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How to resign the right way

Jul 10, 2019

When you finally land that offer you really wanted, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the new job and take your eye off the old one, but the manner of your leaving matters. Suzanne Feeney gives you her step-by-step guide to handing in your notice.

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 important 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 you never know when your paths might cross again, whether as future colleagues, managers, referees or just valuable business connections.

Resigning professionally is just what professional people do. So here’s your step-by-step guide to doing it right.

1. Inform your employer

It’s in both you 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 to talk privately and plan what you are going to say and try to anticipate the questions your manager is likely to ask.

  • Have a letter prepared to formally give notice of your resignation at the end of the meeting.
  • 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 or feedback on your experience in the job, stay positive and professional. 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. 

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 could receive a counter-offer. While a counter-offer is flattering, our research shows that many people who accept a counter-offer go on to leave quite soon after.

If you are considering staying, make sure your employer is prepared to commit to the counter-offer in writing, with all the details of the terms that have been offered you face-to-face. 

3. Complete your notice period

Once you hand in your notice, there is typically some negotiation over how much notice you are to work. 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 an agreement, you could jeopardise any termination benefits or future references. Your new employer will wait for you as they obviously think highly of you.

4. Handover

After your notice period has been decided, 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 to which you can commit within the timeframe of your notice period. 
  • Start preparing a detailed handover document which will allow others to pick up your outstanding projects and responsibilities.
  • Find solutions for how the rest of your team can cover for you in the short-term.
  • 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.  

5. Keep in touch

Think about the people you work with and those 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 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.

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 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!

Suzanne Feeney is a Director at Robert Walters.