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Resigning the Right Way

May 22, 2021

You will likely be resigning from a job at some point in your career. I’d like to share a few insights and tips to help you resign the right way.

At first glance, it might seem unimportant — you’re leaving them anyway so why worry about this? There are three big reasons this is important:

  1. As you progress in your career, more and more of your important moves are going to come from your professional network instead of applications to jobs. It’s vitally important that as you move from one company to another, you place significant value in the professional relationships you have — because you’re going to need them. They are going to help you get jobs in the future.
  2. Your previous employers are your references. You should be cultivating outstanding references through each step in your career.
  3. Your industry is smaller than you think! One of your potential future employers is probably going to be connected to someone at your former company. At some point, a prospective employer is going to reach out for an unofficial reference — be sure they will always have good things to say about you.

 

With that out of the way, let’s talk about resigning the right way. Whether you’re leaving for a new role or for a personal reason, here are the basics: be positive, appreciative, respectful, flexible, and work hard to the end. Since your departure is unexpected, your soon-t0-be-former supervisor is going to be stressed and under pressure to resolve the problem (your resignation). So be kind, and work hard for your last few weeks. Here are a few specific tips:

The conversation

  • Try to meet with your supervisor in person or at the very least by phone. Try to avoid email and especially text.
  • Prepare your thoughts beforehand and plan to keep it short.
  • “I wanted to let you know I have decided to leave the company soon.”
  • Express your appreciation for the company, colleagues, and opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Share your planned last day.
  • Ask what you can focus on for the remainder of your time that will be most helpful to the company.
  • Thank your supervisor for their support (even if they didn’t give you any).

 

The written resignation

  • If you are meeting in person, bring a typed resignation letter with you and leave it with them at the end of your conversation. If by phone, plan to send it after your call.
  • The letter should express everything noted above from the conversation. It doesn’t need to be long. The key points: I am leaving effective xxx; thank you for having me; how can I help while still here; thank you again.
  • Signed and dated.

 

Notice period

Provide at least 2 weeks notice unless completely unavoidable. More is always appreciated when possible. Note: in most states, the employer is within their rights to ask you to leave immediately, so be prepared for either outcome.

Afterwards

Be sure to work hard in your last few weeks! Try not to just breeze to the end without supporting your colleagues.

Caution

It can be tempting to air your dirty laundry once you have announced your upcoming departure — don’t do it. Even if you are leaving because its a miserable place to be, stay positive — its almost over! Don’t start complaining to your work friends, your supervisor, or to their supervisor. Remain professional and positive.

Handling questions

  • Where are you going? I don’t feel comfortable announcing that yet, but I will share with you once I start!
  • Why are you leaving? I was offered a great opportunity that feels like a good next step for me –OR– I have decided to take some time to focus on my personal life. More details are not important or suggested.

 

Disclaimer

If you have been the victim of any type of harassment or discrimination, some of these guidelines may not be right for you. In these cases, especially if you are considering taking legal action, we suggest consulting an attorney.

About the contributor
William Brobston
About the contributor

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