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28 Oct

How to leave your job without burning bridges

As the COVID pandemic has worn on, we are seeing resignation rates rise to abnormally high levels in the US and across the world. Are you one of many workers who have been reconsidering your lifestyle and career options? Is changing jobs on the cards for you?

How you leave your current role is important. Do it right and you can count on great references into the future. Handle it poorly and you risk burning bridges that can create negative perceptions and impact your future success. 

If you are sure that it’s time to move on, here are our top tops to exit your current role and with grace and professionalism.

     1. Understand good referees are like gold.

One of your most important career assets is a good professional reference.   Previous managers or supervisors who are prepared to speak highly of you can make or break your chances of getting that new job, so it stands to reason that you should treat them with as much respect as possible. Regardless of how things have gone during your employment, you don’t want your company’s last memory of you to be one of someone who is lazy, slack or has poor attendance.

Leave a lasting positive impression by showing great attitude and contributing to the team right up until the moment you walk out the door.  


     2. Give your current employer as much notice as possible.

It’s rare that a boss likes to receive a resignation. At best, it means they have a whole lot of work to do in hiring a replacement. At worst, it means they will be short-staffed and have to juggle the rest of the team to cover you. Either way, announcing that you plan to leave tomorrow is not a good move and will leave a sour taste around your memory.  It’s best practice to let your employer know as soon as you can that you want to move on, so they have as much time as possible to reorganise your workload.   

Your employment agreement will also specify a notice period, (typically 1-4 weeks), so be aware of what that is and ensure you plan your next steps around it. 


     3. Be prepared for questions or a discussion

Don’t use a resignation as a negotiating tactic: this can backfire horribly.   But do expect that your boss may want to talk about it.

It’s possible you’ll be asked why you are leaving, so have an answer ready.  If it’s around health or workload, perhaps there’s room to negotiate reduced hours. What happens if they offer you more money to stay? Have you considered what it would take for you to change your mind? 

You may even be able to negotiate ongoing contract work on your own terms, so if that’s something you want, be ready to offer that option during the discussion.


     4. Offer to train your replacement

Whatever you can do to make things easy for your old boss and the team will be appreciated. Offering to write training notes or conduct training to help others pick up your work will go a long way to leaving a positive last impression.


     5. Be as flexible as you can with finishing dates

If you don’t have a fixed deadline to exit, your boss may appreciate it if you offer to work with them around finishing dates, to give them time to make alternative arrangements.    


     6. Write a resignation letter that focuses on the positives

Finally, the ideal resignation letter is graceful and polite.  It is not an email or a text and should be delivered in a face to face meeting.

If you can, thank your boss for the opportunity, and remark on what you enjoyed during your time with the company or the positive learnings you are taking away with you.  If not, keep it simple with the date of resignation, who you are addressing this notice to and notification of the date you are finishing. It’s polite also to wish them all the best for the future.

Tempting though it may be, a resignation letter is not the ideal place to list grievances or attack your boss or company.  If you have issues to air, use another more appropriate forum.  Resignation letters are often added to employee files, so consider this: if a prospective new employer calls your old company to check your employment history and someone who never met you may open your file, will you be happy with what they read out?


Moving jobs is an exciting time and a key step in your career journey.  Talent Propeller Jobs has a whole library full of tools to help you navigate the work landscape. If you enjoyed this blog, check out our tips and advice page.