How to Resign From Your Job with Professionalism & Pride

Congratulations! You just got an offer for a wonderful new job. There’s just one catch. You have to say good-bye to your current employer. Maybe you loved your job and you face an emotional farewell. Or, perhaps you hated every minute and you’ve been counting down the days until you can walk out the door for the last time.

Candidates often admit they’re nervous about making the departure announcement. They’re afraid the boss will be angry. They feel guilty about the work they’re leaving behind. They worry that they’ll cause more work for their coworkers, since someone will have to take up the slack for them. Candidates also wonder how to resign gracefully yet still protect their own longer-term career interests. They suspect their departure style will influence their careers for a long time. They’re right. After all, especially if you’re transitioning to a company in the same geographical region, you’re still likely to occasionally run into your old coworkers. For those working in tech fields, you’ll probably encounter your old colleagues at conferences, or on online forums. How you go about leaving your old position will influence how others perceive you and interact with you in the future. Here are some guidelines to help you to move on to your next position with grace and style.

1. Give the correct amount of notice required by your company’s written policy. Every so often my Candidates feel sorry for their former colleagues. So they stick around an extra week (or even an extra month). Inevitably, they begin to feel like a fifth wheel. Nearly everyone says, “Next time I’m leaving right away!”

2. After you leave, do not accept any job-related calls from your company unless you have a written consulting contract. Your boss required two weeks notice, then belatedly realized she needs four weeks for a smooth transition to your successor. No matter what projects you might be working on, this is not your issue. Your boss made a business decision to require two weeks of advance notice. If she miscalculated, she needs to accept the cost, just as she’d accept the cost of late payments to a supplier. If your company needs additional help and you’re willing, offer to work as a paid consultant with a contract. If you do this, make sure to first get everything in writing and to make sure your new job becomes your number one priority. You’ll also want to make sure your new employer is ok that you’re still consulting with your old company.

3. Study your current and future company policies regarding disclosures and non-compete agreements. Some companies, especially in tech fields, are extremely proprietary about their process and their people. Once you resign, you may have to leave the workplace immediately. Or your new company may ask you not to work for your former employer, even on a part-time or consulting basis.

4. Resign to your boss in person and Human Resources in writing. Phone is second best. And tell the boss before you tell anyone else – even your best friend or golfing buddy.

5. Expect your boss to be professional. Candidates often fear the boss’s reaction. However, bosses and managers are rarely caught by surprise. Good bosses are happy to see their employees move ahead. Thank her for the opportunity to learn, which has led to your newest and most wonderful career move. Particularly in fields like software development, there’s an expectation that employees will make career moves to improve their skills.

6. Thank your boss and your coworkers, even if you hate them all and can’t wait to leave. You may regard them more fondly through a haze of memories than through a glare of office lighting. You may encounter them at conventions and networking groups. And most likely you will benefit from strong references and goodwill.

7. Decline a counter-offer. Sixty percent of people who accept a counter-offer are gone in six months. If you decide to stay, get a written job contract, and make sure you’re staying for the right reasons. This is the time to address the factors that made you want to resign in the first place.

8. Treat the exit interview as a business formality, not a therapy session. When a Human Resource professional asks why you are leaving, be upbeat and positive: “For a better opportunity elsewhere.” Talk about how much you loved the company and your job. You never know where your comments might turn up in the future, mangled and misinterpreted.

9. Resist entreaties to share the details of your future position with anyone. Occasionally a colleague will try to assess your salary or other information “so we can stay competitive in recruiting.” Helping your company recruit is not part of your job and anyway, do you really believe this? Details of your future employment should remain confidential, even from your close friends in the company.

10. Focus on your new opportunity – not your past experience. Once you’re gone, you’re history. The very same folks who loved meeting you for lunch will likely barely remember your name a week later.

And, if you haven’t changed jobs for awhile you may be in for a shock. Your first day in a new position can be a real eye-opener!