The amount of notice you give is driven in large part by your rank in the company, says Miranda. For staff-level positions, two weeks' notice is customary. Executives typically need to give more notice, either because their employment agreements specifically state as much and/or because their work can't be tied up as neatly in two weeks, adds Miranda.
Another factor influencing the amount of notice you give is the status of your work. Take stock of your responsibilities before informing your boss of your plans to leave so you can get an idea of the amount of time you'll need to complete any outstanding work or to get it ship-shape enough to seamlessly transition to others on staff. Bring this list of projects and responsibilities when you meet with your boss to give her your notice, says Aboaf.
"The relationships you formed with your co-workers will be affected by your projects, so don't leave them in the lurch," cautions Aboaf.
Moving to a new job also plays a role in your notice. Your new employer may need you to start as soon as possible, but most will understand your need to give your current employer the standard two weeks' notice, says Simmons. Make sure you wrap up your work or get it in shape to transition during your last two weeks on the job.
If you're not under pressure to leave your job, Seidel says you might want to tell your boss that you'll work with her on an end-date that works for both of you. Most managers appreciate getting more than two weeks' notice from departing employees.
How to Write a Resignation Letter
Career experts agree that you should give your notice in person before handing a formal resignation letter to your boss. That said, you can prepare your resignation letter in advance of that conversation, or you can write it after you've talked with your boss.
Your resignation letter should be brief. All it needs to state is your intention to leave the company and your last day on the job. You can be cordial, but you don't want to be too laudatory of your employer. Miranda suggests the following boilerplate resignation letter text:
This is to confirm the conversation we had today. I will be resigning my position effective X date. I appreciate the time I had in this department. I'll always value my experience at this company.
The reason you don't want to overly praise your employer in your resignation letter, says Aboaf, is because you never know how your manager may treat you upon hearing your plans to leave.
"Some companies are very harsh when you tell them you're leaving," he says. "They lock down your computer and don't let you go back to your desk. You'll feel worse if you said in your resignation letter how much you loved the company, then you get treated this way."
Just as you don't want your resignation letter to be too praiseworthy, you don't want it to be acrimonious, either.
"Even if you were miserable, your resignation letter is no place to put that because it becomes part of your personnel record," says Simmons. "It can affect how references might happen in the future."
How to Leave on a High Note
In a particularly memorable episode of Seinfeld, George becomes obsessed with leaving his job at Kruger Industrial Smoothing "on a high note." Your goal upon quitting your job should be to do the same: to make your employer wish you weren't leaving. (George was so good at this that his boss ended up firing everyone on his team and keeping George.) "Make your departure feel as if an invaluable piece of the organization was leaving," says Miranda. "You want people to say, 'We lost a good person when you walked out the door.'"
To that end, be professional and cordial during your last weeks on the job. Help your boss, co-workers and direct reports with the transition by training new or existing employees and by scrupulously documenting your work. Don't gloat about your new job, don't solicit colleagues to work for you after you leave (especially if you've signed a non-solicitation agreement with the employer you're leaving) and don't trash talk your employer or anyone in the company -- while you're there or once you're gone. After all, says Aboaf, you're making your opinion known by voting with your feet.
Nor should you give the impression that you're counting down the hours until your last day. Your attitude should communicate that even though you're leaving for a new opportunity, the company is still a great place to work, says Seidel. In fact, he adds, that's a nice sentiment to convey in a final, 'thanks for the memories' type e-mail to your coworkers.
Lastly, clean out your workspace. "Don't leave it a mess with cold medication, condiment packages, cough drops, napkins and menus because that desk will be a reminder of you to your co-workers," says Aboaf.
"If you walk out with your head held high, paper work in order and your desk clean, it's much harder for the people you left behind to disrespect or speak ill of you," adds Aboaf. "You have your own dignity and self-respect to think about."
Meridith Levinson covers Careers, Project Management and Outsourcing for CIO.com. Follow Meridith on Twitter @meridith. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Meridith at firstname.lastname@example.org.