How to Resign From a Job

Two hints: Prepare a transition plan and avoid oversharing.

Written by Natalie Ryan
Published on Jan. 27, 2023
How to Resign From a Job
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Congratulations! You just made it through an extensive interview process, beat out all other candidates and landed your dream job. Unfortunately, you can’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. 

5 Steps For a Smooth Exit

1. Have a transition plan.

2. Be clear that you’ve made your decision.

3. Be thoughtful about when to have the resignation talk with your boss.

4. Keep the details of the offer and your new company private.

5. Minimize the length of your transition.  

The next important step is putting in your resignation. This can be an emotional and difficult conversation to have with your manager, especially if you’ve been at your current company for many years and have built strong relationships across the business. 

As an executive headhunter and partner at SPMB Executive Search, one of the largest retained executive search firms focused on technology and innovation, I’ve helped countless leaders turn a dreaded resignation process into a painless and even positive experience. In this article, I’ve boiled down my top five tips for a smooth resignation process. 

More From Natalie Ryan Smart Hiring in a Slow Market: Here’s How

 

Prepare a Transition Plan

Whether you’ve been forthcoming with your boss about the prospect of your departure or if your decision to leave is a total shock, I always recommend that my candidates walk into that discussion with a transition plan. 

A transition plan should be a document outlining any important information that relates to your role and responsibilities, the actions you plan to take to help with the transition and your thoughts on how you think the company can best manage those gaps following your departure. 

A plan should include: 

  • What work you intend on completing during your remaining time with the company
  • Your recommendation on how to tie off outstanding projects
  • A list of the key members of your team and those you rely on most for the work you do
  • Names of colleagues who can fill critical gaps until a replacement can be found
  • Non-obvious people, in or even outside your organization, who have helped you to succeed, along with contact information or even introductions
  • Recommended search firm/headhunter if they want to run a replacement search

Creating and sharing a transition plan with your manager will ease the workload for them and the rest of the leadership team as they manage through your departure. That, in turn, will help you maintain a positive relationship with them. This upfront work will also indicate to them that you are serious about your decision to leave. 

 

Be Clear That You’ve Made Your Decision

When speaking with your manager, remember that finding a replacement for a strong leader takes hard work and time. They’ll likely do anything they can to keep you so you should expect them to put together a counteroffer.  

To avoid this awkward exchange, I coach my candidates to assume that they will face a counteroffer situation so they shouldn’t accept this new role if it’s just about the money. Beyond that, I tell them that they should be clear and thoughtful with their wording during their exit meeting. 

Some key distinctions in your talk track could include:  

  • “I’ve decided to move on from the company” versus “I’m considering leaving the company.”
  • “I’ve made up my mind that it’s best for my career to move on” versus “It probably is/might be time to move on.”

Don’t give your boss false hope that you might stay or make them work on putting together a counteroffer that you won’t accept. 

From my perspective, accepting a counteroffer is never a good idea. All of the reasons you decided to leave the company will still be there, even if more money will make the short term more palatable. Beyond that, now that your boss now knows that you’re unsatisfied and a flight risk, they are unlikely to fully invest in your ideas and initiatives. 

 

Time Your Resignation Conversation

If you’ve signed your offer letter and want to resign as soon as possible so you can start your notice period, it can be tempting to tell your manager right away. Although you should make your resignation meeting a top priority, select a time and day that establishes an advantageous environment. For example, if your manager has a board meeting, industry event or new product launch that week, wait until after that event to share your news so they can have a clearer, calmer demeanor for that discussion. 

Another useful guide is to set up a time near the end of the day and/or end of the week. This way, they can digest your decision to leave overnight or over the weekend versus having to cancel their plans for the day to do damage control.  

Offer to help craft the messaging to the company and your team regarding your departure to minimize any potential blowback. Be respectful of how and when the business wants to share the news. 

 

Keep Details of the Offer and Company Private

Your manager will naturally be curious about the details of your offer and the company behind it, but sharing too much information about your new role could cause some ill feelings.    

If you’re too open about the offer details, your company might scramble to put together a counteroffer, which would likely require pulling funds from other important projects or hires to try to make up the money. This often breeds resentment, particularly when you turn down the offer your boss scrambled to create.

If you share the company’s name, they might be upset that you believe more in that business than the current company — or have opinions about the organization that might not be in alignment with your views. 

I coach my candidates to keep the details of the offer and company private because there’s no benefit in sharing them. You should share that it’s not a competitor and add that your new company would like to keep the details of your decision to join confidential.

You can add that the broader organization isn’t aware of this change and as soon as the company gives you the clear, you’ll be open to sharing the details. This can happen once your transition plan has taken effect and your boss has processed and come to terms with your exit.  

More Reading on Resigning15 Tips for Quitting Your Job

 

Aim for a Short Transition

I typically advise my candidates to go into their resignation meeting prepared to give a reasonable notice period and a clear cutoff date by when they need to be fully transitioned out. This can be beneficial in securing your ideal start date, showing your manager that you are serious about your decision to leave and having a thorough plan for them to manage it. 

If you have a transition period longer than two to three weeks, you’ll probably start getting excluded from meetings and decisions and frankly won’t have that much to do. Typically by the two- to three-week mark, projects should be fully transitioned, the new organization structure should have taken form and your teams should be starting to function without you. If you give two weeks and give yourself three weeks until your start date, you can have your work transitioned and also get a bit of time to recharge before jumping into your new role. 

By using these tips to prepare for your resignation, you can ensure that you’re taking the right actions for a smooth transition and positive exit from your current company.

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