So you’ve finally landed a new gig. It’s a bright, shiny new challenge and a much-needed change of vista. You’re more than ready to move on to your new job, but there’s a catch: you’ve got to resign from your current one first. How you handle that task will either help you or haunt you in the years to come.
There’s no excuse not to leave on as positive a note as possible. You’ll need to keep your current boss and your coworkers in your network.
Here’s the thing: whether you love or hate your current gig, there’s no excuse not to leave on as positive a note as possible. You’ll need to keep your current boss and your coworkers in your network. They’ll be references and valuable networking contacts.
They might even be friends. Whatever they may be, it’s best to keep them close. That means there’s much more to resigning than just submitting a two-week notice.
How to Resign: A Step-by-Step Guide
Here are the six key steps to resigning in a professional and respectful manner:
Step 1: Break the News in Person
Resigning by email is woefully disrespectful. Instead, ask your boss if he or she can spare a moment for you. Grab a conference room. Better yet, grab lunch or coffee. Tell your boss that you’ve appreciated the opportunity to work with them and that you’re deeply grateful for their support and mentorship, but a new opportunity has come along and you’ve decided to take it. Tell them that you value their work in your particular industry and that you definitely want to keep in touch.
It’s that simple. Be respectful and direct. Tell the truth. Give them undivided attention and enough time to create a conversation around where you’re going. If they ask why you’re leaving — and they almost always do — this is not an invitation for you to finally unload all of the things you hate about the company. Instead, describe your goals and explain how you need to take the next step in order to attain them. For bonus points, mention that working with them has been invaluable in being able to move to the next step. For more bonus points, pay for lunch.
Step 2: Don’t Let Your Colleagues Hear It Through the Grapevine
Rumors run rampant in even the most professional work environments. Control your narrative by getting out in front of the rumor and addressing it head on. This will keep any untruths or exaggerations from getting out, and it’ll help your boss keep the rumor mill under control. During your resignation conversation with your boss, ask him or her how they’d like you to tell the team, including your own direct reports. Often, they’ll want to call an all-team meeting and announce it themselves or ask you to do so. If this happens, be gracious and brief. Thank your boss in front of your peers. Thank your peers in front of each other. Invite them to connect with you on Linkedin if they’re not already. And if someone wants to throw you a going away party, let them.
Step 3: Collect Your Metrics
As soon as you know you’re leaving, start collecting your performance history. (Of course, you should have done this when writing your resume.) That means nailing down your traffic numbers, sales figures, conversion rates, or whatever KPIs you’ve been measured by. Don’t make a production out of it. Do it discreetly and involve as few other people as possible. You’ll need this information down the road.
Step 4: Manage the Counteroffer
Counteroffers can be dicey. If you’re a star in your current role, don’t be surprised if your employer tries to retain you. We’ll turn again to our salary expert Jim Hopkinson for advice on how to handle a counteroffer:
If you have a definite offer in hand, you plan on accepting the new job anyway, and you have a good relationship with your current boss, then it is OK to sit down with your current company and let them know you’ve received another offer and see what they say. But beware… what if they offer you $5K more to stay? $10K? A promotion? While these are good options to have, it could cloud your judgment and make your decision a lot harder. I’d also warn against a fake bidding war and leading your current company on if you have no intentions of staying. Better to negotiate the new job well and go out on a high note.
If you’ve already accepted the other company’s offer, however, accepting your current employer’s counteroffer will burn a bridge on the other end. They’ll regret all the time wasted on interviewing, hiring, and negotiating with you. They’ll feel cheated and disrespected. And they won’t forget.
Step 5: Be Restrained in the Exit Interview
Don’t be snarky. Don’t unload. Don’t throw anyone under the bus. If you feel compelled to offer criticisms, make them constructive.
Step 6: Writing the Notice Itself
Keep it short. Most of what you need to say to your mentors and colleagues should be said in person. Give your HR department the courtesy of receiving a well-written, earnest letter with a firm end date included. Don’t gush about how much you’ve loved working there. Don’t grouse about how much you’ve hated it, either. Thank the company for the opportunities it’s given you and close with a respectful ending. Here’s an example:
Please accept this email as my notice of resignation from AcmeConsolidated. The past three years have afforded me a chance to learn from wonderful mentors and peers, and I am grateful for having had the chance to be a part of the team. My final day of employment will be December 31, two weeks from today’s date.
No matter how you may feel about your current situation, you should do everything in your power to leave on a high note. Treat everyone with respect. Give your boss the courtesy of being the first to know about your departure, and be sure your team hears it from you, not from each other. Don’t play games with a counteroffer if you have no intention of accepting, and don’t see your departure as a chance to finally stick it to all the people you didn’t like. When the time comes, ride off into the sunset with grace and as little noise as possible. You’ll reap the rewards down the road.
28 Days to a New Job is a month-long Hired Guns course designed to help you maximize your competitiveness in the current job market. Learn the secrets to getting a job from hiring managers, recruiters, negotiation experts and more. Read our our introductory post here. Or Subscribe Now to receive 28 Days to a New Job as a daily email.