Leaving Your Job? Here Are 5 Ways to Maintain Your Reputation Throughout the Resignation Process

a woman carrying her box of office things after quitting


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Becca Carnahan1.11k
Career Coach & Mom of 2

There are often two teams when it comes to quitting - Team Jerry Maguire Style and Team “I Don’t Wanna Deal.” Some dream of the big march out, and others would rather slip out the back door with their succulents never to be heard from again to avoid confrontation.

But there’s a third team I want to introduce you to - Team Professional Exit. Here’s how to join that team, while you’re leaving your old team at the office behind, and maintain your professional reputation.

1. Make a communication plan.

First, get clear on who needs to know you are resigning and when. 

It can be tempting to give your work friends a heads up before reaching out to your manager, but part of managing your professional reputation is managing relationships. Letting your boss hear that you’re leaving second-hand isn’t a good look and can put a dent in the relationship you’ve spent time building over the years. Set up some time to speak with your boss directly in person or on Zoom if you work remotely. No email quitting please!

Consider the reporting structure of your organization as well. There may be other managers you want to connect with before telling your team, and there are likely cross-functional partners you want to chat with directly instead of them getting an “out of office forever” response on your last day.

Two weeks notice is standard practice for a resignation, but make sure to consider your specific situation. Is there a policy related to resignations in your contract? If you don’t know - check your paperwork so you understand expectations. You will also want to have a letter of resignation prepared that you can share with your manager after the conversation.

2. Prepare your closing statement.

In career coaching, I’ve noticed that a big blocking area for clients when making the decision to leave a role is finding the right words to say “I quit.” However, once they have their script they feel much more comfortable walking into the conversation.

Try this framing:

  • Be direct. Let your employer know you’ve put a lot of thought into the decision and you plan to leave your current role on X date.
  • Show gratitude. Thank your employer for the opportunity and highlight some key points of what you enjoyed about the work or what you’ve learned - shoot for 1-3 examples.
  • Share what’s next. You are under no obligation to provide details here, so share what you are comfortable with. If you have a new role lined up, this information is going to be public very soon so you can share what company you’ll be joining and in what role. Or if you are taking some time to determine you next move, try something like this. “I see this as a good time to reflect on my next move as I explore an industry change/function change/using a specific skill.”
  • Explain the plan. It’s not your responsibility to fill your role or to stay until the company is comfortable letting you leave! However, you can end this professional chapter on a good note by letting your manager now how you plan to wrap up your existing projects, provide training to colleagues as needed, and/or leave necessary notes or materials for your replacement.

3. Tie up loose ends.

Now it’s time to execute on the plan you laid out for your manager. Take time to write down what projects you will complete within your existing time in the role and the status of others. If you haven’t already done so, now is also a good time to make updates to training manuals that you utilized when onboarding or document processes.

If you are client facing in your role, make sure you and your manager are in alignment with how you plan to let your clients know about the transition. Who will be managing their accounts and what needs to be done to make sure client work doesn’t fall through the cracks in your absence? Tying up these loose ends is important for your company, but it’s also important for you and your career! These external relationships are important and you’ve worked hard to cultivate them. Plan your exit so you can keep those connections for the future.

4. Stay in touch.

Lots of people say that they will stay in touch with their former coworkers when they leave a role, but I will encourage you to actually do it! 

Take some time during your last two weeks in the role to connect with colleagues on LinkedIn if you haven’t already. This is a great platform for maintaining your professional connections through comments on posts and direct messages. Take it a step further and leave recommendations for your colleagues based on the work you just did together. It’s a great way to continue to strengthen relationships and stay on your colleagues’ radar for future opportunities and introductions.

A last day email to your colleagues with your LinkedIn URL and personal email address (if you’d like) is also a nice way to share your gratitude for your work together and ensure that you aren’t leaving all of your connections at the door.

5. Focus on the future.

There are lots of reasons why you might be leaving a role. Location, upward mobility, changing interests, money, culture, etc. And when you’re sitting on your couch at home with a friend, go ahead and spill the tea on why you made your move. However, you’ll want to be more discerning about what you share in other settings with your new employer or potential new employers.

If you are interviewing after quitting job and the question comes up - “So why’d you leave ABC Company? - focus on the future instead of everything that went wrong. For example, “I left ABC Company because after 3 years I found that I built up strong team leadership skills and am eager to utilize those skills in a managerial role.” Or “I learned a lot from my experience at ABC Company and ultimately found that the projects I was most interested in were related to healthcare and decided now was the right time to make a move into the industry directly.”

Ready to say “I quit” now? You’ve got this!


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Becca Carnahan is a career coach, author, and mom from Massachusetts. As the founder and CEO of Next Chapter Careers, LLC, she specializes in helping parents land fulfilling jobs they love without giving up the flexibility they need. Signup for her free job search training at beccacarnahan.com/freetraining.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for maintaining professional reputation throughout the resignation process? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!