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Resigning professionally

Tips for how to resign professionally

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 Ben Litvinoff, 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!”

Ben 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.

When you finally land that offer you really wanted, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the new job and take your eye off the old one. But the manner of your leaving matters, to you and your employers – here’s how to do it right… 

It makes good sense to resign from a job in the right way. Relationships are vital in any successful career, and you never quite know what the future holds, so it’s vital to leave on good terms with your soon-to-be-ex colleagues and managers.

These are people who already know and rate your work, and of course you never know when your paths might cross again, whether as future colleagues, managers, referees or just valuable business connections.

And then of course, resigning professionally is just what professional people do. So here’s your countdown to doing it right…

1. Inform your employer

It’s in both your and your employer’s interests to communicate that you have accepted a new offer as soon as possible. Face-to-face is obviously best: set up a meeting where you can talk in private and think ahead about what you’re going to say, and what questions your manager is likely to ask you.

  • Have a letter prepared to formally give notice of your resignation once you’ve discussed it in person.
  • Make sure you know what your contracted notice period is, as the subject of the best way to manage this period is sure to come up in the meeting.
  • Always start by expressing thanks for the opportunities you’ve had in the current role.
  • If asked about your reasons for leaving and/or feedback on your experience in the job, stay positive and professional, and don’t go into too much detail at this point. You can set up an exit interview later to give more detailed, constructive feedback.
  • If a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, Skype or a phone call is the next best option. Resigning by email is seen as a discourteous approach.
  • Ask your manager when and how they’d like to communicate your news to the rest of the team. It’s a professional courtesy to put them in charge of this decision. 
  • Be prepared for any counter-offer…

 

2. Address any counter-offer

Employers would generally rather try and hold on to good people than start to hire all over again, so you might well expect a counter-offer. This could include more money, better benefits, a new job role, or even a transfer to a different role or division.

A counter-offer is flattering. It’s a sign that you are valued. At the same time, however, always remember that your response needs to be a careful business decision, not just an initial emotional reaction. Our research shows that many people who accept a counter-offer go on to leave quite soon after anyway. So ask yourself:

  • Why did I want to leave in the first place? Will the new offer address those frustrations or are they likely to crop up again?
  • Would you have received a pay rise or promotion soon if you hadn’t decided to leave?
  • Are you convinced that your current employer has a genuine development plan for your long-term future?
  • If you do stay, how are your relationships with your current manager and colleagues likely to be affected by the fact that you wanted to leave?
  • What will you miss out on by not taking the new offer?

If you are considering staying, make sure that your employer is prepared to commit to the counter-offer in writing, with all the details of the terms that have been offered you face-to-face. 

 

3. Complete your notice period and handover

So let’s say you reject the counter-offer, typically there may be some negotiation over how much notice you are to work. Your outgoing employer will want you to stay for as long as possible and your new employer will be keen for you to start as soon as possible. 

Even if you don’t get your ideal outcome from this conversation, it’s vital to stay focused and see the period out. If you try to leave earlier without agreement, you could of course jeopardise any termination benefits (or future references).

But in any case you should try to be as flexible as possible with your current employer in the interests of goodwill and maintaining the relationship – you never know when you may cross paths with them again later in your career. Your new employer will wait for you as they obviously think highly of you.

So once this issue has been resolved, it’s time to take proactive steps to hand over your role.

  • Ask your line manager how you can best support them in handing over your work to other colleagues and/or your future replacement.
  • Work out which projects and tasks need your urgent attention, and detail all those which you can commit to seeing through within the timeframe of your notice period. 
  • Even if not asked to, start preparing a detailed handover document which will allow others to pick up your outstanding projects and responsibilities. Think hard about what people will need to know in your absence.
  • Find solutions for how the rest of your team can cover for you in the short-term, and make suggestions about which team members can take over some of your responsibilities.
  • If there are specific client relationships or operational responsibilities you need to hand over, arrange some one-to-one meetings to go through these in more detail with the right person.  
  • If appropriate, you could also offer to help your employer in the hiring process for your replacement. You have the first-hand experience to know which skills and traits matter most.

 

4. Keeping in touch

Think about the people you work with now and who especially you want to keep in touch with after you’ve left, both socially and professionally. After resigning but before leaving, you can start putting steps in place to make sure you can maintain contact.

  • Circulate a personal email address where people can reach you.
  • Link with and follow soon-to-be-ex colleagues via LinkedIn, Twitter and any other relevant platforms.

When keeping in touch, always stay professional:

  • Don’t share any sensitive information about your new employer.
  • Look out for interesting industry news, views, research and events that give you a good excuse for getting in touch with key contacts from your old job.
  • When speaking with former colleagues, avoid criticising your previous employer or comparing conditions at your new job with your old one.

 

5. Get ready to hit the ground running

Even before you’ve left your old job, there are things you can do to build up a good impression for your new role and give yourself a head start on the exciting new challenges that lie ahead:

  • Start to connect with appropriate new colleagues on social media and accept any invitations that come your way.
  • Drop your new line manager a line and ask if there’s anything you can read or do to help prepare for your new role.
  • Do some general desk research about your new role and employer.
  • Start to plan your new route to work.

Finally – stay calm and confident. Starting a new job can feel daunting, but remember that you were selected by your new employer out of many candidates as the best for the role.

Remind yourself too why you wanted to move on, and why this new opportunity appealed to you. Now all you have to do is get out there and make the most of it!

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