First impressions are incredibly important. They establish your identity in the other person’s mind, and set the tone for the relationship.
But your last impressions are just as important.
You could’ve had a great run, but if your exit was messy or you left on bad terms, that will be all that is remembered.
A well-executed professional exit from a job will mean you are fondly remembered for all the good stuff, and you keep your connections strong. You never know when you might need that reference in the future. At the very least, you don’t want this botched relationship to ruin your reputation for future jobs.
So, if you’re planning on resigning from your job, it’s important that you do so with elegant professionalism. Here’s how to quit your job, so you build more bridges as you leave.
10 Guidelines for a Smooth Job Resignation
1. Plan for It
There is nothing as messy as an unplanned, impulsive resignation.
If you’re frustrated with your work and dissatisfaction is building up, pay attention to these emotions. Don’t wait until you’ve been pushed over the edge, because you might say or do something rash that you will regret later.
Instead, start making plans, and taking small steps towards leaving that job.
Ensure that you have a written job offer in hand before you send in your resignation letter. Don’t quit your job to start looking for your next position.
If you really can’t stand it any longer, then at the very least ensure you have nine months of living expenses saved up, or an alternate side job you can work until you find another source of income.
Once you have these sorted, you can start typing up that resignation letter.
2. Time Your Exit Right to Make the Most of It
If you’ve got a bit more patience left in you and don’t need to leave immediately to start your next role, then ensure you leave strategically.
Leave after you have achieved some quantifiable results, or after you have successfully wrapped up a project.
Not only will this give you brownie points with your boss and colleagues who will appreciate your sense of responsibility, you will also be able to add this accomplishment to your resume and use it as leverage for a better position or better pay in your next role.
3. Let Your Boss Be the First to Know
You might be tempted to share your resignation anxiety with your colleagues first, especially since it’s much less intimidating than telling your boss. You’ll probably even be smart and tell them to keep it on the down-low.
But, office gossip spreads like wildfire. You know it does.
It’s always best when your boss hears news of your resignation from you. Rumors can twist information, like your reason for leaving, and your boss will not be happy to be the last one to know about it.
Be sure to tell your supervisor first, so you can control the narrative and maintain respect in the relationship.
Pro Tip: Talk to HR next to be in the all-clear before sharing the information with the rest of your colleagues.
4. Give Them Two Weeks (But Be Ready To Leave Immediately)
Most companies require you to give them a two-week notice before you leave. This allows them the chance to tie up loose ends and find your replacement. Let your employer know your proposed last day when you inform them about your resignation.
They may request that you stay on a bit longer until they can find a replacement for you. In such circumstances, if you are able to stay, then do so. Your boss will appreciate and remember you for it.
But, remember that the company might not give you that time period sometimes. They might even ask you to leave immediately.
To ensure that you don’t lose out in such situations, have your documents saved and sorted. If there are files that you need and are allowed to take with you, then mail them to yourself or save them on a drive before resigning.
5. The Resignation Letter Matters
It’s professional to have a resignation letter. Not only does it stay on your employment file permanently, but it also reflects on your image in the eyes of those who read it.
Needless to say, don’t use it as an opportunity to vent about how much you hate the job or your boss. Anything negative that you put in writing can always come back to haunt you, even a decade later. So, keep it polite and professional.
Apart from informing your manager about your resignation, a good letter will also include:
- A word of thanks for the opportunity (and experiences gained)
- An offer to “help in any way you can” during the transition period
- Your last day of work
It’s good practice to hand in your resignation letter at the end of your conversation with your boss. But, if you’ve told them over a phone call, or can’t visit the workplace in person, then send them a formal email with the letter attached.
6. Alternative Ways to Let Them Know: Video Calls, Phone Calls, and Emails
The best way to resign is always to have a conversation with your boss or manager in person. It is respectful, polite and gives you the chance to assess their reaction and smooth it out, if possible.
If you can’t do that, then your next best option is to let them know over a video call. This is an especially good option if you are a remote worker and use this as your mode of communication anyways.
If video calls aren’t encouraged by your company, then consider scheduling a regular phone call to let them know. Save the idea of sending an email as your last resort, if nothing else works for you.
No matter how you choose to let them know, follow these tips for a smooth conversation:
- First, thank them for the opportunity and let them know how grateful you are for all the experience you’ve gained here.
- Then let them know you’re leaving, along with a reason why. If you’re leaving to go back to school, relocate somewhere else, or shift industries—let them know; it will make the news easier to digest.
- Specify your last working day clearly.
- Again, don’t use this as an opportunity to let them know how much you hated the role. Keep calm and stay professional, even if the other person reacts negatively.
7. Prepare For an Exit Interview
You may be asked by HR to give an exit interview before you leave. This usually involves questions on why you’re choosing to leave, and for feedback on your experience in the company.
If you’ve faced any issues with the company, then this is your chance to be honest. Remember to still be professional; don’t be rude and complain or vent about your boss or team.
Instead, keep your feedback constructive and factual, and offer solutions where you can.
8. Offer to Help With the Transition
Be sure to help with the transition by offering to train your replacement. They may not take you up on the offer, but it will be much appreciated.
Ensure your desktop is clear, files organized, and loose ends tied up to make it easier for the next person to step in.
Be sure to clear out your desk and leave your workplace tidy.
9. Get In Touch With HR
Review the employee handbook and check with HR to see if you’re entitled to any benefits or remaining compensation. If you have any retirement plans through this job, then also look for a way to transfer that, or cash it out.
10. Let Your Teammates Know, and Say Your Goodbyes
Don’t be that person who just disappears one day. Let your colleagues know, and use this as an opportunity to strengthen your relationships.
Tell close colleagues in person, especially if their work is going to be affected by your leaving.
Remember to not gloat or brag about your next opportunity or job, keep it brief and to the point. Also, don’t use this space to be let people know how glad you are to be moving on from this job you hate.
Finally, take this opportunity to connect with your colleagues on LinkedIn, so you can stay in touch and ask for referrals down the line. Follow these steps, and you’ll have executed a professional exit that can set you up for future success. The next time you need a referral or need some industry advice, these bridges you’ve built just might come in handy.
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