‘You don’t want to burn any bridges’: 5 tips for quitting your job gracefully

"Even if you are leaving a horrible situation, the way you leave is how you will be remembered."


The Great Resignation continues, with a record 4.4 million people quitting their jobs in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Around 4 million people have quit each month since April.     

Their reasons vary: Some are looking to pivot to new industries, others are looking for better pay and benefits elsewhere, and still more are looking to pursue passions such as starting a business.

If you're considering taking the plunge and quitting yourself, remember to "be really gracious" as you do it, says Andrew McCaskill, a career expert at LinkedIn. That's a must whether you have a job lined up or not. "You don't want to burn any bridges," he says.

Here are five best practices to keep in mind.

'Have a conversation with your manager' first

Once you've decided to quit, it may be tempting to simply send out a resignation email. "I always tell my clients, the resignation email is a formality and it needs to happen," says Nikki Goldman, executive and founder of I/O Coaching. "But what also needs to happen is a conversation."

Before sending out that resignation email, schedule a time to talk to your boss either over the phone or in person if you happen to be back in the office, to let them know you're leaving. "Your boss is still your boss," says McCaskill. "They don't want to be surprised."

"It's a great way to leave on really good terms," he says. "It also gives a modicum of respect and a nod to your manager to say, 'Hey, I'm coming to you about this first.'"

Include 'your greatest hits in that email'

After you've had the initial conversation, you can prepare a resignation email. Include details like your last day on the job. It's also smart to reach out to your company's HR representative to see what else should be in there.

As you're writing, you "want to remind them how good you were when you were there," says McCaskill. There's nothing wrong with putting a couple of "your greatest hits in that email," he says, such as projects you were able to accomplish or ways you moved your team closer to its goals. You could also include skills you gained on the job, like writing newsletters or making sales quotas.

Make sure to express gratitude for the experience. "I think that that's a good way of helping you to frame how you want to leave and how you want to be remembered," he says.  

I always tell my clients, the resignation email is a formality and it needs to happen. But what also needs to happen is a conversation.
Nikki Goldman
Executive and founder, I/O Coaching

Assure the company 'you're going to tie up any loose ends'

Remember to mention both in the email and conversation that "you're going to tie up any loose ends" before your last day, says McCaskill, adding that, "you don't want to be remembered for leaving unfinished projects."

If you still have a couple of deadlines to meet, make sure your managers know you have a timeline for when and how you'll finish them. If you can't finish before you leave, "hand over outstanding assignments to your manager," says McCaskill, and check that whoever takes over has all of the tools and resources they need.

"Make sure that you leave in a way that they don't need to call" you after for clarification or help, he says.

'Ask your manager if they would be a good reference'

As you move forward in your career, you want to build a network of people that potential employers can contact to learn what you're like as an employee.

In the resignation email or conversation, "it's also a good idea to ask your manager if they would be a good reference for you" in the future, says McCaskill. You can also ask them to write you a LinkedIn recommendation for potential employers to see.

Make sure that you leave in a way that they don't need to call.
Andrew McCaskill
Career expert, LinkedIn

Remember 'you are taking your reputation with you'

Some people leave in part because of a bad work situation. "They don't feel supported by their manager, or perhaps they didn't see any career growth for themselves," says Goldman. "Or perhaps they didn't agree with the way their company handled the last 18 months."

Regardless of the reason you're stepping out of the role, it still pays to exit in a way that's respectful.

"Even if you are leaving a horrible situation, the way you leave is how you will be remembered," says McCaskill, adding that you might be "leaving the company, but you are taking your reputation with you."

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