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Resign gracefully without burning bridges

Published on Thursday, 24 Mar 2011

There are right and wrong ways of resigning from a job and, whatever the reasons for going, it always pays to handle things correctly. That means being business-like, complying with the required administrative steps, and aiming to part on good terms.

It might be tempting to do the opposite, but remember that, as your career develops, you will need references and will benefit from a reputation for professionalism.

If your mind is made up, the most urgent task is to inform your manager and submit a formal letter of resignation. This acts as a legal document stating the date you want the notice period to begin. The letter can be quite straightforward, using a standard format and simply stating your intention. You may want to add a sentence or two thanking your boss for past opportunities and support. Such sentiments, concisely phrased, can leave a good impression and cost nothing.

This applies even if you are resigning because of well-known problems, perhaps related to the work environment, pay and benefits, or a clash of personalities. If you have decided to leave, there is no need to elaborate and, in fact, going into detail may just create unnecessary complications.

It is also important to respect the other "rules" that apply. Keep things confidential, until the boss suggests the next step; be sure of your reasons; co-operate fully during any handover; and don't feel obliged to discuss your future plans.

Emma Charnock, regional director, Hays Hong Kong and China

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