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The Secret to Resigning Without Burning Your Bridges

Topics: Career Advice

There’s rarely a perfect time to tell your boss that you’re resigning, even if you’ve landed the new job of your dreams.

In every industry, employees will come and go. However, for most of us, having “that” conversation is something we dread, even when we’re super excited about what lies ahead.

Regardless of whether you loved the job you’re leaving or can’t wait to get out of the door, you should handle your resignation as professionally as possible. Here’s how:

1. Be Sure

First of all, it may sound obvious, but make sure you’re 100 percent certain you’re ready to resign. If you’ve received a new job offer, check that your new employer has completed their background checks and references outreach. Make sure you’ve signed the necessary paperwork and have a start date before you tell your current employer of your departure.

If any of the above is still being decided upon, wait before you resign. You don’t want to be the victim of a last-minute change that may impact your new offer. If you don’t have a new job to go to, take time to evaluate carefully if you really are ready to quit. We all have days when we’re ready to march out the door. Don’t make a snap decision that you may regret later.

2. Give Notice

Before you resign, check your employment contract and your company’s employee handbook carefully. These documents will clearly outline your obligations to your employer regarding giving notice. You will be required to put it in writing, and it’s smart to prepare that notification before you talk to your boss or HR team so you have it ready to go.

It’s best practice to schedule a meeting with your direct supervisor to tell them you’re resigning. They should hear this first from you and not from someone else. If you work in the same location as your supervisor, request an in-person meeting. It’s smart to let your supervisor know, when you set up the meeting, that you want to discuss your position. That way they won’t be completely blindsided.

3. Say Thank You

Remember to thank your boss for the opportunities in your current role in a genuine matter. Do this even if it feels like you’ve been trapped in the job from hell. Keep any emotions you may have to yourself and be professional. Remember you are likely to need a reference at some point in the future. After you’ve met with your supervisor, put your resignation in writing immediately, confirming your last day and again, remember to thank your employers for the opportunity.

4. Announce Your Departure

You should work with your supervisor to determine the best timing and format for announcing your departure to other people you work with, both inside and outside of your company. Your boss may want to take the lead, or he or she may be happy for you to do so, but get their guidance first.

If you send a group email announcement to people you’ve worked with, keep it short and sweet. Don’t ramble, gloat, or say anything remotely inflammatory. Convey how much you’ve enjoyed working together and your sadness to be leaving. As people discover that you’re moving on, you will be asked why you resigned, over and over again. You should be consistent in how you answer that question and it’s important to determine that response in advance. Think carefully about what is, and isn’t, appropriate to share.

5. Be Positive

If you truly loved the job you are leaving, you should say so. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. However, if you didn’t love your boss, or your team, or your salary, or elements of your role it’s best to stick to the old saying “if you haven’t got anything great to say, don’t say anything at all.” Focus on the best attributes of the company instead and explain briefly why you’re moving on without throwing anyone under the bus.

6. Leave on a High Note

Finally, as you complete your notice period, make sure to continue to do your best work right up until your last day. You should work closely with your supervisor to transition any of your responsibilities and also set aside time to do all the necessary admin that’s required before leave. Clearing out email inboxes, desks and filing systems can take much longer than you think, and that’s before you start working on all the HR paperwork that will be required.

Leaving a job can feel like an emotional roller coaster. But, if you do everything you can to make your departure as smooth as possible, it will set you up for success as you move on to your next adventure.

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Have you recently quit your job? We want to hear from you. Tell us what (if anything) you’d do differently the next time. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Octavia Goredema is the founder and editor of Twenty Ten Talent, a career resource for talented young black women. Find her on Twitter at @OctaviaGoredema.

Octavia Goredema
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