It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor or a doughnut-maker. When you know how to quit your job professionally, you reap huge rewards. Of course there are the obvious payoffs in not burning bridges and keeping your network and reputation intact. But that’s not even half of it. The greatest payoff is the self-respect you keep. You know that you held yourself to a higher standard regardless of the circumstances of your departure. That’s worth more than gold.
So how do you quit your job the right way?
Important Consideration – Don’t quit without thinking it through. If the sole reason you want to quit is to find something with greater financial rewards, make sure you understand how to calculate the value of your benefits at work – for your existing and new job – first.
Draft an “I’m out of here” speech and resignation letter – but don’t deliver them yet. Brainstorm all the reasons you are leaving. Have you moved into a new industry with better prospects or have you accepted a better position in the same industry? Does it provide better opportunities for you and your family? Have recent changes at your current employer made it untenable to stay on? Outline how this is a better move for you right now.
Now that you’ve gotten that out of your system, right down all the ways you’ve benefited from your current job. What have you learned? What opportunities did your current employer make available to you? Write down what you are grateful for with respect to your current position.
Of course make sure you keep this rough draft safe and secure. You don’t want anyone getting wind of what is about to happen. Do not entrust your plans to anyone at all no matter how close you are to them. If you do, you’ll lose control of events. The result will be the complete opposite of what you are trying to do which is to exit professionally.
2. Help Your Boss
Now that you have a rough draft of your resignation speech and letter, you are ready to go to Phase II. Keep in mind that you are an important part of your employer’s business. When you leave it’s going to cause some disruption. Anticipate it and mitigate it. Document all the projects you are working on, what stage of development each project is in and what needs to happen next.
If you aren’t involved in special projects, you can still help smooth out the transition by creating a cheat sheet for your replacement.
Write down all the nuances of your job that might take a new person a long time to discover. Offer to train the new person and to be available to answer questions even after you’ve left. This is super important. You are going to be remembered by what happens at work after you are gone rather than what you did when you were on deck. Make sure the new staff member has an easy job stepping into your shoes.
Just think about this process from your employer’s shoes rather than just from your own perspective.
3. Write Your Resignation Letter
It’s time to prepare your resignation letter. You will deliver it when you resign – step 4. But you need to have this ready to go. If you notice, you did a lot of work before writing your resignation letter. That’s because you want to write the letter with a full understanding and appreciation for your soon-to-be former employer. That’s what professionalism is all about.
Having clarified your reasons for leaving, your gratitude and sensitivity for the position your employer is going to face, you are ready to write the letter. This is a formal document that terminates your employment. Here’s a template you can use:
Please accept this as a formal resignation letter and 2-week notice. I am grateful for all that you and Acme have provided for me. I have chosen to accept a new job at Better Corporation. Thank you.
If you notice, you don’t say much in this letter for good reason. This is going to be part of your permanent record. You never know what is going to happen down the line. In case there is any legal trouble, you don’t want to provide any ammunition to a potential adversary.
Now is when all your preparation pays off. Schedule a face-to-face meeting with your direct supervisor. Be direct and professional. Open up with the fact that you are resigning and then fill in the blanks as you go. Think of this as a “break up” talk. If you were on the receiving end, you’d want to know what’s going on as soon as possible. I’d suggest you format this talk as follows:
- The purpose of the meeting – you are resigning
- What you are going to do and when you will transition
- Why you are leaving. (Remember; make it about you – not your employer. You are pursing better opportunities or you feel the current position is no longer a good fit. Don’t blame your resignation on anyone else ever.)
- What you have prepared to make the transition easier.
- All you are grateful for.
At this point, present your resignation letter and tell your co-workers. Try to have one-on-one conversations with the people you work with and let them know how to keep in touch. Make sure they know that you’ll be available to help answer questions.
5. Clean Up and Get Out
At some point, you’ll have to start cleaning up your work area. That includes your computer (if by some chance you have personal files stored on your workstation). Also, find out about benefits, retirement plans and health insurance. It will be much easier to get details now rather than after you’re gone.
This is also the best time to ask for references and letters of recommendation. Even if you’ve already lined another gig, these documents will come in handy if you need to land a job some time in the future. Get them now rather than wait.
What was it like when you quit your last job? What went right? What would you do differently?