Ten Steps to Resigning Gracefully

Changing jobs and having to resign is always a nerve-racking and stressful process. Even though this is a standard practice in the working world, it is often done without proper thought and can lead to some ruffled feathers. Resigning incorrectly can tarnish your reputation and burn bridges so it’s essential to handle this process as delicately as possible.

When done correctly, a well thought out resignation will reinforce your personal brand and maintain your professional relationships - something that will pay dividends well into the future.

Here are the 10 steps to resign from your position with professionalism and grace.

Know your Why

Know your why aka the reason you’re leaving your current position and be confident in that choice. There may be some push back so be prepared to handle a strong emotional reaction like "this is a really bad time for you to leave" or "we were looking at promoting you" all of which are intended to sow seeds of doubt and get you to reconsider. Be firm in your decision and know your why and the decisions that led you to make this choice.

Revisit your Signed Contract

Give your employment contract, with your current employer, one last review before officially resigning. Be careful to look for any non-compete or non-solicitation clauses it contains. While many are not enforceable, some are very relevant and could put both you and your new employer in legal trouble.

Submit a Letter of Resignation

Resignation with an official written notice is often required as per your contract. The first paragraph should focus on the positive aspects of your time with the company; the second should briefly explain why you decided to pursue a new opportunity (i.e. further your career, learn new skills, leadership potential, etc.) Give just enough information to explain your decision-making, but don’t be too specific.

Give Proper Notice

Give the minimal notice you are required to give as per your contract. Also, be prepared (and not offended) if your employer walks you to the door within moments of your resignation. While there may be lingering loyalty and the urge to extend how much notice you provide this could affect the relationship with your new employer as they most likely want to get you in as soon as possible. It also is dangerous to stay too long, as the more time you stay the greater the window of emotion about leaving will be.

Limit your Announcement

It’s important to keep in mind that resignation isn’t just an announcement, it's a move that will impact your entire team and organization. "Where are you going, how much did they give you, what's the role they offered you...." There is a good chance a boss (or colleagues) will pepper you with questions to gather information and may even come back with a counter-offer. Remember that you are not obligated to tell an employer anything other than the bare minimum which is you are resigning and when your last day will be. If you do get asked these questions, it’s best to respond by thanking them for their interest but affirm, "at this point that information is going to remain confidential." 

Remain Positive

Be as gracious as possible during your last weeks to leave your former colleagues with a positive impression. Only disclose what is necessary to work friends as they could be pressured in subtle ways to disclose this information. Remember that it is likely to be an uncomfortable period, which is why it’s good to have a plan for your notice period. Make sure you mentally prepare for the small talk, gossip, or direct questions about your departure.

Stay in Touch

Networking is a driving force to career trajectory and positive references are potential game-changers. Always prepare for the future because you never know when an old colleague could become a useful connection. Take the time to acknowledge what you gained from your coworkers and remember, relationships of any kind are a two-way street.

Make Those “Two Weeks” Count

You’ve probably just invested 3 to 6 months interviewing for a new role which just naturally leads to being more "mentally checked out." There’s also the joy of moving towards your new future with enthusiasm. It is important to look to the future and not be wistfully looking in the rearview mirror as you drive away, but keep in mind the gap in work you are leaving. Focus this time on transitioning -
create manuals, onboarding processes, or anything that will help your team manage in your absence. Doing this will help to leave a positive and lasting impression on your personal brand.

Never Burn Bridges

A resignation is never an opportunity to pour out your frustrations to your employer. All this will do is leave a sour taste in their mouths about your entire career there and potentially interfere with future references. Even if you aren’t happy with your employer, you do owe them some gratitude for the opportunity and you never know when your paths may cross again so always take the high road!

Be Transparent in your Exit Interview

This is sometimes a delicate balance to leave a good impression while participating truthfully in an exit interview. An exit interview is typically when employees are asked to voice their opinions on the company/department. However, this is different from sharing your personal criticisms about your superior or the company. The only thing these criticisms will affect is how you are perceived when you’re gone. Try to think of constructive ways the company can improve its product, service, or culture that doesn’t personally call anyone out.

This is an exciting time and while taking the high road isn’t always the easy thing to do it is necessary. Conducting yourself as a true professional will help to reinforce your personal brand and maintain these potentially important future relationships. 

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