Regardless of your reasons why - whether for a higher income, a new challenge, or even a better work environment - transitioning from your old job to your new job is going to require a conversation that many people find difficult.

Learning how to quit your job is a skill. And just like any other skill, with a bit of work beforehand and some rehearsal, it will become easier. This guide will you navigate the process, and help you smoothly transition into your new role.

How much notice do you need to give?

Before you plan how you are going to resign, it is important that you familiarise yourself with your company’s leaving policy. Often, you can find this in your work contract, or by speaking with the HR department.

For your boss and the colleagues that you are leaving behind, two weeks can feel very sudden, and may not be adequate to prepare for your departure. For this reason, if you can, it is best to give as much notice as possible so you and your team can transition smoothly.

This is why it is customary to give at least one months’ notice. This is more than enough to be in compliance with the law, and provides a reasonable amount of time to find a replacement for you. But if you feel that in order to leave your company and colleagues on good terms, that it is best to provide more than a month, then of course, do so.

If you are employed on a fixed-term contract - that is, if your work contract specifies a start and an end date - then you are required to have a compelling reason to terminate your contract early. The notice period you are required to provide will depend on the length of your contract, so it’s important that you familiarise yourself with both the resignation policy outlined in the work contract you signed, and the Civil Code.

Be aware that terminating a fixed-term contract early could result in your employer charging you damages, so it is generally recommended that you complete the full-term of your contract if you can.

When and how should you tell your boss?

It is always preferable to have this conversation in person. Some people may consider it rude to receive this news via email or telephone, so once you have decided that you are going to resign, you will need to arrange a time to speak with your immediate supervisor in private.

Take into consideration the timing of this meeting. Is it a particularly busy time for your boss? If so, perhaps it would be best to wait until things calm down, or the overall mood is boosted by the successful completion of a project. When you ask your manager for a private meeting, remember to leave it to them to confirm when the timing of such a meeting is best for them.

This can be a difficult conversation for many people, so as a basic guide, after the usual pleasantries, begin the conversation by telling your boss that you would like to quit. It may feel polite to position your announcement as more of a request, but it is best not to do so, as it may signal to your boss that you are open to negotiations.

During this meeting, and as a valued team member, you may be asked questions such as:

  • Why you have decided to resign?
  • What do you plan to do now?
  • What can we do to improve our company?
  • What can we do to get you to stay?

Consider the answers you can give to these questions. For example, it may not be appropriate to share with your colleagues if you have found a new job elsewhere. Be firm, and honest but positive. You may work with this person again in the future, so you want to conduct this meeting in such a way as to maintain a positive relationship with them (and with the company!). Securing them as a reference could be a good boost to your career, so keep this in mind.

Some other points to consider during this meeting:

  • If possible, confirm with them the date of your final day. Depending on company policy, this may or may not be possible.
  • Ask what you must do before you leave.
  • If you can, offer to train your replacement.

End the conversation by thanking your boss for their time. If you feel it is appropriate, follow up with an email to confirm the things you have discussed.

Remember, it is rude to share this news with others before you have told your boss, and before it has been finalised. Refrain from sharing until it is appropriate to do so.

What to do once you have told your boss

Submit your resignation letter

Once you’ve had this conversation, you will need to follow up with a resignation letter. This can be simple and straightforward, and the good news is many companies have their own resignation letter format. If you are unsure, ask your boss about the formal resignation letter submission process. Once completed, arrange another private meeting with your boss and formally hand it to them. This is also a good opportunity to confirm any final details surrounding your departure if you didn’t ask earlier.

Create hand-over documents

Even if you are able to train your replacement, create detailed hand-over documents with all the essential information. When you write this, treat each document and instruction as if the person for whom you are writing doesn’t have any knowledge of the job. Things to include:

  • Daily tasks for which you are responsible.
  • Summaries of projects: the background and progress of each, the status of tasks they will be responsible for, and the contact details of any relevant people.
  • Work-flow charts and diagrams that clearly layout tasks, responsibilities, and timelines/deadlines.
  • Any information that you have found helpful during your time at work.

The more details you include, the easier it will be for them to learn.

Return company equipment

It can be tempting to leave with a small souvenir, but it is best to leave everything behind. Don’t forget you will need to leave your health insurance card, security/ID card and keys, company manuals and documents, small electronic devices such as flash drives, as well as your laptop and company cellphone if you were provided with one.

Don’t slow down

It can also be tempting to relax in the lead up to your final day, but remember the importance of leaving a good impression! Complete all the work you have been assigned if you can, and don’t slow down now.

Prepare a small parting gift for your colleagues

This shows that you appreciate them and the time you spent working and learning together. It doesn’t need to be expensive - perhaps just some nice candy, thank you cards, or tea sets - but it is a small way to give back to the team you are leaving, as well as leave your relationships on a positive note.

Ask for your letter of release

If you do not have a new job to move to when you resign, you will need a rishoku-hyo. This is the document you will need to receive unemployment benefits, should you need them. Don’t forget to ask your boss how to go about getting it.

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