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Careers Advice

How to hand your notice in professionally

Even if you’ve been dreaming about handing in your notice for years, it can be surprisingly difficult to quit your job when the time eventually comes. Resigning from your job is a major life change and can be extremely stressful. It’s difficult to know the correct etiquette or understand the legal ins-and-outs.

The following guide will help you say goodbye the right way, here are our best advice on how to hand your notice in professionally.


There are a few things to do before you get to the actual resigning bit. Firstly, make sure you have an offer in writing if you’ve secured another role or that your finances are in order if you’re planning to leave without another job. You will also need to check your contract of employment for your notice period, write your resignation letter and practice the reasons for resigning before you arrange a private meeting with your line manager.

The letter

It’s important to put your resignation in writing. This can be by email, but it is more usual to write an actual letter because you can physically take into your meeting with you.

A resignation letter should include the position you’re resigning from and the date you intend to leave. It is also a good idea to thank your employer for the opportunities you’ve been given and offer your commitment to a smooth handover. It’s important to remember that although constructive criticism is acceptable, don’t get personal or you’ll risk your reference and your reputation.

The meeting

As with any challenging situation, it’s always important to handle things with the right etiquette. Be gracious and tell your line manager how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and that you’ve learned a lot, even if it’s been horrendous and it hasn’t and you haven’t, be gracious anyway. It’s also important to be cooperative and let your boss know you’ll do all you can to make sure the handover is dealt with efficiently. The key thing is to not burn your bridges and make sure the business knows that if the right opportunity comes along, you might contemplate working for them again.

Counter offers

Something else you might want to think about is how to deal with a possible counter offer. If you’re a loyal employee and you’ve done a great job, the odds are your boss won’t want to see you go. The most likely way an employer will try and make you stay is by offering you a pay rise either equal to or more than you’ve been offered in your new role. A counter offer needs to be thought about and must never be accepted immediately because most people regret not leaving further down the line. Extra money or responsibility will rarely solve issues you’ve had with your boss or organisation. You would also need to ask yourself why you were so under-appreciated and never offered this before.

Notice period

Details of your notice period should be in your employment contract and you’re legally obligated to work it unless your employer’s willing to waive it. Make sure your current employer puts it in writing if they are happy to release you earlier. Offer four weeks’ notice if there isn’t anything specified in your contract.

Be as professional as possible whilst working your notice period and don’t take it as a time to relax. Continue making an effort and leave everything in good order. Most employers will remain professional throughout your notice period but a few will try to take advantage of the situation or be petty and will ask you to do tasks outside of your remit. Just remember that your end goal is in sight and that you are soon leaving their toxic culture forever!

Gardening leave

Depending on your seniority and the sector you work in, your employer may ask you to take ‘gardening leave’. This is where an employee is required to stay away from work during their notice period, preventing them from gathering potentially sensitive commercial information. Employees on gardening leave continue to receive their normal pay and are covered by other normal contractual obligations until their leave ends.

Although you’re serving your notice period in the comfort of your own home, garden leave ultimately has your employer’s best interests at heart. Being placed on garden leave is completely at your employer’s discretion and subject to either a contractual right or company practice. You are within your rights to ask for garden leave, but it might be perceived negatively by your current employer as an attempt to have paid leave. Basically, if your employer views you leaving as a possible threat, they will almost definitely offer it to you.

At the end of the day, there’s no need to feel guilty about resigning, in fact, feel happy that you’re one step closer to your new career. Remember that working is a business arrangement and changing jobs is part of that. It’s not personal and you’re the one in control of your career and only you can decide which direction it should take.

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