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Resignation Do's and Don'ts
(How to Resign Your Job with Class)

Shortly after you hand in your letter of resignation, a security guard, an HR rep or your boss might politely―or not so politely―escort you out the door. That's typical, particularly at large companies. On the other hand, your company might ask you to stay and work through your notice period. Either way, you might be watched closely in your final hours.

Because last impressions are often more powerful than first, it's a good idea to do all you can to be remembered as a professional and keep your references intact. During reference and background checks, potential employers might contact your former employers as far back as ten years or more.

Below are "do's and don'ts" to avoid burning your bridges, before and after you hand in your letter of resignation. For related and supplemental topics, including resignation letter samples that you may download or copy for free, just click the links within the text below. Several are from our other site,; those open new browser windows when you click the links.

Resignation Do's

Do Prepare to Resign. So there's no question about what belongs to you or the company, compile your portfolio, take personal property home, and remove personal files and software from your office computer before you resign. Of course, don't remove anything from your office computer that your job requires you to keep.

Important! For security, clear passwords that you've allowed your office Web browser to store. Additionally, if you have visited Web sites that you shouldn't have per company policy, cover your tracks by deleting your entire browsing history, such as favorites (bookmarks), temporary Internet files, cookies and sites visited. For assistance, see the Help section in your office Web browser.

Because you might get locked out of the building and computer network soon after quitting, you might not a get a chance to do all of that. Worse, it might look just a tad suspicious if you wait until after you resign to remove stuff from your office, especially from your computer and file cabinet.

Also review your company's policy manual so that you are familiar with the terms and conditions of resigning and all that goes with it, such as severance pay, final pay, returning company property and the minimum resignation notice required. If you violate company policy when resigning, not only might you burn a bridge, but you might also deprive yourself of termination benefits not required by law, such as accrued sick pay.

Do Give Ample and Proper Resignation Notice. The minimum resignation notice that U.S. employers typically require is two weeks and they usually want it in writing as an "official" resignation letter. Again, check your company's policy manual to make sure it's the traditional two weeks notice; some companies require more, especially for mission-critical jobs.

If you're leaving at a particularly vulnerable time for your company or if you work a mission-critical job, then consider giving up to double the minimum notice. But, if you've got to go, that's certainly generous enough. Don't jeopardize your new job or let your current employer exploit you.

Do Offer to Help. Consider offering to:

  • Assist in finding and interviewing your replacement
  • Help out until your replacement is hired
  • Break in your replacement

But don't make promises that you can't keep and again, don't let your current employer exploit you.

Do Ask for Recommendation Letters. If they're not too ticked off that you quit your job, ask bosses, coworkers and direct-reports for recommendation (reference) letters, while they can still recall your finer points. Even if you've already landed a new job, look further down the road. It doesn't hurt to keep recommendation letters on file for later use. They have several advantages, the biggest of which is that you'll already know what your references will say about you if asked.

Not everybody knows how to write effective recommendation letters or might draw a complete blank when you ask; so, it's a good idea to offer samples and examples. They might be glad that you did and it will also give you at least some control over the quality. One mediocre or poorly-written recommendation letter is all it takes to lose a job opportunity.

Do Say Good-Bye. Take the time to talk with each of your bosses, coworkers and direct-reports. This is especially important to squelch ugly watercooler rumors, such as you hated your job or were forced to resign. But keep it positive and light, while choosing your words carefully. If asked why you're leaving, make general statements such as "It's a career opportunity I just can't pass up." (However, it might not be a good idea to document such statements in your resignation letter.)

Avoid expressing too much regret, as you might appear to be insincere depending on your reason for resigning. (Why would you have submitted your resignation if you truly regretted it?) Instead, express your gratitude and say that you'll miss working with them. If appropriate, distribute thank-you cards, notes or emails, but keep them simple.

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