So, you’ve weighed all the pros and cons, and you’ve decided to resign from your current position. The decision could be a tough one or a no-brainer, but regardless, how you handle yourself—and your colleagues—after you’ve submitted that resignation letter is an important part of the process that many of us don’t consider.
If you’re starting to plot your exit, consider these three tips to help smooth your transition and keep your reputation rock-solid after you’re gone.
1. Read Your Contract
Deciding to quit your job will no doubt require you to consider a lot of factors. Pay, job satisfaction, and commute time probably come to mind, right? What many people forget, though, is the fine print. Depending on your role, you may have a contract with your current employer, which means how—and when—you resign will be important.
Take one of my former colleagues several years back as an example. He had recently been transferred to my office from another location out of state, which the company had sponsored. All his moving expenses, as well as a travel allowance, had been paid up front, with the specific agreement he’d stay in the position for two years. If he left before that time was up, he was on the hook for all the moving expenses (which weren’t cheap).
About a year and a half into his contract, he was offered a great opportunity someplace else and decided to resign. Naturally, the company wasn’t pleased, and immediately reminded him of the money he’d owe upon his departure. Ouch.
Suddenly, that new job wasn’t making sense financially. If my colleague had taken the time to review his contract, however, he would’ve known he just had to wait six more months, and he’d be free to move on. If his new employer couldn’t wait that long, then he at least would’ve had the opportunity to factor those moving costs into his salary negotiation.
The moral of the story? Before you hand over that resignation letter, make sure you’ve reviewed your contract with your employer. Whether it’s checking the length of your contract or finding out if going to a competitor will cause issues, reading the fine print will confirm you’re free and clear to resign without it costing you.
2. Keep it Under Wraps
Once you’ve decided to move on, it’s tempting to share the news with your colleagues. Maybe they’re also considering getting out of there, or maybe you just want to let your work buddies know you’re moving on. Regardless of your reasons, though, resist the urge to spill the beans. News of departures travels quickly, and the best way to kill your reputation with your boss is for her to find out you’re leaving at the water cooler.
I know this because, well, it happened to me early on in my career. I confided in one of my colleagues—someone I trusted—and it turns out, he couldn’t keep the secret. Part of the reason I was leaving was because I’d been offered a better position with a competitor, so my confidant took it upon himself to covertly alert my manager so she could be ready with a counteroffer when I gave her my notice.
While I’m sure my colleague really was trying to help, he inadvertently stirred up quite a mess, with me smack in the center. My boss was naturally stressed by being put in the position of having to try to convince me to stay, but she was more upset I hadn’t come to her first. And, since she’d heard about my exit from someone else, I no longer had any control over how the message was delivered. Instead of getting to explain to her why I was leaving, my boss viewed me as unprofessional and disloyal. Not exactly the way you want to leave a job. While I was able to eventually smooth things over, it definitely wasn’t how I wanted the situation to go down.
Yes, it’s going to be tough keeping such big news confidential, but if you can manage to keep it under wraps until you’ve spoken directly with your boss, you’ll keep the tone and the delivery of the news under your control.
3. Be Prepared to Be an Outsider
While moving on to a new gig may be exciting for you, it might not be so great for the colleagues you’re leaving behind. In fact, your departure may spark some pretty intense emotions among your teammates (resentment, jealousy, stress that they’ll have to pick up the pieces), which means you might feel like a bit of an outsider once you’ve given notice.
Several years back, I worked with a guy who had a great opportunity to join a competitor and really advance his career. As soon as we all found out, the group was supportive, but it didn’t last. Since my colleague was a senior member of the team, he’d given over a month of notice, which meant we had several weeks to work with him, knowing he was going to one of our top competitors. Not surprisingly, he was quickly excluded from strategy and team meetings, and eventually happy hours and other office events.
While it wasn’t easy for him, he recognized this was part of the deal and handled it with grace, which made things a whole lot less awkward for the rest of the team. He ended up leaving on a positive note, with all of us wishing him well on his last day—definitely what you want to happen when you leave a job.
It’s not fun to think about, but the reality is, when you’re leaving a team, it’s only natural for your colleagues to see you differently after you’ve resigned. While you’ll still have to do your job and assure a smooth transition, understanding your team will probably have some mixed emotions about your decision will help you get through your last couple weeks more easily.
Most of us will have to resign from at least a few jobs in our career, and every time will be a new challenge. But, keep these tips in mind when you’re ready to move on, and you’ll ensure you leave with high recommendations and your reputation in tact.