Leaving a job isn’t always easy, even if you hate your job or your boss and can’t wait to start a new position. Even if you are about to be fired, it can be difficult to resign tactfully.

If you are thinking about leaving your job, here are some important points to think through before you turn in your resignation. When you are sure you are ready to quit, there are ways you can resign gracefully and leave on good terms.

Make Sure You Really Want to Leave

There are a few warning signs that it’s time to go, including reduced productivity, physical complaints, and finding your conversation at home dominated by work-related issues.

Even if you have every reason in the world to resign, it might not be a good idea to quit your job right away. Make sure that you are leaving for the right reasons, rather than quitting because you are having a bad week and it seems like it won’t get better any time soon.

Once you are certain that you want to quit, handle your resignation as carefully as you would handle any other business endeavor.

It is always wise to not alienate your current employer. You never know when you will need them for a reference.

Weigh Other Options

Do you have another job offer? If so, weigh the pros and cons of the new position versus your current position. Consider the work environment, flexibility, salary, and benefits in addition to the job responsibilities. How about opportunities to advance? If the new job comes out ahead on all counts and you feel sure that this is the right change to make, do not hesitate.

If you are still on the fence about the next position you are considering taking, ask if you can spend a day in the office “shadowing” the staff. It may reinforce your decision to take the position or help you decide you do not want the new job after all.

If you do not have another position lined up, consider the basics before quitting. It will take about three to six months, sometimes longer, to find a new job. Unless you quit for a good cause, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Do you have enough savings or other income to manage financially? Even if your employment situation is not the best, you might want to consider hanging on to the job you have and start your job search before you resign. That old saying that “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job” does hold true.

Give Adequate Notice

If you have an employment contract that states how much notice you should give, abide by it. Otherwise, it is appropriate to offer two weeks’ notice. In some cases, you may feel that you are unable to stay for another couple of weeks. When that happens, it is important to conduct yourself professionally in every other way, such as sending a formal resignation letter, offering to help to the best of your abilities, and keeping things positive until you go.

If your employer asks you to stay longer than two weeks (or the time period in your contract), you have no obligation to stay. Your new employer will be expecting you to start as scheduled, and in a timely manner. What you could do is offer to help your previous employer, if necessary, after hours, via email or on the phone.

Quit Gracefully

The formal way to resign is to write a resignation letter and to tell your supervisor in person that you’re leaving. However, depending on circumstances, you may need to quit over the phone or to quit via email. Regardless of how you resign, write a resignation letter.

A well-written resignation letter can help you maintain a positive relationship with your old employer while paving the way for you to move on.

Again, you never know when you might need your previous employer to give you a reference, so it makes sense to take the time to write a polished and professional resignation letter.

Talk to Your Boss

Do not say much more than you are leaving. Emphasize the positive and talk about how the company has benefited you, but also mention that it is time to move on. Avoid being negative. There is no point—you are leaving, you want to leave on good terms.

Regardless of why you quit your job, be sure to say the right things in your resignation letter: offer a brief explanation of why you’re leaving, thank them for the opportunity, and let them know when your last day will be.

Ask for a Reference

Before you leave, ask for a letter of recommendation from your manager. As time passes and people move on, it is easy to lose track of previous employers. With a letter in hand or a LinkedIn recommendation online, you will have documentation of your credentials to share with prospective employers.

Finalize the Details of Your Departure

Find out about the employee benefits and salary you are entitled to receive upon leaving. Inquire about collecting unused vacation and sick pay, and keeping, cashing in, or rolling over your 401(k) or another pension plan. Note: You may be asked to participate in an exit interview prior to your departure. Review sample exit interview questions to get an idea of what you will be asked during such an interview.

Return Company Property

Return any company property you have, including keys, documents, computers, phones, and anything else that does not belong to you. The company does not want to chase you to get it back, and you do not want to be held responsible if it is not returned in a timely manner.

The Bottom Line

BE SURE YOU REALLY WANT TO QUIT: Do not leave after one bad day or week, and make sure you line up another job or secure savings.

GIVE APPROPRIATE NOTICE: If you do not have an employment contract that says otherwise, two weeks’ notice is standard.

BE PROFESSIONAL: Write a resignation letter and leave on the best terms possible.

DON’T PROVIDE TOO MUCH INFORMATION: You do not need to provide a great deal of detail about why you are resigning.

TIE UP LOOSE ENDS: Ask for a reference, find out about benefits and earned time, and return any company property.

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