Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Becoming The Most Powerful Version of You”
In my work as a career and leadership coach for mid- to high-level professional women around the globe, part of the focus with clients involves working with them to plan out the best steps to resign from their roles in a productive manner after a great new job has been secured. And with the ‘Great Resignation” movement that’s occurring today, these steps are more important than ever.
When it’s time to resign, the key issues on my clients’ minds are often:
“How do I resign in a way that…”
Is fair for me but will also preserve the goodwill I’ve generated these past years Is professional in my approach, and doesn’t burn bridges but also doesn’t violate my own boundaries or my right to privacy Helps me hold my head up and know I’m leaving in the best way possible Allows me to focus fully on starting the new role in a positive way Ensures my mentors, sponsors and colleagues (and even my former bosses and managers) will feel comfortable continuing to remain in touch and be in my support community for years to come Helps my team members and staff deal with this change in the best way
Below are 6 key steps that will help to resign from your job in the most effective way so you’ll have no regrets, and can leave feeling confident, proud and excited for the future.
#1: Craft an appropriate resignation letter
First, the resignation letter is an important element as it’s in your permanent record, with your boss and with HR. If you send an email to resign, it should be to your manager directly, with a pdf version of your resignation letter included.
The most important elements of a resignation “letter” (or email) are:
Date of your letter
Name of the individual addressed to (typically your manager)
Your statement of your official resignation
Date of your last day
Contact information if they need to reach you
Additional suggested additional elements/information if appropriate, include:
Your thanks and appreciation for your time there (and anything else that you’re appreciative of – the experience, learning, growth, etc.)
Your offer to help as much as you are able with the transition of your projects and tasks, through your completion date
An example of the letter might be:
Address Dear (Name of Manager),
Please accept this letter as my formal notification of my resignation from the role of [Position Title] with [Company Name]. My last day with the company will be [date of your last day]. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to work in this role for the past [years of service in the role]. I’ve truly appreciated [share some of what you’ve enjoyed in the role] and the chance to learn and grow. Before I leave, I will do my best to complete any outstanding tasks and projects as far as I am able, and I am happy to offer my assistance to ensure a smooth transition. I wish the company continued success.
Thank you and all best wishes,
(Your printed name and contact information)
The letter should be a factual statement of departure, without emotion, anger, threats, or reasons for leaving. Don’t discuss where you are going in the letter or any other superfluous information. Don’t share things that are not true. Be honest but not overly forthcoming about your future plans. And be as positive and professional as possible.
#2: Proceed in the right way when planning to resign
Wherever possible you should resign in person, to your manager, before submitting the letter of resignation. And a signed letter (in pdf form) needs to be submitted so you have a record. Of course, there are situations where quitting in person isn’t possible – for instance if you’re working with a lawyer and direct contact with your manager is not recommended by your lawyer. But generally, you don’t want to blindside your company or manager with a resignation letter without sharing the news in person to your manager first. Ideally, you’ll set up a meeting with your boss, and share the news that you’re leaving and the date of your departure, and at the conclusion of the discussion, you’ll hand the letter to her/him.
Make sure, however, that before you resign, you are fully ready to leave that day (or that moment) if they decide they do not wish you to remain on the premises (which is not uncommon in certain jobs and fields). Have all the information, records, documents, etc. you need to take with you, including all property that is yours and information you’ll need to have reference to going forward. And as part of your conversation with your manager, discuss the manner in which you feel is best to inform your team and staff.
#3: Set the stage for a successful outcome
Make sure that the other aspects of resignation are in order, including: Give adequate notice – typically two weeks is the standard minimum amount of time, but in some fields and arenas, more notice is necessary. Connect with your supporters – Before you leave, do your best to obtain letters of recommendation from mentors and others at the organization who can speak highly of you. Secure LinkedIn recommendations as well, from respected individuals who are happy to endorse you and your work publicly. (This is a great step to take throughout your time at any organization, not just before you’re leaving.)
Understand all your benefits and what you could be losing – In advance of resigning, you should verify where you stand in terms of benefits, 401K, stock options etc., and be fully in the know about what you may be leaving on the table if you depart. Don’t make the mistake of not fully understanding the financial impact of your departure (such as leaving before stock options vest, or walking away from a potential bonus, etc.) Once you inform your manager and submit your letter of recommendation, you will want to verify the employee benefits you’re entitled to, including remaining salary payments, 401K rollover information, etc. But again, you should know this information before you submit your resignation. Have in your possession an official, written confirmation of employment from the new company, with all the critical terms laid out
If you are going to a new job, make sure that before you quit, you have an official offer letter in hand from the new employer. Don’t resign before you’ve received an official offer in writing.
#4: Keep your cool and demonstrate your maturity and self-mastery
It is not uncommon for managers to become upset or express anger or disappointment that you are leaving. Often, in the moment, they are thinking only of themselves or of the status of the department, and their own fears and anxiety can emerge. Many managers will worry how they’ll replace you, who will step in and do your work in the meantime, how it will look to others that you’re resigning, and more. The best way to handle this is to avoid engaging in an emotional discussion, and not to apologize. If they say they are upset to lose you, you can say something like “I appreciate your kind words about my work. I’ve truly appreciated your help and support these past (months/years).”
But don’t inflame the situation by responding with anger or defensiveness. Keep the discussion short, unemotional, and remember – you’ve worked hard at this role and you don’t want to say anything at this juncture that will burn a bridge for you. How you resign will be remembered, and probably talked about by your manager, HR staff, and others. Always remember too that you didn’t sign away your life to this company or job. You have every right to pursue a new role at a new company that represents a great growth opportunity for you.
And remember that if you’ve been a great employee and strong contributor or manager, they will most likely be upset to lose you. Don’t let your manager or others “guilt” or pressure you into thinking that you have to stay in a role that you’ve outgrown, or are fully ready to leave. But be respectful, courteous and controlled in your departing words and demeanor. How you leave and the professionalism and maturity you demonstrate will be remembered and will reflect well on you.
#5: Don’t overshare or violate your own boundaries
If you are asked why you are leaving, you absolutely do not have to give a reason. But many find it effective and helpful to say something about how the next role or chapter allows for new skill development and career growth that you feel ready for. For employees who’ve had a great relationship with their managers and want to give a bit of context for the resignation, they might want to share something in the way of explanation. That’s fine as long as it’s a positive reflection on you (not a negative reflection of them and the organization). A safe and positive explanation is that you’ve found a new, exciting role that offers great new growth potential that you’re very excited about, and it represents new challenges that you’re ready to embrace.
Other positive reasons may involve:
- Wanting a career pivot
- Pursuing more growth and leadership opportunity
- Looking to create greater work-life balance (perhaps shorter commute or more flexibility)
- Wanting to gain expertise in a new industry or field
But overall, keep it brief, factual and positive. If you’re leaving on bad terms, it doesn’t behoove you to air your grievances at the time of resignation. There are appropriate forums to do that, perhaps at the exit interview (but in some cases that’s not safe for you to do either). Even during those exit interviews, you need to be very prudent about what makes the most sense for you and your future, in terms of what you reveal about your decision to leave.
#6: Finally, if you’ve been mistreated, protect yourself before resigning
If you’ve been mistreated, discriminated against, sexually harassed or otherwise experienced wrongful employment practices in your place of work, before you do anything (and certainly before you quit), consult an employment attorney with in-depth experience in supporting employees who have been wrongfully treated.
Kathy Caprino, M.A. is an internationally-recognized career and leadership coach, writer, speaker and educator dedicated to the advancement of women in business. A former corporate VP, she is also a trained therapist, seasoned executive coach, Senior Forbes contributor, top media source on careers, and the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough and her latest book The Most Powerful You:7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss. With her Finding Brave podcast, books, assessments, coaching programs, courses and other resources, Kathy’s core mission is to support a “finding brave” global movement that empowers professionals to close their power gaps and reach their highest, most rewarding potential in their work. For more information, visit kathycaprino.com, findingbrave.org and follow Kathy on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.