If you happen to be one of the millions of people who are expected to leave their current jobs to take new ones in the near future, then of course you will be involved in the resignation process. No matter how angry you might be with your current employer, or how very dissatisfied you may be with the way you’ve been treated during the last several years, when it comes time to resign, you must avoid—at all costs!—the temptation to adopt the attitude so brazenly and foolishly expressed by the late Country singer Johnny Paycheck in his “Take this job and shove it!”

How you handle leaving a job—resigning—can be as vitally important to your long-range career success as how you handle starting a new one. Adopting the “Paycheck” approach can come back and “bite” you, BIG time, and perhaps irrevocably tarnish your brand as a true professional.

The facts about resigning

The whole topic of resigning is certainly somewhat more than just an idle one today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS report), over four million people left their jobs in the last couple of months to take new ones. That is the highest turnover rate in a decade! So, despite what you may have heard, read or believe, there is considerable movement in the job market today. And more is expected, much more.

Recent surveys by CareerBuilder.com and LinkedIn.com indicate that somewhere between 50 to 70 million currently employed people say they would seriously consider leaving their current jobs if the right opportunity came along. Certainly not all of these people will actually take that step even if the opportunity does present itself, but enough will to create substantial job-change activity in the labor market.

Why would so many people be so willing to “jump ship” for another job? There are many reasons, of course, but chief among them are one (or more) of the following:

  • They may have been doing the work of at least two, and perhaps as many as three or four, people for the last few years, with little or no salary increase and virtually no appreciation shown by their current employer.
  • They’re tired of hearing how “lucky” there are just to have a job, while so many of their friends and colleagues lost theirs in downsizings/layoffs.
  • Not only have they been treated with somewhat less than respect by their current employers, many feel they have actually been treated in a disrespectful manner during the last few years (a complaint I am hearing with increasing frequency these days).
  • Even though they may actually be satisfied overall with their current employer, they have nonetheless come to realize that, in their current position, their career has simply “stalled” and is going absolutely nowhere and feel it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.

Against this background, it’s certainly understandable how one could seriously consider “getting even” by actually telling his or her current employer to “take this job and shove it!” But still, it would constitute a very serious miscalculation of the potential, long-term, negative effects on one’s overall professional career.

Why? Well, what if, at some distant point down the road in your career, you need a reference from a boss (or bosses) at the job you are now leaving? Happens all the time! Or, consider the possible ramifications of the new “360º” reference-checking system used by an increasing number of companies. Instead of calling references today, many companies are using an anonymous online survey for reference checking. Do you just want to hope that the boss (or bosses) you may have insulted and/or angered when you resigned from your current position doesn’t get contacted by this system? Even if he or she actually “deserved” to be “told off”? Of course not.

The best, professional way to resign

When—and if, of course—it comes time for you to submit your resignation to take another position that better meets your long-range career goals and objectives, simply arrange a meeting with your current boss and say something like this:

“I am tendering my resignation. Here is my letter of resignation, and I am more than happy to give you two weeks notice in order to ensure a smooth transition.”

Then, hand him or her your letter of resignation (see suggested sample letter below) and don’t say anything further at this point! Remember, a resignation is not the same thing as an “exit interview” and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Don’t, for example, get emotional and say such things as, “It’s been great working here,” or “It’s so hard for me to do this,” “I’ve learned so much here and I’m really going to miss all you guys,” etc. Or, conversely, neither is this the time to “vent” about all the things you feel are wrong with the boss, the unit or the company.

By the time you reach the resignation stage, you will have made—or at least you should have made—the irrevocable decision to leave your current job for a better career opportunity and you certainly should not waiver in any way, shape, form or fashion at this point.

Otherwise, you could easily create the situation where the boss, in order to buy himself/herself more time (in order to get rid of you later, at his or her discretion, because of your obvious “disloyalty”) to make you a “counter-offer,” either on the spot or sometime during your remaining two weeks on the job. (Accepting a “counter-offer” is almost always a very bad idea for a whole variety of reasons, none of which will be addressed in this blog, but all of which are thoroughly addressed in “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!)

A sample letter of resignation

Here is an example of a resignation letter that my executive recruiting firm recommends to our candidates who are leaving their current companies and taking a new position:


Dear [your boss’s name]:

Please accept this letter as my formal notice of resignation from [Company name], effective [date, two weeks from date above].

I will help ensure that there is a smooth transition during this process. If I can help train my replacement or tie up any loose ends, please let me know.


[Your signature]

It’s also significant to note that a resignation letter is a legal document that is subject to inspection by the Department of Labor, so it’s a good idea all the way around not to include anything more than what is in this sample letter.

One last, very important consideration: Never, never, never submit your resignation until all contingencies from your new employer are lifted and/or satisfied!

I am going to assume that you have worked long and hard to build your career up to this point and that you have always taken “the high road,” that you’ve consistently demonstrated that you are a true professional in every sense of the term. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that you would have been selected for your new job! Don’t risk tarnishing your hard-earned reputation, your professional brand, by doing something rash and foolish when it comes time to resign.

While “venting your spleen” upon leaving a job may make you feel better, at least temporarily, believe me, the long-lasting effects are almost always negative and will likely prove extremely counterproductive to your overall professional career development.

My professional advice: You continue to take “the high road,” and leave the “Take this job and shove it!” resignations for those who are far less professionally astute than you!


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.