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Changing or leaving Jobs

Key points

  • There are many reasons why you might leave your job.

  • Before you resign, check your employment contract to find out the length of notice required, or any other obligations. 

  • During this exit process, it’s wise to remain polite and cooperative, even if you’re glad to say goodbye.

 

Leaving a job

There are a range of reasons why you might leave your job. For example:

  • you want a new work challenge

  • you have been offered another job you think might be better

  • your work contract is ending and your employer is not renewing your employment

  • you are planning on doing further formal study or training or changing career paths.

Some of these reasons for leaving a job are voluntary and based on the choices you make, like doing more study or training. Other reasons for leaving a job may not be your choice, like not having your contract renewed.

Resigning from a job

When you make the choice to leave a job to go to another job or do more study, you are resigning. When you resign from a job (for any reason), it’s important to treat your employer fairly and leave on good terms, where possible.

Here are some tips for resigning in a professional manner that leaves you and your employer feeling respected and appreciated. Remember that you might want them to be a referee for future jobs! 

Check your employment contract

In most jobs, your employment contract requires that you give your employer written notice of your planned resignation (that means when you intend to leave). It may be in your contract that you might need to continue working for a short period (usually about two to four weeks) after the date you give your employer your official resignation letter. However, you may be able to use up any unpaid annual (vacation) leave that is owing to you before you go.

You should check your employment contract for conditions that are relevant to your resignation. This usually includes the length of notice required or any other obligations. This allows your employer to prepare for losing you!

Talk to your supervisor

Before giving your written notice, it is a good idea to communicate with your supervisor about your leaving. This might be face-to-face, via phone, email, or video-conferencing software. This communication will vary depending on your circumstances and how regularly you communicate with your supervisor. You may have already told your supervisor that you were considering leaving. Perhaps you might have asked them to provide you with a reference for another job. Alternatively, some people prefer to wait until they’re certain that they plan to resign before communicating this with their supervisor.

Either way, it’s generally best to talk with your supervisor before sending a resignation letter. Your supervisor might want you to stay so much that they may offer a counteroffer or an alternative, such as a pay rise or a change in work tasks to encourage you to stay. You’ll want to consider carefully what is being offered before deciding whether to go ahead with a written notice of resignation.

Write a formal letter of resignation

Keep your letter of resignation short and sweet (as possible). Focus on the key information, such as:

  • a clear statement that you are resigning (so there is no confusion)

  • the planned date of your last workday (you can calculate this by adding the number of workdays your contract states that you are required to work after handing in your resignation)

  • a brief explanation about why you are resigning (what are you planning to do when you leave)

  • a polite ‘thank you’ to your employer for any opportunities the job has given you to develop your work skills and experience.

Complete the exit process

The exit process will be different for each job but you may be asked to:

  • participate in an exit interview. During this, you’ll be able to give feedback about your experience on the job. It’s your chance to say what you liked or didn’t like about the job. Good employers use this information to learn!

  • train a new person who is hired to take on your job responsibilities (known as a ‘handover’)

  • return any company-owned equipment, such as uniforms, keys, electronic devices, and work materials

  • attend an informal farewell gathering with your colleagues (sometimes with cake too!).

During this exit process, it’s wise to remain polite and cooperative, even if you’re glad to say goodbye. Even though you may be leaving, you should continue putting in your usual effort at work. Your employer and colleagues will appreciate your efforts, and these positive connections might be helpful in the future - particularly if you want them to give you a good recommendation to other employers!

Losing a job

Sometimes we lose a job not because we resign (decide to leave), but because our employment is terminated (ended) by the employer. This might happen if your organisation or the business: 

  • becomes downsized (this means they require less workers to do the work)

  • your role is made redundant (this means the work tasks you do are not needed anymore  – this sometimes happens when work tasks become automated, like at a car wash)

  • your employer is unhappy with your job performance. Be aware of the rules that employees and employers must follow in these situations to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. Fair Work Australia has information on their website that can help you to understand the rules for ending a contract of employment.

It’s natural to feel angry or upset if you find that your contract will not be renewed, or that you won't have any ongoing shifts at your job. Job loss can affect you in a number of ways, including impacting your mental health, financial stability, and your sense of identity and place in society. Think about who you can talk to. Talking about it may help you understand what you are feeling and might even help you make a plan for what comes next. Beyond Blue’s Taking care of yourself after losing your job resource provides some general advice to help you cope if you lose your job.

When you are ready, it’s time to start searching for a new job. While this may seem overwhelming or even scary at first, losing a job can be an opportunity for you to grow personally and build your resilience. For instance, you might learn something new from your previous employer about your strengths and weaknesses that you can consider when searching for new jobs that are a good match for you. Perhaps you’ll find a completely new job or career that you wouldn’t have otherwise dared to dream!

More information 

To help you, the University of Southern Queensland has identified some helpful tips when searching for new jobs with a resilient attitude.

Goals
Set a goal to get job-ready using the myWAY Employability goal template!

myWAY Employability is an initiative of the Autism CRC, which receives funding from the Australian Government

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