to help can leave a favorable impression. This may involve helping with interviews, talking the recruit through the role, or offering training.

d. Extend your well-wishes.

Finally, express well-wishes and offer to stay in touch if it’s something you want to do. Make it clear you’re open to any new opportunities in the future if this is the case.

Step 3: Resign in person.

In addition to writing a resignation letter, resigning in person is good practice. This shows professionalism and integrity, and it ensures your letter doesn’t surprise your manager. Resigning in person also lets you avoid any rumors or gossip in the office that may reach your manager.

If your manager works off-site, travels occasionally, or you work remotely, resigning in person might not be an option. In these instances, it is acceptable to pick a different means of resignation along with your letter.

How to resign over the phone

If you can’t resign in person, doing so over the phone is an option, particularly if you’re using a video calling feature. Carefully consider what you’re going to say. Short and to the point is effective while keeping a positive tone and professional manner. Practice and prepare for any questions that might come up.

When to resign from a job by email

Resigning by email is not the recommended option, as it can come across as cold or rude. Resigning in a face-to-face meeting or a call is preferable and provides an opportunity for a more open conversation between you and your employer. Emailing your manager or HR to ask for an appropriate time to call is also an option.

If you have had a bad experience with your employer, or you cannot face them in person for any reason, you could choose to email them. Write your email exactly as you would your resignation letter so that it’s an official proof of your resignation. You can also consider attaching a PDF version of a signed resignation letter to the email.

Step 4: Give adequate notice, but be prepared to leave right away.

You should know your notice period and aim to meet those requirements. However, some employers may prefer to terminate your contract immediately and are within their rights to do so. This is common in industries where contacts, files, and ideas are easily moved to a new company. Your employer will want to avoid this from happening by limiting your time in the office accepting your resignation.

Step 5: Make a transition plan.

Along with offering to support a new employee with their transition, prepare a transition plan for yourself. This is a way to ensure your work and legacy continue. Making a transition plan also shows you have a professional attitude and dedication to your work. This is the sort of effort that keeps the resignation positive and allows for future communication if any other opportunities were to come up.

A transition plan includes outlining duties and responsibilities in detail so the new employee knows what’s expected of them in their new role. You’ll also detail any ongoing projects or unfinished projects so they can pick up where you left off. You may also include a list of useful contacts and significant dates the new employee might need to know.

Step 6: Save your personal files.

When leaving a job, you’ll want to bring all your personal belongings with you—or personal files—and make sure you don’t take any company property. These might include things you’ve worked on that you plan on using in a portfolio. You can also consider organizing files that belong to the company in a way that is easy for your successor to use, and consider any data protection policies that prevent you from taking the wrong information.

Step 7: Ask for a recommendation.

Another reason for maintaining a professional attitude throughout the resignation process is that you might want to ask your employer for a recommendation. It helps to foster goodwill before asking for this favor. When asking for a formal recommendation, plan to ask someone who is familiar with your work. Be clear about when you need the letter and what skills or experience you want them to vouch for in the text.

Step 8: Prepare for an exit interview.

When you hand in your resignation, your employer may ask you to take part in an exit interview. These interviews are an opportunity to give any feedback you feel is important, as well as show your gratitude to your employer. Expect questions such as, “What are some reasons you've decided to leave?” and “What did you like about working here?”

Step 9: Say farewell to your coworkers.

Once you have notified your employer of your intention to leave, you can finally tell colleagues. Make sure your boss receives this news first; otherwise, they might find out about your impending resignation from a secondary source, such as a coworker.

You might choose to say goodbye in person to coworkers you see frequently. You can use email to contact coworkers you see less often or who work in a different area. Keeping in touch with coworkers is useful for future networking. 

What's next?

An important part of resigning from your job includes having a plan for your next steps before you give notice. Think about boosting your skills for your next role by getting a Professional Certificate on Coursera to help you become job-ready in an area of your choice.

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