'I quit!': how to resign from your job


businessman hand writing i quit on white board

So you've done it. You've buffed up the CV, made it through the interviews and finally been offered the job.

Unfortunately, though, there's a little more to be done. Before you can wing your way off into your shiny new future, you'll need to quit the grinding drudgery you've currently got.

It's a moment many of us fantasise about - and there's a particular temptation to spell out exactly why you're leaving: the unreasonable demands, the appalling pay, the thoroughly vile boss.

Some people embrace this opportunity with open arms. In 2012, Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith quit via an excoriating op-ed in the New York Times.

"The corporate culture at Goldman Sachs has been transformed and deteriorated to the point where it became rotten to the core," he wrote. "Clients are viewed as mere 'muppets' who can be fleeced through the investment bank's rapacious greed."

But for those of us that can't use a newspaper as a medium, the resignation process is usually a quieter affair. But how do you write that letter? What should you say in your exit interview? And what are your rights?

Before you resign
Whatever you do, make sure you've got your new job offer in writing before you breathe a word. Companies do change their minds: sometimes, unprofessionally, they'll find a better candidate the next day, and sometimes the post will simply be scrapped.

Check your contract for company procedures and the notice you're required to give. If none is specified, there's a statutory notice period of one week's notice after one month's service.

Telling your boss
Every now and again, somebody really does make a spectacular exit without a word of warning - like the JetBlue flight attendant who triggered his plane's emergency evacuation chute in 2020, and whooshed down to the tarmac with two beers in his hands. As one passenger commented: "If only we could all quit our jobs so spectacularly, but not get arrested in the process."

Most of us, though, speak to our boss first; and it's never an easy conversation. It can be tempting to complain if you think you've been badly treated - but remember you may still need a reference somewhere down the line. You may even one day want to work for this person or company again.

If you've got a non-contentious reason for going - relocation, for example - then refer to this; otherwise, just thank them for the opportunities you've had.

You may also have a formal exit interview - and it can be even more tempting to complain here, as you won't be having to do it to the people concerned. But the same principles apply; notes from this interview will remain on file, and you don't want them to reflect badly on you.

Writing the letter
It's probably best not to follow Smith's example. It didn't do him any harm - he got a book deal reportedly worth $1.5 million - but he hasn't worked in banking since. It really is best to try and be positive.

Keep it brief: all you really have to include is the fact that you're leaving, and when. But it's a good idea, as when you tell your boss, to try and find something kind to say. If you're feeling particularly magnanimous, you could write a resignation letter like Chris Homes': wishing everybody at the Stansted Border Force the best for the future, he wrote his letter in icing on a large cake.

Of course, you can follow these guidelines and still get it wrong - as US council member David Waddell did when he wrote his resignation letter in Klingon earlier this month. The mayor described him as 'an embarrassment' - and Star Trek fans criticised his grammar.

If you're really struggling with what to write, you could try this app, which does the job for you. Just enter your reason and future plans - 'I'm sick of the corporate world' and 'I'm going to marry rich', for example - and it crafts a poetic resignation letter for you.

Telling your colleagues
You should, obviously, let your boss know you're leaving before you tell your colleagues. In a small team, you can do this verbally; otherwise, email people you've dealt with in the company directly.

Some organisations prohibit staff from telling suppliers, customers or other partners that they're going; if this is the case, you can still make a note of email addresses and phone numbers and do it when you actually leave.

It's a good idea to make sure that you've noted the contact details of any colleagues or business contacts that you'd like to stay in touch with, or connected with them on LinkedIn.

Getting what you're owed
After you've handed in your notice, you're entitled to exactly the same pay rate, sick pay, maternity pay and the like as before. When you leave, you should get paid for any unused holiday entitlement. All this still applies if you're given 'gardening leave' by your employer and sent home for your notice period.

If you have a personal pension, you can of course take it with you; if you belong to a company scheme, you should be able to get a statement of its current value, and may be able to transfer it into another company scheme or a private plan. If you have private health insurance through your company, you should be able to take this over yourself if you wish.

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