You're within touching distance of the professional opportunity you've spent a lifetime waiting for.
There's only one problem...
First you need to hand in your resignation at your current job.
It's an often-overlooked fact that resigning from a position can in some ways be just as daunting a prospect as looking for a new one.
It means preparing a letter of resignation and informing your boss and your colleagues of your decision. And if you're doing it for the first time, you may also be unsure how to go about it.
Well, fear not:
Reading our guide will help you negotiate this difficult step in the best possible way.
Here's what we'll be looking at:
- What to do when you submit your resignation: strategies for announcing the news in the most painless way possible
- How to write a resignation letter: the rules to follow to make sure you leave a good final impression
- 7 tips for a professional resignation: these tips will help you avoid nasty surprises and ensure your resignation is as smooth and stress-free as possible
Ready? Let's go!
Handing In Your Resignation: A Step-by-Step Guide
A resignation letter is a formal document in which you announce to your employer your intention to leave the company.
Depending on where you work, your boss may not be the person you should deliver the letter to (this may particularly be the case in large companies with an in-house HR department).
If this is how it works at your company, you should still make sure your boss is the first person you inform of your intention to quit.
The ancient Roman goddess Fama was depicted as a winged being, who saw and heard all and would spread news to all four corners of the globe in a matter of seconds.
We can only presume that the deity's latter-day descendants have taken up occupancy in our workplaces, because rumours and gossip have a habit of spreading in offices like wildfire.
All it takes is for you to tell one person that you're leaving and, as if by magic, the rest of the company will know the news before the day is out.
Don't run the risk of your boss finding out something this important from the office gossip!
Hierarchies exist and you can't ignore them.
Even if you'd rather let your colleagues know first, you don't want to run the risk of messing things up.
So speak to your boss first and make sure that you prepare for your meeting beforehand.
#1 - Taking the Plunge (Before Submitting Your Resignation Letter)
Try to find a good time to speak about your decision face to face with your boss.
Make sure it's a planned rather than an impromptu meeting, if at all possible. Nobody likes being surprised with bad news.
Think about why you're resigning, and when the time comes, go straight to the point without beating about the bush.
Be prepared, because a number of reactions are possible:
- The ‘Professional' scenario: everything goes off smoothly, without any problems. You both wish each other the best and the meeting ends with a friendly handshake
- The ‘Personal' scenario: your boss takes your decision personally and invites you to leave the building and never come back
- The ‘Negotiations' scenario: your boss responds to your resignation with a very attractive counter offer
Strange as it may seem, the third scenario is the most complicated. After all, if your boss accepts your resignation (with good grace or otherwise), your fate is pretty much sealed.
In some cases, particularly if you hold a key position in the company, the counter offer may be very attractive indeed - so attractive as to lead you to question your decision to leave.
But a word of warning:
Even though initially your boss may be pleased to have succeeded in persuading you to stay, the trust that existed between you has been compromised, with all that this entails.
After speaking with your boss, here's what you should do next...
#2 - The Point of No Return: the Resignation Letter
Once your boss has been informed, it's time to give formal written confirmation of your decision.
This is done through a document called a resignation letter.
For information on how to write a resignation letter, see the second part of this article!
Then, once you've officially announced your decision...
#3 - When To Give Your Colleagues The Big News
Once you've officially communicated your resignation, you're free to tell everybody else. News like this really does tend to travel extremely quickly.
So think about all of the people at the company who have been important in some way to you. If you want to tell them in person, then you'd better make sure you're quick about it!
People will inevitably ask “Why are you leaving?”
So have an answer ready, compatibly of course with the reasons for your resignation and how much information you want to give away about your new destination.
Whatever story you decide on, use a bit of tact. You may be leaving, but everybody else will be staying behind!
This means you should avoid focusing on all of the bad things about the company, as your colleagues will have to carry on putting up with them...
...just like you have had to up until now.
And if there really isn't anything positive you can say and nothing you're going to miss...
...well, in that case, silence is probably the best option!
#4 - Prepare a Strategic Transition Plan for the Post-Resignation Period
Your departure will inevitably create problems. But what you can do is offer to help make the transition as smooth and as painless as possible.
Here are some proposals that will make life easier for the people you leave behind:
- Finish as many uncompleted projects as possible
- Leave behind a detailed written report on any projects that are still underway
- Help with the process of identifying your successor (e.g. by writing the job ad or helping with selection interviews)
- If your successor has already been designated, help train them up
- Give a period of availability, post your departure, in which you can be contacted to resolve problems
You can offer to do all, some or none of these things - or even others we haven't mentioned. It all depends on the work climate following your resignation as well as, of course, on their feasibility.
Be honest though: only make promises you're sure you can keep!
Right, now let's move on to writing the letter itself!
How To Write a Resignation Letter
A letter of resignation is a formal document in which you inform the company of your decision to leave your job.
Even if you work in a very informal work setting - say, perhaps, as a developer in a start-up - you shouldn't underestimate the importance of this step. Make sure you put your intentions down in black and white!
So now, without further ado, let's see how to leave your job in style (but without going viral!).
#1 - Resignation Letters With and Without Notice
When you hand in your resignation, you usually have to give the company a certain amount of advance notice.
If you decide not to work out your notice, then you'll need to write a resignation letter with immediate effect.
There aren't really that many differences between the two letters. In fact, the contents remain essentially the same. The main difference is that when you leave with immediate effect, your contractual conditions may entitle your employer to withhold part of your last wages, based on the amount of notice you failed to give.
However, if at all possible, you should try to respect your period of notice and prepare a resignation letter with advance notice.
So how do you calculate your notice period?
There are two ways of working out the amount of notice you need to give your employer:
- It's written in your contract. If you're lucky, your contract will state clearly how long before leaving you need to hand in your letter of resignation
- Your contract contains no indication. If your contract is of no help, common sense says you should base your notice on your pay cycle. If you get paid every two weeks, then you should give at least two weeks' notice
Once you've made all your calculations and determined the right notice period, you can figure out what date to indicate as your last day of work in your resignation letter.
Unsure what date to put as your last day of work?
In that case, do not submit your letter until you're sure of the date. It makes no sense saying you're going to leave if you don't know when. Wait until you know the exact date and then - and only then - send your resignation letter!
Once you've chosen a date, then you can start thinking about writing it...
#2 - 5 Key Components of a Resignation Letter
Here are 5 key rules for writing your resignation letter:
- Be brief and clear: don't hem and haw. Go straight to the point, stating clearly that you intend to resign, and leave no room for interpretation
- State the date of your last day at work: calculate the notice you're obliged to give and indicate your last day at the company on this basis
- Consider whether to mention or not why you're leaving. If you've already told your boss, there's no real need to reiterate the reasons in your letter
- Offer to help with the transition between you and your successor. Don't go into details - a generic offer will do. And only offer if you're serious about it!
- Say that you are grateful for the opportunity and the invaluable experience. And if you can't think of anything positive to say, say nothing!
Including all 5 of these components in your letter will help ensure you are remembered as a professional!
And while we're on the subject of being professional, here are some useful tips to follow on how to ensure a graceful and dignified exit!
7 Tips For a Painless and Professional Resignation
So, how can you make sure your resignation is as professional and painless as possible?
Here are 7 tips on how to bow out gracefully!
#1 - Give Your Utmost...Right Until the Very End
Cast your mind back to your first days at work. Remember how hard you worked to make a good impression?
Well, now's the same. Except instead of making a good first impression, your goal should be to leave behind a positive professional legacy.
So during those final weeks and months, don't allow your work levels to drop, your attention to wander or your performance to dip, as that's not how you'll want to be remembered!
#2 - The Worst Case Scenario and How to Handle It
You need to consider all potential reactions to your resignation and prepare for them.
There may not be any reason to expect a negative reaction from your boss, but you should be prepared for the worst, all the same.
This means excluding no scenarios, no matter how unlikely, in the interests of avoiding an unpleasant surprise. You may well be willing to help out, but this doesn't mean your offer will be accepted. In fact, you should be prepared to be asked to leave as soon as possible!
Make sure you are ready, both mentally and physically, for whatever reaction your news provokes.
#3 - “More Money” Is Not a Good Reason to Resign
Let's rephrase that. A higher salary is a valid reason for changing jobs, but it's also the easiest one to dismantle, particularly if a strong counter offer is put on the table.
If you want to renegotiate your salary, ask for a meeting with your boss and talk about it.
But if you leave without even attempting to negotiate a better deal, people will think you are focused on money and uninterested in other factors, such as the work environment...essentially you'll be remembered as a mercenary, which isn't exactly the best legacy you could hope for.
#4 - Don't Fall Into This Trap When You Leave Your Job
There may be things you have held back from saying over the years, dreaming of the day when finally you would have the opportunity to get them off your chest...
...well, now that day has finally arrived, don't waste your time attempting to settle scores.
Badmouthing your colleagues or managers lacks class. Ultimately, you stand to gain nothing from it, and neither will those who are left behind!
Which is not to say you don't have legitimate grievances. But these should be expressed through the proper channels...
#5 - Keeping Things Positive in Your Resignation Letter
Do you have observations to make or grievances to express? Feel you were forced to work with a bunch of incompetents and amateurs?
Whatever you do, don't put it down in writing in your resignation letter. Instead, talk it through with your contact in HR and discuss things professionally.
Your resignation letter is an official document and will in all likelihood be the last entry in your company dossier. Are you sure you want your professional legacy to be represented by a list of complaints and accusations?
You have no way of knowing whether you will cross paths again with the people involved. So don't do anything you may have cause to regret further on down the line!
#6 - Why an Acrimonious Departure Can Ruin Your Career
Everybody agrees that it's better to quit your job gracefully and professionally and resist the temptation to settle old scores or air grievances.
The reason is quite simple: the contacts you have built up will stay with you.
There's simply no way of knowing what's going to happen in the future. You may well cross paths with former colleagues or need their help (or they may need yours) - particularly if you stay in the same sector.
Increasingly, the network of contacts people build up over the years, as they move from job to job, is becoming a key factor in the world of business and industry.
The wider your network is, the more opportunities you are likely to receive.
An unprofessionally handled resignation will put an end to contacts you had no intention of keeping up, but it may also impact badly on those you would have liked to maintain.
Don't take this unnecessary risk!
#7 - Example of a Real Resignation Letter
Advice and tips are all very well, but sometimes only a concrete, real-life example will do.
Here we have two for you. The first is a resignation letter with immediate effect, while the second is a resignation letter with advance notice.
Let's take a look at them, shall we?
Example Resignation Letter With Immediate Effect [Template]
Your Name and Surname
Position of Recipient
Date on which you send the letter
Dear [recipient name]
Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation from the position of [position] with immediate effect, starting from today, [date].
Unfortunately, I will be unable to work out the period of advance notice required under my contract.
Name and surname
Example Resignation Letter With Advance Notice [Template]
Your Name and Surname
Position of Recipient
Date on which you send the letter
Dear [recipient name]
Please accept this letter as formal notice of my resignation from the position of [position]. As per the [length of notice] notice period stated within my contract, my final working day will be [date of final working day].
I would like to thank you for the opportunities I have been given over these past four years, which have contributed significantly to my personal and professional growth. If there is anything I can do to ensure a smooth transition period, then please let me know.
Name and Surname
So You've Handed in Your Resignation. What Now?
Congratulations, you've done it - you've resigned!
So now what?
Well, if you already have a job to go to, a whole new professional adventure awaits you, full of expectations, challenges and rewards!