It’s rare for anyone to have a job for life these days. So at some point, most people resign from a job, whether it’s because they’ve landed a new job, they’re embarking on a completely new career or they’ve decided to take a career break.

Whatever the reason, resigning can be stressful. Even if you can’t stand your boss and have fantasised about the day you can make your escape for years, handing in your resignation can cause a lot of anxiety.

To make the process go more smoothly, here are a few dos and don’ts of handing in your resignation:

Do write a formal letter

As soon as the ink on your new job proposal is dry, it’s time to draft your resignation letter. At the very least this should include the current date, the position you’re resigning from, the notice period stated in your contract and the date of your last day.

Keep your letter short and sweet, and be gracious – even if you don’t feel like it – by offering your thanks for the opportunities you were given during your time in that position. It’s not a good idea to go into detail about why you’re leaving, especially if you’ve been unhappy there. If you feel you have to say something, you could mention that you’re leaving to pursue a new challenge rather than point out any grievances you may have with the company. Print the letter out; don’t send it to your employer in an email.

Don’t let your employer be the last one to know

Once you’ve produced your resignation letter, tell your boss about your decision before anyone else. It may be tempting to share your news with your colleagues – especially if you’re leaving to start the job of your dreams – but your employer won’t be impressed if everyone knows about your move before they do. And that may not put them in a good frame of mind when it comes to writing your reference.

Pick your moment to deliver the news carefully. Try to avoid stressful times, such as moments before an important meeting or first thing on a Monday morning. If you need to, ask your employer for a quick meeting.

Do get straight to the point

When you’re face to face with your employer, inform them immediately that you want to offer your resignation, and hand over your letter. If your news is no surprise, the meeting may be a short one. But if your employer had no idea you were looking to leave, they may want to discuss your reasons with you.

If this happens, try to be as tactful as possible, even if you’re leaving on bad terms. If you feel you really must offer criticism, try to make it constructive. Better still, stick to the facts – your new job may have a better salary, better prospects, better training opportunities etc. On the other hand, if you don’t want to give your reasons for resigning, you don’t have to.

Don’t refuse to work your notice

Details of your notice period should be in your original employment contract. If you don’t have a formal notice period, it’s normal to allow between 2 weeks and a month. However long your notice period is, you are legally obliged to work it – unless of course your employer agrees to waive it.

If working your full notice period means you won’t be able to start your new job on the expected date, check your holiday entitlement to see if you have any outstanding holidays you could use to leave your job earlier (do this before you hand in your resignation).

Meanwhile, if you’re leaving your job to work for a rival company, your employer may insist that you clear your desk immediately. So before you hand in your notice, decide whether or not this could happen – and if so, make sure any loose ends and personal effects are tied up beforehand.

Do remain professional throughout your notice

It’s never easy to give a job you’re leaving 100% of your attention. But how you conduct yourself through your notice period is important. If it’s obvious that you’ve stopped making an effort, your employer could refuse to give you a reference – and if your new job is reliant on your providing a reference from your last employer, your new job offer could be retracted.

Don’t leave co-workers in the lurch

When working through your notice, make sure any colleagues who will take over your workload when you leave are up to speed with the things they need to know to make the handover process a smooth one. If you can’t tie up all loose ends before your leaving day, make those who need to know aware of what has to be done.

Unless you’re leaving to embark on a completely new career, it’s quite possible that you’ll be working with one or more of your current co-workers – or even your boss – at some point in the future. So make sure you’re missed, not resented, when you move on.

Thinking of quitting but don’t have a new job lined up? First, give it some more thought – is there something else you could do besides hand in your notice? Our online help and guides section is full of information that may prove useful, including How to ask for a pay rise, Is it time to change your job?, How to ask for flexible working and Ways to boost your workplace happiness.

Or why not try one of our career development services to help you come up with a positive career plan? Remember, you’re not alone – we’re here to help if you’re facing difficulties at work.

For advice and information call +44 (0) 1788 556 366 or chat to an advisor online 24 hours a day.

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