How to Resign Without Burning Bridges

Leaving a job can be a tricky journey, but it can also be very exciting! You’re about to start a new chapter of your life and you want to handle it as gracefully and respectfully as possible. Some might say it’s almost easier to get fired. Of course, no one wants to get fired, and that can be very painful, but the process is laid out for you. All you need to do is follow it, happily or not. But when you decide to resign, for whatever reason, then things get a bit more complicated, but it doesn’t need to be!

Whether you live in New York City or Buford, Wyoming, the world is small, and everyone seems to know everyone. The last thing you want to do is burn bridges or leave your past employer with a bad taste in their mouth. If you leave with a wake of negative feelings behind you, that experience might come back to haunt you. Whether your job was a great learning experience, or a black spot on your resume, leaving that position with class, grace and respect is the proper course of action.

Easier said than done? Even if you have the best intentions, it’s possible you’ll step on some toes on your way out the door. So, what can you do to exit without drama? Here are some pointers on how to leave our job professionally.

Find the Right Time

Pick your moment. You never want to leave your team or your staff in a position where they’re scrambling. That being said, timing is everything! It’s always best to leave with a clean desk, with all of your projects completed. This isn’t always an option, but when possible, try to wrap up and unfinished tasks as best you can.

Tell Your Manager/Boss First

Offices are like small communities and discretion is key. The worst thing you can do is tell a friend at work that you landed a great new job, and then the word makes its way to your superior. Be honest and direct, and most importantly, have the decency to tell your boss first, whether that the CEO or member of the board.

Help Place Your Replacement

When I started my current position, I was lucky enough to overlap with the person I was replacing. She left to go back to school and wanted to make sure I was settled before leaving. She created a whole folder of transition documents, a spread sheet of passwords, and a folder with all our branding. This made my life! If you are able, and your boss encourages this, spend the time you have left tying up loose ends. Then create a document that outlines your job responsibilities and notes that might make life a little easier for your replacement. Yes, it’s a bit more work, but this bit of effort could help you leave on good terms

Make Sure You’ve Got the Job

Don’t put the cart before the horse! You can be as classy, graceful and respectful as ever when preparing to leave your job, only to discover that the new contract wasn’t signed, or you background check hasn’t been completed yet. Before you tell your boss or begin the process of leaving your job, make sure you have that new job offer in hand, with all the I’s dotted and t’s crossed.

Write a Resignation Letter

Tell your boss first, as noted above, but don’t wing it. Even if you have a good relationship with your manager and your team, it’s best to exit in a formal manner.  A letter of resignation is a good way to make the announcement. You can hand it over personally, and then talk with your boss. Crafting the letter also gives you an opportunity to create the right story to explain your departure.

Stay in Touch

Never stop networking! You never know who your new boss is friends with, who your new co-workers went to school with, or who you might need to write you a letter of reference someday. Don’t burn bridges because you might have to cross them again. Stay in contact with your old boss and coworkers. If you liked them, great! But even if you weren’t close friends, that networking could help you later. Don’t forget to update your social media once you start the new job, so people can stay in touch with you.

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