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Resignation: a Step-by-Step Guide for a Smooth, Stress-free Exit on Good Terms

Download the Resignation Guide and read it at your leisure.

Researchers around the world state that in the 2020ies the average employee will switch jobs 10 – 15 times over their lifetime. Given the frequency of resignations during a career, it pays dividends to polish this process to maximise the outcome and minimise stress. There are several tried-and-tested tactics for making a graceful exit and not burning bridges in the process. Diplomacy, professionalism and positivity should be your watchwords.

Common reasons for resigning from a position include finding a new role, relocation, illness, a career change and a challenging work environment. No matter the reason, the process can be broken into several steps to make it manageable.

Further below you will find top tips on how to navigate the process from start to finish, including advice on the best way to approach your manager, a guide to handling the resignation process, as well as a useful resignation letter and farewell message templates to tailor for your unique circumstances. This step-by-step guide will explain the intricacies of resigning so you can leave stress-free and on good terms.

 

Preparation

Start with a plan

If you are leaving to start a new role, the least risky approach is to resign once the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before pulling the trigger. But whatever your reason for moving on, a well-thought-out transition plan will help you prepare and eliminate stress. Instead of leaving it to the last minute, a plan will enable you to focus on the process of leaving, which can be a busy and stressful period.

  • Review your employment contract, and double-check clauses related to leaving, especially the length of your notice
  • Consider which communication method would be most suitable. This should include the initial approach, a phone chat or face-to-face meeting with your manager, and follow-up communications for official purposes, such as an email or a paper letter
  • Compose your resignation letter. Leaving it to the last minute is likely to increase stress. For a template, click here
  • Settle on what information, such as details about your new position, you will share with your coworkers
  • Plan what tasks, such as handovers, you will have to complete within the notice period
  • Think about the social element too. Most of us have colleagues we grow close to on a professional level and being prepared for farewell activities will help you navigate the process.

Prepare key messages

Think of some key messages that cover your resignation, so you will not have to think on your feet in what can be challenging conversations for many people. Resigning is a business process, and professionalism is the gold standard. Having key messages in your back pocket can come in handy if you are facing uncomfortable questions.

Include responses to potential counteroffers, or requests for the notice period to be longer than you propose or would be comfortable with.

Questions to consider are:

  1. Why are you going?
  2. What company/role will you be going to?
  3. Would you accept a counteroffer?
  4. Would you extend your notice period?
  5. How do you plan to handle the handover tasks?

 

Resignation Letter

What is a resignation letter?

A document notifying your employer that you are resigning from your job. It acts to formalise your decision to leave your current role, conveys the necessary information for the company to process your departure, and will likely be retained in your employment file.

Download the Word version of the Resignation Letter Template here.

 Tips:

  • Keep it brief – one page containing a few paragraphs is sufficient
  • Use a font that is common in business, like Arial or Times New Roman, and font size of 10 to 12 points
  • Leave a single space line between written lines
  • Read through to check for errors before sending
  • Include your personal contact details in case the company needs to contact you in the future
  • Refrain from including pointed criticisms or complaints

Step 1

Address your manager. As this is formal, professional communication, ‘dear’ is seen as a most appropriate salutation. State that you are resigning, from what position, and the date of your departure in the opening paragraph.

 Dear [MANAGER’S NAME],

I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from my position as [YOUR TITLE] with [COMPANY NAME]. Per the terms of my contract, my last day of work will be [LAST DAY’S DATE].

Step 2

It is polite to thank your manager and note how you have developed.

I am grateful for the opportunities that were provided during my time here, and I have really appreciated my [TIME IN THE POSITION] at [COMPANY NAME]. I appreciate the skills I have learned and will take with me through my career, and I have taken great pleasure in working with some great people.

 Step 3

The sign-off. A graceful, smooth exit takes work, and your manager is likely going to have to find a new person for the role you are vacating, internally or externally.

Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to do in terms of handing over my responsibilities before I depart. I will endeavour to do what I can to help make my leaving as smooth as possible for both the company and myself.

I wish you the very best for the future.

Kind regards,

[NAME]

 

The Resignation Process

Contact the responsible person directly

Speak to your manager directly. Having rumours spreading is unprofessional and undermines the manager in question if they are not a party to the swirling info. As to the communication channel, face-to-face would convey respect, especially in a close office environment. But given a big proportion of the workforce is now working away from the office, resignations via digital channels are much more frequent. Sending an email or letter is the least personable, though both are acceptable.

Send an official resignation communication (email or paper letter)

An official communication helps prevent confusion or disagreements over details. Plus, it also helps the company keep accurate records. If it is already prepared, it will be easier to send out, though there may need to be some details changed depending on the outcome of the initial interaction.

Work through the exit process including handover, step by step according to the plan

This is a good opportunity to ask suitable colleagues if they would be open to providing a reference for you. Though you may not need it for the job you are going to, there is every chance you will switch companies in the future, so having someone lined up takes the hassle out of future job applications. Often the exit process includes an exit interview, which is a formal meeting where you will be invited to share your thoughts on your role and the company. To leave on good terms, there are several tips to follow for the interview.

 

Exit Interview

Typical questions to prepare for are

  • Why did you decide to leave?
  • Were you equipped sufficiently to fulfill your responsibilities?
  • What was your relationship with your manager and colleagues like?
  • Why did you accept an offer from another company?
  • What did you like/dislike about your job?
  • Would you recommend working here to others?
  • Would you consider staying?

Exit interview: Dos and Don’ts

  • Stay professional
  • Provide constructive criticism
  • Provide helpful information
  • Do not dwell on your new job

 

Top Tips for Managing the Process

Get your finances in order

If you are leaving for a new position, but it will take a while to get paid, or you are leaving but have not found a new job, make sure you have enough money to cover your living expenses in the interim. Also, check your insurance and pension provisions so you are covered.

Take time to adjust

Leaving a job is a big change. While the resignation process will be like water off a duck’s back for some, others will find the change harder to navigate. Therefore, taking time to adjust is important. This will help you keep on top of stress and make the transition more manageable.

Stay in touch with former colleagues

A flourishing network of business contacts is an asset for any professional. Keeping in contact with your former colleagues is easy on LinkedIn. Experts are clear that the professionals with the most development networks are usually the most successful.

 

The Farewell

On your last day, you will need to clean out your computer, pick up your personal belongings and bid your soon-to-be ex-colleagues’ goodbye. Common last courtesy is to send out a farewell email. It is a good way to connect with your coworkers and transition on good terms. Who knows, one of your colleagues may end up being your boss one day.

Before sending one out, it is a good idea to check with your manager first, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Keep the message brief, positive and do include contact info and a personal element. It can be sent either to a department, individual colleagues or as an office-wide message.

Farewell email to colleagues template

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to let you know that I am leaving my role at COMPANY NAME on DATE. I would like to thank you all for your support and encouragement over the time we have worked together.

OPTIONAL: I will be starting a new role at COMPANY later this month.

I have enjoyed my time here, and I appreciate the opportunities I have been afforded to grow.

I wish you all the very best.

Please do keep in touch. You can reach me on my personal email address (XX), via LinkedIn (XX), or on my phone (XX).

Yours truly,

Signature

Post-resignation

Always be professional

Once you have completed this process, it is on to pastures new. Even if you had not the best experience with your former employer, remember to maintain a professional reputation and image – it’s best not to denigrate your previous company in public. Always remember that it is your experience and your feelings, and it can be an absolutely different journey for other people.

Keep in touch and reach out to recruitment specialists

Poaching from your former workplace is also generally frowned upon. Even if your ex-colleagues could fit into your new organization well, or could help build client connections, it is considered a bad tone to approach them with your current vacancies. Instead, reach out to recruitment specialists for all your staffing needs.

We do hope that your resignation process will be as smooth as possible, and you are always welcome to reach out to the Gough Recruitment team for more advice and helpful hints.

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