Don't Burn Any Bridges: 5 Ways To (Respectfully) Quit Your Job

It’s borderline infuriating how many young professionals don’t know how to resign from a professional engagement.

It ranges from those who quit before officially receiving a written offer from their new employers to the ones who think it’s appropriate to give notice over email.

If you’re one of these people, there is hope for you yet. In previous posts, we’ve helped you identify when it’s time to move on and have even given you job-hunting tips.

Now, we’re here to talk you through how to actually quit your job.

Here we go:

1. Officially sign your new offer letter and agree on a start date.

This step, of course, assumes you’re leaving your current gig for a new one.

You should never rely solely on an oral offer. Make sure you’ve passed the background check and your references gave you glowing recommendations before even hinting you’re about to jump ship.

Once you’ve received a formal offer, take the time you need to negotiate your desired salary and benefits package. Then, ensure you get it all in writing, including your start date.

2. Get your affairs in order.

Resignation policies can differ wildly by industry and employer. In general, two weeks notice is appropriate, but take note of your company’s standing practice and think back to how other departures were handled.

In some cases, often when sensitive information is in play, employers can and will insist you leave the premises immediately.

Preparing for the latter is always the safe bet. It may be unlikely, but it’s best to cover yourself.

Before you officially tell your boss you’re out, remove your personal information from your work computer.

This includes browser history and that picture of your dog you have set as your wallpaper. Have a work-issued cell phone? Now is the time to get your own.

In fact, now is the time to take inventory of all workplace-issued items to make sure they are in good working condition and ready to be handed over.

Consider conspicuously cleaning up your workspace and desk drawers before handing in your notice.

Though, keep in mind, bringing home family photos that have been on display might raise eyebrows, so I stress the word "conspicuously."

Professional work samples might be important for your career path. Every company has different policies concerning who is allowed to walk away with what, so use your best judgment.

Remember: Before you resign is the time to collect this collateral.

3. Tell your boss.

I reiterate: The number of people who think it is acceptable to resign with a well-written email shocks me.

Though technology has transformed the way we communicate with one another, trust me when I say there are still scenarios where the only appropriate form of interaction is in person. (Hint: Resigning from your job is one of them!)

Always afford your supervisor the courtesy of a face-to-face discussion and always schedule it; this isn’t the type of conversation you have on the fly. Book at least 30 minutes for a “touch base.”

Mentally note the things you’d like to say before you sit down. There is no need to drag it out or get emotional. Let your boss know you’re grateful for the experience, but you’ve accepted a new opportunity elsewhere.

Discuss your proposed last day and get another meeting on the calendar to specifically outline the transition process.

A note from my experience: Don’t burn bridges. Even if your boss, your colleagues or your job was the bane of your existence, express nothing but gratitude during this discussion and go out on a high note.

This is also good advice for life, in general, as you never know whom you’ll run into down the road.

Immediately after telling your boss, provide him or her with a written resignation letter. Many employers will ask you to print and sign a formal letter.

Others prefer you provide a digital copy. In either case, make sure you clearly state your date of departure and keep a copy for your records.

Before leaving this meeting, inquire about how your colleagues will be informed and when. This will be important information for embarking on steps four and five.

4. Plan your transition and wrap up what you can.

Do your successor a favor and get your workload ready for handoff. Organize your files and make intuitive lists.

If you have password-protected folders, make note of the login information. Really, just make note of everything.

Make one master list of all your open projects and where you stand with each, including any relevant contact information for those you’re collaborating with.

In some cases, your replacement — temporary or otherwise — might already be on staff and made available to you. If this is the case, make yourself available to him or her.

Let him or her shadow you, rapid-fire question you, just stare at you for hours on end or whatever else makes the transition manageable for him or her.

Do yourself a favor and don’t take on new projects during your transition, even if you think you can get them in before the bell.

Focus on wrapping up what’s on your plate and enjoy the slowing pace.

5. Say goodbye.

Old songs tell you saying goodbye is the hardest part, but I disagree. I’ve left jobs I didn’t want to leave — jobs I loved — and even those goodbyes weren’t difficult.

At the end of the day, you’re (presumably) leaving for something that trumps the status quo. Remember that.

Again, different companies have different policies on announcing departures. Take note of common practices.

When you know it’s safe to talk about your leaving, start saying goodbye to your work friends.

Schedule lunches, offer to be references for the ones you liked and give your personal contact information to the folks you want to keep in touch with -- it’s that simple.

On your last day, plan to head for the door a little early and dole out some hugs, fist bumps or whatever feels right.

There you have it: In five simple steps, you’ve respectfully quit your job with poise.