Professionally and gracefully resign from a job.
The average American will hold more than 12 jobs in a lifetime, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of the transitions may be involuntary terminations or layoffs, like many experienced during the coronavirus pandemic, but the majority will result from employee resignations. Even in an unstable economy, better job opportunities may arise along with other reasons you may want to leave your current position. So, quitting a job is as useful a skill as finding or keeping one.
Following these eight steps will help you leave a position in the right way and build your professional brand while creating goodwill and preserving social capital.
Make sure your new position is solid.
A surprisingly large number of people will quit a job only to learn that the new position was not all it was cracked up to be. Misunderstandings abound, so it is best to make sure the new job offer is written with details of compensation, responsibilities and start dates.
Also, make sure the new job is something you want to do that fits your career path. The incumbent employer may take you back after you leave for the wrong job, but it is best to reduce that risk as much as possible.
Discuss your plans for giving notice to the current employer with the new one. Ask if you can take a day of paid time off to return to the old job to help orient a successor. Most new employers will be impressed by your professional courtesy to the old employer and grant that availability.
Prepare your personal property.
Before you give your notice to leave, be sure to make copies of any personal information. This may include work samples, contact information or personal, physical items like photograph frames. Be sure to comply with company regulations and do not take any information that does not belong to you. A good rule of thumb is to imagine what you would do if you were marched out of the building immediately upon your resignation. Are you ready?
Prepare for the resignation.
The next phase includes writing your resignation letter, compiling a project update and thinking through a communications plan. Please note that you won’t share these items with anyone yet, but you will want to think them through.
Writing a resignation letter or email follows certain rules. Keep it simple, positive and clear. Be sure to include your last day of work, your future contact information and an expression of gratitude.
Then, devise a communication plan of talking points and action sequences. An FAQ approach can be helpful. Answer questions like “Why are you leaving this job?” and “What could we have done to keep you?” This list is for your own use to organize your thoughts and to ensure that you communicate consistently with all constituents.
Create a project status list or turnover file that includes all your responsibilities. Many are surprised at how many supervisors are unaware of the job details or tasks of their team members. Finally, as part of the communications plan, consider who needs to know about this change, and again, how you and the organization will position the change.
Meet with your supervisor.
Once you are prepared to deliver the news, you need to make an in-person appointment to meet with your boss. If they are in another location where a face-to-face meeting is not practicable, then plan to meet by videoconference or telephone.
During the meeting, deliver the news in a compassionate but direct manner. Recognize that the news will likely be unwelcome, but come prepared to mitigate the impact. One way to do this is to offer a longer notice period, propose a moonlighting consulting gig or volunteer to come back in a couple of months to orient your replacement.
Inform internal and external audiences.
Having coordinated with your supervisor, it’s now time to notify peers and subordinates according to the plan you devised. Keep it positive and ascribe your decision to “pull” factors rather than “push” reasons. Don’t spread any sort of dissent among the team, and maintain a helpful posture.
Discuss your communications plan with the boss and decide who should know what and in what sequence. This is particularly important for outside constituents like customers and vendors who need to have a clear transition plan when they are notified. Do not send a blanket email to the whole organization. Each communication needs to be tailored and thoughtful.
Prepare for the exit interview.
It is a best practice for organizations to conduct exit interviews with departing employees. Sometimes these are conducted by human resources department staff and others by line managers who may or may not be in the chain of command.
It is important to prepare for an exit interview like any other important meeting. Refer back to your communication plan and consult a list of standard exit interview questions. Keep it positive and phrase even constructive criticism in positive terms.
Instead of saying, “We never received enough vacation time,” you could say, “Team productivity and creativity would probably be enhanced if more team members took advantage of the time off to recharge their batteries.” Also, resist the temptation to gossip, settle scores or pass on information for which you lack firsthand experience.
Finish strong in your last days at the company. Just as your first impression is important on joining, so is your lasting impression upon departure. Remember that today’s departing colleagues may be partners, customers or teammates at some future location. As discussed above, be sure to leave a binder or project update plan that spells out the status of all projects and initiatives so that your successor can pick up without missing too many beats.
Stay in touch.
“Don’t be a stranger” is a common goodbye phrase and actually good advice. On the other hand, don’t be the kid who couldn’t leave campus after graduation. Staying in touch with former colleagues is not only polite, but also a good networking practice.
Once you have started your new job, update your professional social media presence on LinkedIn or industry-specific sites. Then, send handwritten or email thank-you notes to each of the people who helped you along your journey at the old company. After a few months, find an excuse to check back in with former colleagues by sending an article or a short “thinking of you” note. Sincerely offer your assistance to them and keep those relationships fresh.
Change is difficult for most of us. Quitting a job the right way will keep you on the path to personal satisfaction and career growth.
These are the steps to quitting your job:
— Make sure your new position is solid.
— Prepare your personal property.
— Prepare for the resignation.
— Meet with your supervisor.
— Inform internal and external audiences.
— Prepare for the exit interview.
— Finish strong.
— Stay in touch.
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Update 07/29/20: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information