Time to go? What to do when you want to resign

You’ve been offered the job of your dreams. Or maybe you’ve decided to take the plunge and set up on your own. How do you resign – and what should you do when you’re on notice?

Slow down

Don’t resign on a whim. It’s better to leave when you have a role to go on to, whether that’s another job, self-employment or going back into education.

Walking out of a job could leave you with a gap on your CV you’ll have to explain to would-be future recruiters. With no job to move straight into as well, you’ll add unnecessary pressure to your job hunt.

And even if someone makes you an offer, don’t take any action until you have it in writing. A verbal offer could always be rescinded.

Think ahead

If you are determined to leave without arranging a new post, then you’ll need to do some contingency planning.

Assess your situation as a first step; do you have enough in savings to keep you going until something comes along? Have you signed up with recruitment firms? Updated your LinkedIn profile? Told contacts you are looking for a new opportunity?

Think ahead to get on top of things.

Pros and cons

Once you’ve resigned, that’s it: even if you do change your mind and stay, you’ll have altered your relationship with your boss. They’ll know you could still be looking for a new opportunity. So do make 100% sure you want to leave first.

Make a list of the good and bad reasons for staying or going. Good reasons for moving could include better opportunities for career growth or an easier commute. Bad reasons might be linked to personality clashes; don’t forget, wherever you work there’s a chance you might not get on with everyone.

If you want to leave just to get more money, then negotiate a pay rise rather than move jobs.

Taking notice

So you’ve decided you want to go. You’ll need to write a resignation letter and tell your boss you want to leave.

Before you do either, check what notice period you are on and whether you have any outstanding holidays to take.

Timing is everything

Ideally resign on a Friday afternoon so both parties have the weekend to think about it. Keep your resignation letter short and professional: don’t use it as an opportunity to air grievances.

And Angela Cox, a Mindset Mentor at Ask Why adds: “It’s courteous and respectful to tell your boss before you tell your colleagues.”

Should you stay?

If your boss tries to persuade you to stay, then ask for time to think about the offer: another reason why Friday is the best day to resign.

If they offer you a pay rise then you might choose to stay. But if you were planning to leave because of the company’s values, management style or chances to develop your career then those reasons are still valid even if your pay packet is larger.

If you change your mind and stay, you might regret it later for not going when you had a good job offer elsewhere.

What to say

What you say when you resign is important. Cox advises: “If you have another job, you need to show you are moving on for a reason; maybe the opportunity for professional development or the opportunity to grow your career.”

“If you offer any reasons for leaving, then be constructive, not emotional. You might say that the culture of the company no longer fits with your values, but it’s not advisable to use your resignation or the exit interview as an opportunity to complain about other employees. Focus on the positives.”

You will likely need someone at your current company to provide you with a reference later on, so let go of any little grievances and focus on the big picture.

“Say that you’re grateful for what you’ve learned and achieved but that to progress your career, you need to move on.”

Leave with integrity

“Always leave them wanting more,” said the greatest showman, PT Barnum.

The way you handle yourself while working through the last few weeks/months of your contract is important – remember that reference you’ll need.

Cox says: “Stay focussed on the job in hand until your last day. Start each day of your notice period with a deliberate choice to work hard and be a great co-worker. It’s all about leaving your job with your head held high.”

Handover

Unless you’re put on gardening leave (where you’re asked to stop coming into the office, but will still be paid) then you’re going to be working in the office while on notice.

“It’s worth asking when you resign what’s expected of you before you go, what tasks or projects need completing to ensure that the handover to your replacement goes smoothly,” says Cox.

“It’s understandable that you will be focussing on your future job when you are on your notice period but actually, it’s best to switch your focus to your current colleagues’ needs.”

Garner a little positive karma by offering to write a full description of your job for your current company’s recruitment efforts. You could also provide a list of useful contacts and emails. If your replacement already works for your company, you could offer to mentor them so they understand the new role. 

Exit interview

Many companies will want you to attend an exit interview – although unless it’s written into your contract, you aren’t obliged to go. But it’s best to go, unless you’re feeling a lot of anger/frustration at the situation. You need to have a level-head.

Plan in advance what you’ll say when asked why you’re leaving: try to accentuate the positives.

No regrets?

Starting a new job can be exciting. But what if you think you’ve made a mistake and shouldn’t have left your previous job?

Bear in mind that everyone has doubts and it’s perfectly natural to miss your old job at first. Try not to look back and don’t email former colleagues. You’ll settle in soon enough. “Be forward focussed. And remember, you owe it to your new colleagues to be professional in your current role,” adds Cox.

In Summary

Make sure your reasons for leaving are well-considered and not purely emotional. If possible, line up a job to go to and get it in writing before you resign. Only allow yourself to be persuaded to stay if you’re sure you won’t regret doing so in the future. And when you are on notice, make sure you work hard and keep focussed: you want your former boss and colleagues to remember you in a positive light.

Further reading

Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.

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