I wrote this post for Brazen Careerist in April 2013.
If you’re good at what you do, you will likely need to resign from a position over the course of your career. There are a number of reasons why this might happen to you:
- You outgrow your position or the company.
- You get poached by a growing company who wants your skills.
- You get so good you need to freelance to keep up with the demand.
No matter why you decide to leave a company, winners leave their workplace better than they found it and arrive at their new job with clean karma. Follow these tips to resign from your job like a pro:
Give informal notice, then formal notice
Are you one of those people who relish giving their two weeks’ notice? (You do know to give two weeks’ notice, right?)
Take a deep breath. Instead of waltzing into the office and shoving your letter in the face of HR, show respect to your coworkers and direct supervisor by giving them a private head’s up about your decision. Surprises can be fun, but spare your teammates some drama (and shock) by sharing with them first.
Offer to help with the transition, but don’t expect a consulting gig
If your company suspects you’re leaving them in a lurch intentionally so that you can sell them on your consulting fees, it’s likely they won’t take you up on that offer. No one wants to feel blackmailed! Politely offer to provide transitional training, but leave the final decision in their hands. Play hard to get; if they want your expertise, they can have it, but you are fine with taking your hard-earned knowledge with you when you go.
You can be honest in the exit interview, but you need to stay positive
When it comes to facing an exit interview, here’s something you may not want to hear: either HR knows what’s wrong with the company and they aren’t planning to do anything about it, or they don’t know what’s wrong and they darn sure don’t want to hear about it from you. If you think you’re going to change an entire company in an hour’s time, you might want to reassess your approach—but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer a little advice.
Instead of trying to cover too much, offer positive insight on one or two carefully chosen priorities. For example, instead of providing an analysis of the market rate salaries and how the company is shortcutting their employees, let them know they’re underpaying by sharing something like “I know better compensation would go a long way toward helping people feel recognized and appreciated.” It’s honest, it’s not accusatory and it may just get your former coworkers a bump in pay.
No, really: stay positive
You may actually be leaving the worst job on earth. But even if everyone knows it, it only reflects poorly on you to go out saying so.
Professional, classy individuals don’t express extreme emotions on the job. That includes the sentiment that everyone you worked with is crazy and deserves to be fired. This is your opportunity to practice your win-win reasoning muscle. Use it!