Landed a New Job? Here’s How NOT to Resign
In movies, you often see a dramatic scene where the lead character walks into their boss’s office and—with an eloquent, heartfelt, and even funny speech—tells off their boss and the company. But as you probably know (or learned the hard way), this doesn’t work in the real world.
Perhaps we can blame the media or maybe it’s just inexperience, but a lot of people unfortunately handle resignations badly—burning bridges unnecessarily. Resigning (especially in IT) requires careful thought and planning, and most of the basics are not overly complex.
Here are four ways how NOT to resign—and how to avoid common mistakes.
1. After getting your new job offer, wing your resignation.
It’s not a good idea to treat the day you resign like an improv sketch. What if they decide to walk you out the door that minute? What if they ask you to stay four more weeks instead of two? What if they give you a counteroffer?
Instead, make a careful, meticulous plan. Tech professionals often work on mission-critical projects that they can’t just leave without dire consequences. For example, depending on the complexity of your job or project, consider giving four weeks’ notice instead of two in order to train your replacement and transition smoothly.
Drafting an appropriate resignation letter and follow-up email for after your meeting with your immediate supervisor.
Cleaning your desk and closing out your computer before telling your immediate supervisor in case you’re walked out the door.
Crafting your story and remaining positive, professional, and upbeat.
Checking your company’s resignation policy to make sure you’re following all procedures.
Creating a plan for every possible situation including a bad response, a counteroffer, or a request to stay longer than the notice you give.
Anticipating questions and providing answers about your transition, training your replacement, and any final work or projects you need to wrap up.
2. Talk about everything that was wrong with your job and why you were unhappy.
It’s tempting to use the opportunity of an exit interview or conversation with your immediate supervisor to unload about everything you didn’t like about your job. However, it’s not worth it—and it’s unprofessional.
Only provide constructive feedback in the scenario where your feedback is welcome and you feel positive support in being honest. Otherwise, don’t burn a bridge. When giving feedback, the following rules of thumb will help:
If you plan on talking about something you’ve never brought up before, don’t! It will sound like sour grapes and make your employer wonder why you didn’t bring it up before.
Relate constructive feedback about things that already happened and that you previously communicated about. For example, if you were denied a raise, lost a benefit, or reported a hostile work environment to HR, then it’s okay to mention those as reasons why you’re leaving.
Never say anything in an exit interview that you wouldn’t say in front of the person or people you’re talking about. They will hear about what you said, and you can hurt yourself by burning bridges with those people.
If you want to stay safe, then stay positive. Say it’s been great, you learned a lot, and you’re excited about your next opportunity.
3. Resign by email.
We live in a digital world. We’re used to emails, texting, and social media as primary ways to communicate. So doesn’t it make sense to send an email resignation in lieu of an in-person meeting? Nope. Resign in person or over video or phone if you're remote. An email resignation is unprofessional and leaves a bad impression.
4. Get “senioritis” and do as little work as possible in your final weeks.
This attitude is bad for all jobs, but especially disastrous for IT employees. In the tech industry, you’re most likely assigned to a critical project. Not only will you often need to give longer notice but you must also think through the transition and hand-off. That means documenting what you do, training your replacement, and assisting with transition activities.
Remember: it’s a small world in IT. The people you work with—directors, managers, coworkers, etc.—will remember if you left on a bad note. Employers and recruiters often talk to “back door” references—meaning people who you don’t list as references. If you left abruptly and didn’t show respect for your coworkers and company, then your employer may tell that to your future employer.
Handling your resignation badly can linger with you for years. If you’ve never resigned before or find yourself early in your career without a lot of experience leaving jobs, you may have a lot of wrong notions about how to handle it. Just keep all of this mind when the time comes. Leave the fancy speechmaking to fictional characters on television.
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