June 15, 2016
Recently a friend sent me a video montage of people quitting their jobs in over-the-top ways. One person sang his resignation announcement accompanied by a chorus. Another tap danced on a table around which his colleagues were seated. He was holding a sign that read “I’m outta here.” A third showboater displayed a cake that proclaimed “I quit” in frosting.
On the one hand, it was interesting to see these creative approaches to sharing important news. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but cringe. This bravado seems so dangerous. The more professional experience I garner, the more I understand the cliche “never burn a bridge.”
I have returned to former employers and successfully secured advice, references, freelance work, part time and full time employment. I know scores of professionals who have done the same. Sometimes there may be a manager, coworker or a professional situation that doesn’t work out well. This may cause us to lose fit in a position that once suited us. If that happens, we may feel frustration or anger towards a colleague or towards the company. In my experience, though, it’s in our best interest to manage negative feelings we may harbor.
When we resign a position, it’s a good strategy to be professional and to leave things neat and tidy. Here’s how.
Devise a Timeline
It’s customary to give your employer two weeks of notice before your last day. So if you are going into your boss’s office with your resignation letter tomorrow, then your last day should be two weeks from tomorrow.
You want to extend your soon-to-be-former employer the maximum courtesy you can offer, so if you are in the middle of a big project, or if you have an event on the horizon, complete those projects as fully as you can.
Take a look at your finances and your paid time off to help you generate your timeline. Make sure you understand the PTO policy for the company you are leaving. You need a clear sense of how much PTO payout you can expect when you leave your former job and how long you have to wait for your first check at your new position. Sometimes there is a pay gap between when your old paycheck stops coming in and before you start getting paid at your new company. PTO from your former employer may help you cover your expenses during this time.
In the same way there may be a pay gap, there may also be a vacation time gap. You may not be eligible for time off at your new job for several months. Interviewing, leaving your old job and then onboarding at your new job all requires a lot of energy. It is helpful to give yourself a week off between jobs to prepare for your transition. If that’s possible for you, build it into your timeline.
Write a Resignation Letter
In this simple letter, thank your manager and former employer. Indicate that you are resigning from your position. Then convey your timeline. You can also mention a very general plan for transitioning a couple of your most pressing responsibilities, but those details are optional.
Plan an Exit Interview with HR
Exit interviews tend to be relaxed and relatively loosely structured. You will likely be asked some standard questions, and there will likely be room for you to shape your own feedback. Reflect on your experiences and jot down any points you want to make so that you are sure to use this opportunity well.
Alert your Colleagues
This is usually the sad part. Often there is a special bond that forms when you work side-by-side with people every day.
But life is ever changing, and there is a whole new day-to-day waiting for you. So close this chapter with the dignity with which you want to remember it. Recognize what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown. Thank those who made this possible.
Then you are ready for your new adventure. Best of luck!