How to resign professionally

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There is a wealth of advice on how to land your ideal job, but guidance on how to properly leave the not-so-great one you already have is much less common.

Whether you’re dissatisfied with your current position, have found something better, or are simply ready for a change, resigning can be stressful.

However, resigning professionally is a valuable skill that can help you maintain an excellent reputation within your industry.

Superficially, resigning from your job seems as simple as giving proper notice, but managing the process effectively is more complex. Here are our tips for how to resign professionally when you decide to move on.

“Giving your notice is inevitably at least somewhat awkward for you and your manager. But maintaining positive relationships with old colleagues can be valuable in the long term if you are looking for references or connections to other firms”, said Jose Bokhorst, Director of Walters People Netherlands.

Follow company procedure for resignations

Refer to your contract or employee manual to confirm the required notice period. Following these guidelines is more than just a professional courtesy; your termination benefits may depend on it. Even if your new employer is pushing you to start immediately you should honour your commitment to your current company and see out your contract.

If your new job is with a competitor, ensure that you are not breaking your contract by accepting the position. If you decide to move forward with the new job despite any contractual boundaries, your employer may ask you to leave the premises of your current job immediately.

The resignation conversation is often awkward, but references or connections to other firms are extremely valuable as you move on with your career.

Have the conversation face to face

Give your manager your notice in person and then follow up with a letter. Quitting your job over email can come across as unprofessional and show a lack of respect for your manager.

Be gracious

During your resignation meeting, be sure to thank your boss for the experience and the opportunities you’ve had in your current job.

Keep it positive

Avoid complaining to co-workers about your dissatisfaction at work. Don’t speak negatively about your current job or your current manager at an interview for a new role.

Perhaps most importantly, never denigrate your current or former job on social media. Even after you’ve given your notice and moved on, refrain from commenting negatively about your previous job.

When asked why you are leaving, the ideal answer is “for a better opportunity.” If you don’t have another job lined up, you may have to be more honest, but avoid attributing blame or overtly criticising your current job. An explanation like “this isn’t the right environment for me” sounds a lot better than “I can’t stand my coworkers!”

 “Your resignation should be concise and direct. Be confident about your decision to move on, but show that you appreciate the opportunities you’ve had. Always resign face-to-face if at all possible and don’t discuss it with other colleagues beforehand”, added Jose Bokhorst.

Maintain a professional attitude right up until you leave

While you’re contemplating giving notice, and even perhaps actively hunting for another job, maintain your standards at work. Aim to leave your colleagues, your replacement, and your clients as prepared as possible for your departure. While it may be tempting to let standards slip when you know you are leaving, wrapping up loose ends and setting your colleagues up for success is a strong indicator of professionalism.

Secure good recommendations

Before you leave your role, ask your manager and colleagues if they would be happy to be contacted as referees in the future. This might not seem imperative if you have already been offered a new job, but it’s a good idea to always have a few people from every past job who you can turn to for recommendations if and when you need them.

Asking in person while you are still fresh in their mind will mean they are more likely to respond favourably to reference requests later on.

Among younger workers it is common, and many believe prudent, to change jobs every five years or so in order to keep one’s experience fresh and one’s learning alive. Knowing how to handle a job transition professionally is a valuable career skill.

 

For more information or personal advice, please contact one of our specialist consultants.
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