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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

Operation Resignation: 6 Steps to Ensure a Graceful Departure

Well, you’ve gone and done it. You landed a new job (congrats!), and now you’re more than ready to go light the world on fire. Terrific—except, there’s one thing left looming: You’ve got to resign from your current job. (And that’s making you feel a wee bit unnerved.)

How do you calmly and professionally ensure you get the outbound right when quitting your job and bidding farewell to your current employer? Consider these steps to help assure your exit much more resembles a graceful sashay than a clunky mishap.

1. Think About the Likely Response and Reaction

In a perfect world, you’re going to politely give two weeks notice, suggest a reasonable amount of time during which you’ll stay to wrap up projects, and perhaps train a replacement. And your soon-to-be-ex-employer will embrace this plan joyfully.

In the real world, it often doesn’t play out quite so swimmingly. In particular, sometimes your boss will thank you for your work, ask you to kindly turn in your laptop, phone, and ID badge, and then show you the door. Before you resign, prepare (mentally and logistically) for the possibility that your two weeks-notice offer will be declined. Have your boxes on standby, just in case you need to leave ASAP.

2. Follow the Right Chain of Command When Announcing

If your company has a formal procedure for resigning, know it—and follow it. Even if it doesn’t, be sure and alert the right person or people first, because news almost always travels like wildfire when someone quits. Generally speaking, you should tell your immediate supervisor first, in private and—if practical—in a meeting that you’ve scheduled in advance. No one loves being ambushed with unexpected news. And your boss certainly won’t appreciate hearing it through the grapevine.

3. Clarify and Formalize Your Intentions, in Writing

Even if you work in a small, casual office, solidify your intention to resign in writing. Clarify your desired departure date, and then outline how you propose to use your final days or weeks. Got a project to finish? Lay out how you’ll do that here. Offering to train a replacement? Spell it out. Need to make a couple of final customer visits? State your intentions in this letter.

Your employer won’t always want you to use the time in the exact way you’re offering, but you look both professional and like you have your act together when you present a strong, thoughtful resignation letter (here’s a template you can use).

4. Be Wary of the Counteroffer

When you resign, you very well may be thrown a curveball—in the form of a counteroffer. Sometimes, especially when you’re a vital asset to a particular company, project, or client account, the counteroffer will be mighty tempting. (Ever hear the expression “throw cash at the problem?” This is often exactly what panicking employers do.)

While there is never an absolute black and white answer to “Should I take a counteroffer?” realize that employers may be relieved for a moment if you agree to stay, but resentful in the long run. You may also become known as the company or department flight risk, and that’s almost never a good thing, especially if your employer faces budget cuts or layoffs down the road. Guess who’s the easy one to cut then? If you’re mentally out of there, finish the process and depart as planned. (Here’s some further reading on counteroffers.)

5. Tie up the Loose Ends

You don’t want to be known as the guy who left the place a disaster, right? Of course not. So tidy up your files and your affairs before you hit the road. Make things as easy for your employer—and your successor—as possible. This will go a long way, both from a short-term logistical standpoint and in terms of your long-term reputation.

6. Leave Strong

This ties into your long-term reputation and is an important last step when resigning and moving on to a new job opportunity. Leave strong. I’m not saying storm out in a blaze of glory, not at all. I’m saying leave confidently.

Be gracious and appreciative to your supervisor and colleagues. Be constructive and honest (but not pissy) in your exit interview. Don’t feel that you have to over-explain to everyone why you’re leaving and where you’re going if you don’t want to, but certainly say goodbye.

Close out this chapter elegantly, and then—celebrate all that is to come.

Photo of person walking down hall courtesy of Shutterstock.

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