Changing jobs can be an extremely stressful time. It can also be a great transition with better opportunities for growth. There are certain things you can do to make the transition go as smoothly as possible. Some things are out of your control. Others may need some work to manage well.

Jobs like relationships, are sometimes difficult to end. When things aren’t working out, it may be time to move on. Sharing that news with your supervisor has the potential to get messy, especially if the news comes as a surprise. If like me, you have multiple supervisors, it can go both ways.

Keep it Simple

When writing a formal letter of resignation, it can be temping to give reasons and for some, those reasons can be laced with resentment and negativity. An exit interview, if you are given the opportunity, is the better time to gently share your true reasons for leaving. Your resignation letter just needs the basics.


Dear ____________,

Please accept my resignation from (insert company name and position here) effective (insert date here).

Thank-you for __________. (Ideas might include, 12 years of great service, many opportunities for professional growth, being a mentor for these past years. If you can’t think of anything nice to say, leave it at thank-you.)


(your name)

Give appropriate notice

For many jobs, two weeks notice is appropriate. For other positions, you’ll need much longer than that. For part of my last job, I was an instructor for a two week course that ran 4 times a year. Giving two weeks notice would not have been enough time. Instead I timed the transition in such a way to give over 3 months notice for them to find someone else and train them for that role.

Keep your cool if things get messy

Like relationships, some bosses can take it personally when you decide to leave. In my case one supervisor was kind and gracious saying that I’d be missed but that he understood my situation. The other, not so much. He nearly went off the deep end. I didn’t take it as a compliment but rather confirmation I was doing the right thing by leaving. It took everything in me not to get defensive, especially after repeated conversations begging to me to stay and not accepting my resignation. Is that even possible when I had already secured another job?

He’s still calling me two months later, acting like a jealous ex-boyfriend using everything in his arsenal to try and get me back. I finally had to contact my other supervisor to explain the situation and ask that he stop contacting me. It was difficult to stay calm and not lose my temper when faced with an unreasonable and inappropriate response. Leaving well means rising above things and staying professional when things get ugly.

Tie Up Loose Ends

It can be difficult to focus in the those last few weeks. You’ve landed another job. You are looking forward to the next chapter in your life. You still have work to do at this job and need to tie up loose ends. This might include such things as:

  • finishing up projects
  • thanking helpful colleagues and great supervisors
  • letting your clients know when you’ll be leaving and who’ll be replacing you
  • tidying up your workspace
  • completing your final expense reports

Train the next person

It’s nice to feel irreplaceable but when it comes to leaving well, someone else needs to know what you’ve been doing and how you’ve been doing it. They may find their own ways over time and change things up and that’s great too. What you don’t want is for people to wonder what you ever did or for the person coming in to have to re-create everything you took years to perfect. You won’t always have the time to train your replacement. In the time you’ve given notice, they need to hire someone else. Hiring can take time unless there is a natural opening for someone else in the office. If you can’t train the person directly, make sure you leave detailed notes or a training manual.

Final Thoughts

Some people don’t have the opportunity to leave well. Just recently my uncle, a middle manager with the government for over thirty years was called into the office, given ten minutes to gather his things and was escorted out the door with a non negotiable early retirement package. He hadn’t done anything wrong. It was just another round of impersonal middle management layoffs. There was no time to train someone else or to transition well. There wasn’t even time to process what happened. Fortunately he’d escaped the first few rounds of lay-offs so he knew the the potential was there. It still doesn’t make the transition to retirement any easier with you’ve only been given a ten minute warning.

When you are the one making the decision to leave for another job, it’s important to keep it professional. Even if you move to a completely different industry in another city, you’ll never know whose path you’ll cross again. You build your reputation over your career and the grace with which you transition jobs can be a great testament to your character not to mention future references you may need.

What is your advice on transitioning well from one job to another? Any lessons you learned the hard way?

Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

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