You have got a new job! Well done. Now, don’t spoil it all by making a hash of your exit from where you are now. I know, you are excited. It’s hard to stay focused on the old gig, when everything is ‘oh so cool’ about the new one.
But remember, the ‘old gig’ was the ‘new gig’ not so long ago, and how you behave on your way out will affect your brand, your references, and your future employability. Trust me on that.
It’s true that often you get shown the door as soon as you resign. Also true, some employers behave appallingly to exiting staff. But no matter, you be the better person, leaving with every loose end tied up, and your head held high.
Here's how to do it:
1. Give fair notice
Sure, your offer letter of 5 years ago says you need only give 2 weeks notice. But you were a trainee then, and now a Team Leader. You know you will cause your employer huge issues if you leave at such short notice. Don’t do it. Provide enough time for them to get their business covered. It’s the professional thing to do.
2. Do the deed gracefully
The actual resignation, I mean. Plan how you will do it. Set a formal meeting. Be polite. Accentuate the positives. Be firm, but humble. Show appreciation. Thank your boss.
3. Don’t blab
To everyone else, I mean. Either before you resign, or after. Until your boss agrees a communication plan. In my experience, 90% of “resignees” fail right here. Just have to tell everyone about ‘my great new job’. It’s selfish. Destructive. You need to be collaborative in helping convey the message at the right time, in the right way, to the right people.
4. Offer to train a replacement
And mean it. And do it. Well.
5. Smooth handover of clients and projects
Co-operate in a handover of your current project or clients. If you are leaving those clients for good, it’s the right thing to do by them, and by your employer who gave you the chance to build those relationships in the first place. But even if you plan to work with those clients from somewhere else, they don’t belong to you, so do the ethical thing and brief a successor. Then, when the time is right, restraints honoured, compete like hell!
6. Share the inside stuff
You know what I mean. The little nuggets. Like your computer password. Or which contact within a client really makes the decisions.
7. Don’t de-stabilise
Resist the temptation to vent, to criticise, to undermine and to pour negativity, like a trail of dog-poo around the office, “because you know better and you are leaving”. It’s not a good look, and it makes you look ridiculous. Really.
8. Don’t slack off
This is critical. If you ‘go walkabout’, start being lazy, come in late, avoid your admin, and generally make it clear you have ‘checked out’, everyone will see that and everyone who counts will remember it. Forever. And that is going to hurt you one day. Count on it.
9. Take no cheap shots
At your boss. Your colleagues. The business. Anything. It’s weak. And petty.
10. The exit interview
Cooperate. Don’t be a smart-arse by refusing to participate. Be thoughtful and constructive. Resist the temptation to preach or criticise.
11. The counter-offer
Don’t flirt with counter-offer discussions if you have no intentions of staying. Pursuing that conversation, just so you can enjoy having your ego stroked, is a form of self-satisfaction. And doing that in public is just not nice.
12. Wrap it up
Close as many of your projects as you can. I had a woman once who left the business with her record-ever quarter. She left with her head held high, and we paid her bonus gladly. 12 months later when her new job turned out to be a dud, we hired her back.
13. Thank people
When you are on your way out, thank everyone who helped you on your way up. It will mean a lot to them if you do, and they will remember it if you don’t. And not in a good way.
14. Say goodbye properly to everybody
Personally, not by email from your phone when you are out the door. Shake hands. Offer kisses. Swap contact details. Keep doors open.
15. Stay an ambassador after you have gone
Don’t deride your former company or colleagues. Amazing how many people do that. It’s such an unpleasant trait. Never reflects well on you. Never. Ever. So why do it?
Having run and owned businesses for 25 years, I guess I have been on the receiving end of a huge number of resignations. And it stuns me how destructive, to themselves, some people can be. Petty and vindictive. Or just lazy and sloppy. And yet, so many times, six months later, when their dream job did not turn out so well, they want to come back. Or they need a reference. Hmmm…
I have hired back literally dozens of ex-employees who behaved impeccably on the way out. In those cases the door is always open. But many more have sullied their exit, behaving appallingly and burning customers and colleagues along the way.