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  • Writer's pictureMatt Chung

How to Resign Professionally (and Protect Yourself!)

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

If you're wondering how you should resign, what you need to say, what you need to prepare beforehand, you're in luck because here is a step-by-step guide on how to resign the right way.

Resignation can be difficult. It's awkward and uncomfortable, and sometimes you are not even sure what to say other than, I resign! But how you handle your exit speaks volumes about your character and can directly impact your long-term professional relationships.

But don't worry, because, in this video, I will lead you through every step of the process and tell you exactly what you need to do. By the end, you will have a super clear idea and confidence to easily handle your resignation. Let's go.

  1. Do not tell anyone in your company beforehand

The first thing I'd like to emphasize is: do not tell anyone that you're going to quit before the actual resignation. Even if you are super close with some of your colleagues, do not tell them until you speak to your boss first. You never know who else will find out (and they will), and the last thing you want is for your boss to hear about it through the grapevine. It could make him or her feel betrayed and/or disrespected and make the whole experience much more awkward.

  1. Resign over a face-to-face meeting

Once you have made a decision and you're sure & ready to resign, I recommend that you schedule a meeting with your manager. It's just professional etiquette, and it'll be more advantageous for you in the long run as it will help you leave a better impression and maintain a positive relationship. Even if you feel awkward and uncomfortable, it's almost always better to do it face-to-face (whether in-person or over Zoom if you are not in the same location).

  1. What to say during the meeting

Now that you have scheduled a f2f meeting, what should you say? Remember, the primary reason you want to resign in a meeting is the relationship you want to maintain – so focus on the positives.

Some of you may be tempted to use resignation as a chance to get back at your boss if you have had a negative experience at work. Even if your reasons may be justifiable, resist the temptation to let your emotion get the better of you because it's simply not worth it.

How you resign and handle yourself as you leave says more about your maturity than the other person. And while your actions may be understandable, your colleagues or even other senior managers who witness the way you conduct yourself will have a negative perception of you. And these are people whom you may have to work with in the future. Your boss is typically someone with more years of experience, and, as a result, they probably know a lot more people than you in the same industry. You want to make allies for your career, not enemies.

I suggest starting the meeting by expressing your gratitude. Think about what you're thankful for - the opportunity to work, the growth, things you learned, all the help you received, your colleagues, etc. and focus on them instead of things you were unhappy with.

One word of caution. As much as you may feel it's the right time, resignation is not the place to provide your "constructive criticism." If you genuinely care about the organization and want the firm to improve, you can suggest these ideas while you're still with them and while you can still contribute to making the change. Once you have resigned, however, those suggestions will not impact you anyway; if anything, they will likely be viewed as blaming or complaining.

Also, express your willingness to help with the transition and offer your assistance to make it as smooth as possible. Most managers will be genuinely grateful to hear that.

  1. Send a written letter.

The next thing you need to do is to send a written letter to your manager. Your resignation is not official until you send a written letter by email. Ensure you clearly communicate that you are writing to resign from your position. Again, express your gratitude for the opportunity to work at the firm and that you'd be happy to offer your help during the transition.

  1. Ask to keep in touch with your colleagues.

Relationships and professional networking are some of the biggest assets you possess. And what better source than your ex-colleagues with whom you spent so much of your time already? Once you have resigned, do inform your colleagues and ask to keep in touch. In addition to just sending a mass email to everyone, sending personalized messages and connecting with them on LinkedIn could go a long way in helping you keep in touch and stay connected.

  1. Give your best until the last day.

Even after the resignation, you still work for the firm until your last day. Even though it's easy to slack off, you want to give it your best until the last day. Your boss will remember how you spent your last few weeks before leaving. Also, your colleagues who now have to take up more responsibilities after your departure will greatly appreciate your effort to share knowledge and provide training and tips so they can pick up the new pieces more easily.

And as a thank-you for reading until the end, here are additional bonus tips for you!

Tip #1

  1. Make sure to secure your personal documents and possessions BEFORE resigning.

For any personal physical or digital possessions, make sure you file all the important things before resigning. This is because the employer may terminate your employment immediately and restrict your access right away. Though it's not common, it does happen. From your notebooks, ipad, to even your favorite mug, make sure you bring home anything that you may need to use immediately. Even your personal files, photos, intellectual property (anything you worked on or developed for your personal use), personal emails, samples of your best work that potential employers could find impressive, file them away because you may not have access to them after the resignation.

A big word of caution is to never take things that belong to the company, such as proprietary information, company data, etc., for obvious reasons. You could face some serious consequences. You should only take your own belongings that you've accumulated in your office over the years.

Also remember to delete any sensitive information you don't want other people to access, including passwords and financial data that we all know we shouldn't store in the company computer in the first place, but we all do (myself included). So remember to delete such data.

Tip #2

  1. Do not disclose information about your new job

As much as you want to maintain a positive relationship with your old employer, you should also keep a clear boundary. There is absolutely no reason to disclose any information about your new opportunity, including the company name, the name of the manager, the industry, and anything at all. All you have to say is that you're moving on to a new opportunity, and that's it.

And then after you start in your new job and pass probation, then you can always reach out to your previous boss or colleagues and update them if you choose to. But until then, do not disclose any such information. It's a small world; you never know if what you share can be used against you. So again, it's best just to keep it to yourself until you have started with the new firm and have found your footing already.

  1. Counteroffer? Many more cons that you may realize; watch this video

And lastly, how about a counteroffer? Great question. At first, receiving a counteroffer may be surprising and make you feel special that the employer will go out of their way to make these arrangements. However, it's quite a common practice because it's simply easier and cheaper for the company to pay a bit more to retain the existing talent instead of going out and finding someone brand new. Having said that, of course, each case is different.

Elevate Your Career, Elevate Your Life! Matt

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