How to resign professionally

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There is plenty of advice for how to land a great job, but what about how to resign professionally? Whether you’re dissatisfied with your current position, have found something better or are simply ready for a change, resigning can be stressful.

Yet, resigning professionally is paramount to keeping a good reputation in your industry.

It might seem that resigning from your job would be as simple as giving proper notice, but it’s not that easy. Here are our tips for how to resign professionally.

“The resignation conversation is always awkward. But maintaining positive relationships with old colleagues can be really valuable down the road if you are looking for references or connections to other firms,” said Chad Lawson, Associate Director at Robert Walters.

Follow the resignation rules of your company

Check your contract or your employee manual for the expected notice period, be it two weeks, a month, or more. It’s a professional courtesy to honour these guidelines, and it isn’t just good manners; your termination benefits may depend on it. No matter how much your new employer is pushing you to start “ASAP,” you have a commitment to your current company to see out your contract.

If your new job is with a competitor, make sure you are not breaking your contract by accepting the position. If you decide to move forward with the new job despite any contractual boundaries, be prepared to be asked to leave the premises of your current job immediately.

"The resignation conversation is always awkward. But maintaining positive relationships with old colleagues can be really valuable down the road if you are looking for references or connections to other firms."

Resign face-to-face

Always give face-to-face notice, then follow that up with a letter. Never quit a job over email, and it can be seen as incredibly disrespectful.

Be gracious

During your resignation meeting, make sure to take the opportunity to thank your boss for the experience and the opportunity you’ve had at your current job.

Keep it positive

Never gripe to co-workers about your dissatisfaction at work. Never bash your current job or bosses during an interview with a potential new employer. And never, ever, ever denigrate your current job on social media. Even after you’ve given your notice and moved on, refrain from public zealousness about how excited you are to get out of there. 

When asked why you are leaving, the ideal answer is “for a better opportunity.” If you don’t have another job lined up, you may have to be more honest, but always put a professional spin on it: “This isn’t the right environment for me” sounds a lot better than “I hate my co-workers!”

Lawson said, “Your resignation should be short and direct. Be confident about your decision to move on, yet appreciative of the opportunities you’ve had. It is always best to resign in a face to face conversation. And make sure word doesn’t get our beforehand.”

Maintain the status quo until your very last day

While you’re contemplating giving notice, and even perhaps actively hunting for another job, maintain the status quo at work. Do your very best to leave your colleagues, your replacement, and your clients as prepared as possible for your departure. It’s easy to have a “last day of school” attitude, but wrapping up loose ends and setting your colleagues up for success is a sign of a consummate professional.

Secure good recommendations

Ask for recommendations before you go. If you already have a job lined up, this might not seem imperative, but it’s a good idea to always have a few people from every past job who you can turn to for recommendations if and when you need them. Asking in person while you are still fresh in their mind will mean they are more likely to respond favourably to reference requests later on.

Unlike past decades, it’s common, and many believe prudent, to change jobs every five years or so in order to keep one’s experience fresh and one’s learning alive. Knowing how to handle a job transition professionally is a valuable career skill.

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