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 to 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 jeopardize 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 criticizing 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!
For more advice on this topic, see our Complete Guide to Resigning Professionally.
Or, find out what you're worth using the Robert Walters Salary Survey.