how to resign from work: leaving on a positive note

There are a few things you can do to resign the right way and leave on a positive note. We’ve put together an easy guide on quitting your job once you’ve made that decision.

There are many reasons why someone might want to quit a job. Once you’ve made the decision to leave, it can be a bit confusing to know what to do next and how to tell your boss. There are also a few of obligations you might have during this period which are important to be aware of.

How much notice do you have to give before resigning?

Depending on what kind of job you have (casual, part-time, full-time) you may need to give your employer notice of your intention to leave. The first thing you should do is check your employment contract as required notice periods are often set out in this document.

If you can’t find any information in your employment contract you could look at the Fair Work website. This Notice and Redundancy Calculator can also be helpful if you weren’t given an employment contract and are not sure how much notice you should give.

It’s also important to know that your required notice period may be determined by the length of time you were employed there, and that an employer can choose to reduce or remove your notice period. If you feel comfortable, consider speaking to your employer about what notice period would suit both you and them.

How to tell your supervisor that you're leaving your job

It can be hard to tell your boss that you want to leave; you might be worried about how they will react, or nervous to take this final step. Even if you don't like your job or your boss, it is important to be professional and polite, ideally letting them know face to face if possible. You may need an employment reference for a new job, and it can be handy to maintain those professional relationships throughout your career – you never know when you might need them again!

If your manager asks why you're leaving, emphasising the positives will show your manager that you want to leave on good terms.

  • Organise a one-on-one meeting. Arrange to meet with your manager in a private space if available and take your resignation letter with you.

  • Bring a support person. Generally, you are allowed to bring a support person with you to meetings with your employer. However, check with your HR department to see what their policy or agreement says, because there may be restrictions on who your support person can be.

  • Keep it professional and positive. Leaving on good terms has a lot of benefits, for example that employer may be happy to be a reference for you when it comes to looking for another job, or potentially provide a future opportunity.

  • Try to avoid talking to other co-workers about your resignation before speaking to your boss. Whether you work as part of a small team or a big team, word can spread quickly throughout the workplace. Your boss would much rather hear it from you than from someone in the lunchroom so be mindful who you discuss this with beforehand.

If your manager appears unhappy with your resignation at first, try to understand their perspective of the situation. Your manager may feel more comfortable with your resignation if they can see that you value the company and what you've learned while in that position. If your boss reacts badly, this does not mean their concerns are your fault, or that you shouldn’t be resigning from the role – you can stick to the decision that’s right for you. Check out this article from Indeed for more information on what to do if your boss takes your resignation badly.

How to write a resignation letter

Some companies don’t require formal written notice, if you’re not sure try checking your employment contract. Even if a formal letter isn’t a part of your organisation's official resignation process, it is always a good idea to document your resignation in writing.

All you need is a short letter or email outlining your intention to leave and final dates of employment (last day of your notice period if there is one). How much you feel like explaining is up to you, but this isn’t the right place to document negative feedback; many workplaces will offer an exit interview where you can go into more detail if you want to.

  • Keep it short, polite and respectful, thanking the employer for the opportunity to have worked there.

  • Keep emotion out of it - don't send a resignation letter in the heat of the moment. Try writing it out and running it past someone you trust first for suggestions. A good idea is to leave at least 24 hours between your decision to resign, and writing/submitting a resignation letter.

  • Check out SEEK and Youth Central for some easy templates and more advice.

What to do after you’ve resigned

After you’ve submitted your resignation to your boss, there are several steps you can take to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

During your final few weeks or days at your current job, you can help your company with the transition by handing over any work that is in progress. Understanding the best ways to handle work after resigning can help you maintain a good relationship with your former employer which will support your search for another job.

  • To ensure a smooth transition for your replacement, be sure to document your daily duties, ongoing projects, and any relevant resources and contacts. If you are open to helping with the recruitment and training of your replacement, that is a great option if appropriate.

  • Ask your boss if they would be willing to be a reference for future jobs. If for whatever reason your boss is not willing to be a reference for you, consider asking another supervisor or even a colleague, as a future employer may be happy to chat with anyone who can confirm your previous duties. It’s good to ask at this time as it makes it easier to reach out when you do need a reference down the track.

  • Check your contract and see what they are required to pay you. Your employer may have to pay out your entitlements such as accumulated annual leave, long service leave or payment in lieu of notice (if they waived your notice period.) For more information visit the Fair Work website.

  • Reflect on your experience. You could journal, chat to a friend, family member, Elder or someone else you trust. It might be something you wish to discuss with your mental health supports too, particularly if the experience was negative. Reflecting on a negative experience at work can also help you to identify what you do or don’t want in a job or workplace in the future.

  • Try to avoid speaking poorly about your previous workplace at your new job or online - you never know who knows who. It could be helpful to take some time to think about how you want to respond to a potential employer if they ask you why you left. Try to be as honest as you can whilst remaining professional and stick to the positive experiences you had in that job.

    • You could say something like "Although I really enjoyed my team and my work, I'm ready for my next challenge and am looking to take on more responsibility in my next role and use my skills to their full potential.” or “I'm excited about taking the next step in my career. I loved the people I worked with and the projects I worked on, but I realised that I wasn't being challenged the way I used to. Rather than let myself get complacent, I decided to pursue a position where I can continue to grow and learn something new."

In your own time (outside of work hours), you can prepare yourself for a new job or to begin job searching. This can include doing things like creating a job search plan and reviewing your resume.

Get support

Deciding to take this step in your career and navigating everything that comes afterwards can be overwhelming, but we're here to support you. If you're aged 15 - 25 and want to talk through your options, get free and confidential support from the Work and Study team and sign up for one-on-one support

For support with your mental health and wellbeing, find your nearest headspace centre or access online and telephone support via eheadspace.

The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website. 

Last reviewed June 2023.

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 Should I Quit My Job? 10 Common Reasons To Resign. (Updated March 11, 2023). Should I Quit My Job? 10 Common Reasons To Resign |

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i quit! your 5 point checklist on how to resign the right way. (05 September 2022). I quit! your 5 point checklist on how to resign the right way | Randstad Australia | Randstad Australia

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