Resignation Checklist for Leaving a Job

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While it might feel like the hard part is over once you resign from your job, quitting the right way is far from simple. Leaving on bad terms will do more than make your last days on the job uncomfortable—it could impact your ability to land other jobs in the future.

Follow these steps to learn what to do before leaving a job so you can make a graceful exit. Here's how to quit the right way.

Tell Your Boss

In most situations, it's best to tell your boss that you're leaving before you provide your written notice. Make sure your manager is the first person you tell, otherwise they could find out via the office grapevine. Be tactful and to the point. Express your gratitude for the position, explain that it's time to move on, and state when your last day is (two weeks notice is standard). You can explain why you're leaving, but you're not obligated to. 

If you're concerned about your manager reacting poorly, send your written resignation first, and then follow it up as soon as possible with a face-to-face discussion.

Submit Your Written Resignation

Your written resignation provides your employer with official notice that you're leaving. Many companies also require this step. You can submit your written notice via email or letter (or both).

Start your email or letter with a salutation, like "Dear Ms. [Last Name]." Follow that with a statement explaining that you're resigning and the date of your last day. Add a sentence or two explaining that you're grateful for the opportunity. End it formally with "Sincerely, [Your Name]" or "Best, [Your Name]."

Depending on the complexity of your work, you may also want to include transition details.

Find Out When You'll Get Your Last Paycheck

During your final weeks, confirm when you'll receive your last paycheck. Don’t assume that you will receive your check on the date of your regular direct deposit. Depending on company policy and state law, you may be paid on your regular pay date, your last day of work, or within a certain time period after you finish your job. 

If you don't receive your last paycheck within the required time frame, you have the right to file a complaint with your state's labor department and the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.

Check on Eligibility for Employee Benefits

You might be eligible for continued employee benefits when you resign from your job. For example, if your employer has more than 20 employees, you’re entitled by law to maintain your healthcare coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). With COBRA, you have to pay both your share of the premiums and your employer's share along with an administrative fee. Consider comparing COBRA premiums to your state's health insurance marketplace premiums to find the most affordable option.

If you have a 401(k), you can roll it over to your new employer's 401(k) or an IRA that you own. You can also cash it out, but that has steep tax consequences. You may also be able to continue life and disability insurance. Ask the person or department that administers your benefits about your options. 

Check on Unused Vacation and Sick Pay

Your employer may be required to pay you for unused vacation time, sick time, or paid time off (PTO), but that varies by state. Unused time is typically paid out as a lump sum. Ask your benefits administrator about what to expect, and confirm that it's in alignment with the laws in your state.

Get References

Before you leave your job, consider who might be a positive reference. Ask those coworkers or managers for permission to use them as a reference and how they prefer to be contacted. Consider asking them to leave you a reference on LinkedIn, and return the favor.

Should I File for Unemployment?

In most cases, workers who resign are not eligible for unemployment. However, if you left for a good cause, like caring for a sick family member, you may be able to collect unemployment benefits depending on the laws in your state.

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  1. Ask a Manager. "Do I Have to Give Two Weeks Notice?" Accessed May 25, 2020.

  2. The Muse. "Moving On: How to Quit Your Job With Grace." Accessed May 25, 2020.

  3. Department of Labor. "Last Paycheck." Accessed May 25, 2020.

  4. American Cancer Society. "COBRA: Keeping Health Insurance After Leaving Your Job." Accessed May 25, 2020.

  5. Northwestern Mutual. "What Happens to Your Benefits When You Leave Your Job." Accessed May 25, 2020.

  6. Nolo. "Do We Have to Pay Out PTO When an Employee Leaves?" Accessed May 25, 2020.

  7. Nolo. "Unemployment Benefits: What If You Quit?" Accessed May 25, 2020.

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