A long-running survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Americans born in the latter years of the baby boom held, on average, nearly 12 jobs over their lifetime. That equates to a lot of ‘Dear John’ resignation letters.
Fast forward to today, millennials are already becoming known as a generation of job-hoppers. In fact, a newer study of millennials found that they expect to stay in a job for less than three years — which means over 15-20 jobs over the course of their career. Today’s workers are going to need to tender their resignation more frequently than ever.
A good resignation allows you to build a strong network, treat your peers with respect, and move on gracefully and on good terms. In today’s hyper-connected world, leaving in a blaze of glory is something you can bank on future employers hearing about. So how do you resign without leaving a mess in your wake?
Be honest (but act decisively)
If you are unhappy at work or considering moving on — perhaps to focus on your own side hustle? — you might feel conflicted about what to tell your boss. If you have a strong relationship, then talking about your future and how you might progress within your current organization could be an option. Try to be honest from the get-go to ensure you don’t miss out on any chances close to home.
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However, if you have already secured a new role elsewhere, or are absolutely certain that leaving is your preferred option, then act decisively. No matter what, do not threaten a resignation as a way of negotiating a new role or better deal. There is no better way to sour a professional relationship.
Treat the situation formally
If you’ve determined that you are indeed going to leave, you must approach the situation formally. This means tendering your resignation in writing and adhering to any guidelines in your employment contract.
Check out the notice period that you are required to give, and follow that if possible. If you need to leave more urgently, then be prepared to negotiate with your employer. Sometimes it is possible to make an early exit, but do not make assumptions. Your contractual obligations are the final word, and any other arrangement is made by mutual agreement.
When writing your resignation letter, think about how you want to phrase your reasoning. Even if you are leaving because of workplace dissatisfaction, your resignation letter is probably not the place to vent. Try to arrange an exit interview to tell your boss how you’re feeling (in a professional and measured way), and keep your letter neutral.
And of course, if you are leaving on good terms, then say so. Be sure to thank your employer for the time you have spent there.
In most cases, once you have handed in your carefully crafted resignation letter, you will still need to continue to work for a while to cover your notice period. This may be only a week or two. In some cases, though, it can run up to twelve weeks or more.
If you have an extended notice period, it is important to keep an open dialogue with your boss. Make agreements with management about what you can deliver during this time, closing down or handing over ongoing work.
Whether you are there for a short period or several months after resigning, it is vital that you stay positive. Resist the urge to complain or air any grievances that have prompted you to move on. Having a rant might feel cathartic at first, but will ultimately make it very difficult for you to continue to deliver your job in the days that remain.
Not only that, but it’s a small world, especially in certain industries. Whatever you say now may well come back to haunt you later!
Get a solid reference
When you are preparing to leave, you need to understand the company reference policy. It is possible that your new employer will initially make an offer of employment “subject to satisfactory references.” This means that your new job could be conditional, resting on a good exit reference from your existing management.
With fear of litigation and unnecessary paperwork, some employers are unhappy about providing references. Be sure to check this out before you get too far through your notice period. If necessary, you can look at alternative options to get a reference, such as asking previous bosses who have since left the business (and therefore are no longer bound by its rules). Give yourself time to assess and adjust to the situation.
Say a good ‘goodbye’
Once your final days arrive, make sure to say your farewells. You have likely shared a significant chunk of your life with your co-workers (after all, we spend more time with them than many of our friends and family). Don’t underestimate the emotional impact that moving on may have on you.
Instead, plan for it by making a real effort to thank those who have helped you, and say your goodbyes in a measured and considerate way.
Grow your network
Once you have finally left the company, take the time to strengthen your network by hooking up with your old colleagues on LinkedIn and any other relevant social networks. Maintain and nurture these relationships from the time you leave, as they will quickly fade if you do not.
Whether you’re leaving as a result of a dispute at work, or simply because you have grown as much as is possible with your current employer, a good exit is essential. By thinking through your departure from a business, you can manage to leave behind solid relationships which will serve you well in future.
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Resist the urge to let off steam as you walk out the door, and you will thank yourself for it later!
What’s your advice for someone trying to resign on a good note? Have your own job-quitting experiences been positive?