THE time has come to resign from your job.

Regardless of whether you are leaving for a better opportunity, relocating to a different city or perhaps going back to school, there is only one way to leave your current position: like a professional.

Making a graceful exit is critical to your long-term career track.

The business world can be a small one, and the chances of encountering a former colleague or supervisor at another company are not remote.

Even if you do not end up working with an ex-colleague, you could become a co-worker, subordinate or manager to someone who knows people who know you.

And naturally, you would want your professional references thinking - and hearing - nothing but good things about you.

So, how do you exit like a pro? Here are some strategies to resign professionally with class and grace:

Write a proper letter.
Set the right tone for your departure by writing a professional resignation letter.

This gives you and your employer written documentation of your resignation and states your planned last day of work.

You should present a typed letter to your supervisor personally, and also, if appropriate, forward a copy to the human resources department. Never e-mail or text your resignation.

Keep your letter to the point: State that you are resigning, specify your last day of work and, if you wish, give a reason for your departure.

Even if you are leaving an unpleasant work situation, do not bring up anything negative.

End the letter by thanking your supervisor for opportunities that were provided to you.

Give ample notice.
One month is usually the standard notice for resignation in Singapore, but check your employee handbook to see if your employer has different expectations.

If you have to leave sooner, or would like to offer more transition time, tell your employer upfront.

However, do not be surprised if you are asked to leave the very day you tender your resignation, and are escorted from the building.

Many companies today, for security reasons, will cut ties immediately with a resigning employee. As such, when you resign, be prepared to leave right away if asked to do so.

Be clear about compensation.
On the day you resign, talk openly with your supervisor - and if appropriate, human resources - about what your final compensation package will include.

Again, consult your employee handbook before having this important discussion, so as to know what to expect.

Do not forget to inquire about unused annual leave days. Also, make sure you know how much time you have before vital benefits, such as health insurance, run out.

Be ready for a counter-offer.
In this competitive employment environment, more companies are extending counter-offers to valued employees who may be considering new horizons.

If a counter-offer is made to you, do not dismiss it immediately.

After all, if your employer thinks enough of you to ask you to stay, you should at least give the offer polite consideration.

Even if you know you do not want to accept it, tell your supervisor you will consider the counter-offer for a specified length of time, such as 24 hours, but keep your proposed departure date firm in the meantime.

And if you are seriously tempted by the offer, think hard about why you are leaving the company in the first place.

If the counter-offer will not resolve those issues for you, it is probably best to move on.

Don't "check out" prematurely.
Once you have declared your intention to leave, remain an active and engaged employee.

Complete as many projects as you can. Create a progress report for your supervisor and colleagues that shows where you are with each task.

Also, consider putting together a brief guide to help your replacement transition smoothly into the position.

This information can include details about where files are located as well as phone numbers and e-mail addresses of relevant contacts.

Keep things positive.
On your last day, take the time to say goodbye to your colleagues and supervisors who have given you support and guidance.

Provide your contact details, and let them know they can get in touch with you if they have questions about the work you are leaving behind.

Finally, if you are offered an exit interview, use the opportunity to talk constructively about your experiences with the company.

Many employers take the process very seriously, and use it for improving corporate culture as well as employee retention and recruitment strategies.

So, do your part to help foster positive change for your former colleagues, and refrain from using the exit interview as a forum for personal venting.

While companies try very hard to retain valued employees, they also understand that people sometimes decide to leave their jobs for a variety of reasons.

Just make sure that when it is your time to leave, others will remember you best as being a consummate professional who would be a pleasure to work with again some day.