It’s a small world and with the widespread use of websites such as LinkedIn, it’s getting much smaller. It is therefore not advisable to drop the ball in terms of your behaviour as soon as you resign from a role, no matter what you think of your employer.
These are my tips on resigning gracefully and ensuring that your final weeks with your employer help, rather than hinder your career.
1. Try not to catch your employer by surprise. Unless you have a great relationship with your employer, I wouldn’t advocate actually telling them that you are job hunting. However, there is a reason that you are looking for other options. Perhaps you are no longer challenged in your role, or there is something about the role that is bothering you. Try to have had these discussions with your employer before you resign. For one thing, the issues may be addressed and you may no longer feel the need to switch roles. Secondly, your employer will not be caught totally by surprise when you resign. They would already have at least a general inkling about why you have chosen to move on and would appreciate that you had made the effort to broach the issues beforehand.
2. Remove any important personal items from your computer and/or desk area. It’s better to be safe than sorry and discretely remove your important personal items before you make the announcement. Not only will you be able to do so more privately, but in the event that you are asked to leave immediately you won’t be left scrambling for your things.
3. Check your employment agreement for a non-competition clause and clarify your notice period. It’s important to know before you commit to another role or resign from your current role, what your legal and contractual obligations are. Notice periods and non-competition clauses can be negotiated however you’re better off knowing where you stand rather than being caught off guard.
4. Draft a professional resignation letter. There are a multitude of resources online that will guide you in drafting a professional resignation letter. Keep it short and simple, three or four sentences is fine as the resignation letter is more of a formality than anything else. I do however, ensure that I thank my employer (if I mean it) for the opportunities that they have provided me.
5. Schedule a face to face meeting with your direct manager. Resigning is like breaking up with somebody. Don’t catch the person off guard and definitely don’t break it off via text or email! Schedule a quiet catch up, either away from the office, in a meeting room or your manager’s office. The formality of the situation will give your manager some warning so that they can prepare themselves for whatever news you are about to give. Be prepared for their reaction. Will they counter offer? If so, are there any terms that you would accept or have you firmly made up your mind? Preparing for the possible reactions and having a good idea of how you will respond, even if it’s by asking for more time to think, will ensure that the interaction goes more smoothly.
6. Ensure your handover is thorough. As I have mentioned, the world is a very small place and word gets around, which is more incentive than ever to leave with a good impression. I have learned from experience that it is very easy for the next person who takes a role to blame the outgoing person for any shortcomings. I am extremely thorough with my handover, ensuring I tie up loose ends and draft notes for all of my key projects and tasks. I then save these handover notes to the team’s directory and email them to any relevant managers and/or stakeholders. That way, it’s not possible for anyone to claim that you didn’t provide an adequate handover, particularly when you are no longer there to defend yourself.
7. Clean up after yourself. This is such an obvious thing to do but it can be forgotten in the mad rush out the door. If you have a work phone, delete all of your text messages, history and contacts. Make sure your personal contacts know not to text you on your work phone in future. Clean out your desk. If you commute to work via public transport, consider taking one or two items with you each day to make light work of the transition. Clean out your network folders, particularly those that are accessible by other people. For example, I kept records of all of the emails I received and sent in a network folder, for back up purposes. I also participated in some sensitive employee engagement projects where I interviewed colleagues in relation to their personal gripes at work. I made sure to delete all of these records prior to leaving my workplace. I also set an ‘out of office’ message on my work email to let people know that I have resigned. Often, your email address is still active a few weeks after you have actually left.
8. Preserve your wider network. As I start winding down during my notice period, I arrange catch-ups with my stakeholders, mentors and friends. It is not only nice to be able to say goodbye but to end on a positive note and achieve a certain sense of closure. It’s also a good time to exchange details in order to keep in touch, and of course, once you have left, make sure you do stay in touch! It’s obvious that you shouldn’t burn your bridges, however not as obvious that your bridges need to be maintained. This could be as simple as staying connected on LinkedIn and sending a brief note every now and then.
9. Squash the rumours and manage your reputation. In a large workplace, there can be speculation about why a person has resigned. It’s up to you to manage your personal brand and ensure that the right conversations are being had. For example, there was a large round of redundancy at my previous organisation a few months prior to my resignation and redundancies were still taking place at the time that I resigned. In addition, there were people who were simply over it themselves, and therefore just assumed that I was leaving for the same reason. I had a few points that I tried to communicate each time somebody engaged me in conversation about my resignation. Firstly, I wanted to get across that I had not been made redundant, it was my choice to leave. Secondly, I wanted to make it clear that I was leaving on good terms, had really enjoyed my time at this workplace and appreciated the opportunities I had been given. I also ensured that these points were inferred in my departing email, which brings me to my next tip…
10. Let people know how to find you. Send a departing email to the people that you regularly worked with. It is courteous of you to let them know that you have moved on, rather than having them find out the next time they email you and the email bounces back. It is also a great opportunity for you to promote yourself and what you will be doing next. For example, my next job was as a Lawyer in a private practice commercial law firm. I made sure to mention the type of law I would be practising in the hope that I would be front of mind should my colleagues ever require these services.
11. Get your finances in order. If you have a break between jobs, check that you have enough funds to cover any financial commitments you have during that period. Download your payslips from your employer’s system, consider your plans for your superannuation and whether you need to cancel any memberships, such as a nearby gym membership. If your current employer offers superannuation and/or employee benefits that are significantly different to your new employer, consider what you may need to do if you want to address the difference.
12. Be constructive and restrained at your exit interview. I used to think that it was up to the people who had resigned to provide open and honest feedback at exit interview stage in order to improve things for the people who remained. However, I have come to realise that this can be a naive way to think. It’s first necessary to size up your employer. Are they actually willing to take on the feedback or are they just going through the motions? If it’s the latter, even if you leave honest feedback with good intentions, it may not be taken on board. For example, it’s not a good sign when there isn’t a HR representative present at all. I find that it’s best to stick to constructive and high level feedback in an exit interview. There is no point airing your most detailed and personal grievances, these should have been aired before you resigned.
13. Show your appreciation. You may need to give a small speech at your farewell lunch. You will have many conversations with many people about the fact that you have resigned. Remember the people who have helped you in this role and take these opportunities to reach out to them and thank them. You will be remembered for it. I resigned in March and I knew that June was usually the time where we were required to give feedback on the performance of our colleagues. These reviews are taken into account when determining bonuses, so although I couldn’t participate in the formal process, I wrote reviews for the key people who I had worked with, in addition to my Manager. After all, I had worked very closely with them and my departure would mean one less positive review counting towards their appraisal. Showing your appreciation demonstrates that you are considerate and thoughtful of others, rather than just thinking about yourself.
14. Don’t let your performance decline. There is nothing more cliche and frustrating than somebody who resigns and then proceeds to turn up late or not turn up at all during their notice period. You should be working equally as hard, if not even harder, during your notice period to leave a good impression. Why would you want the last few weeks of bad behaviour to define your time with an organisation?
15. Lastly, take in your last few weeks and enjoy yourself. When you know your time is limited, it’s much easier to appreciate the little things, reflect on the good times and enjoy yourself. Now on to bigger and better things!
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