One of the most unpleasant things you’ll ever have to do in your career is resign, but everyone has to do it at least once in their life. It feels like you’re rejecting a relationship that you’ve spent time to build up, but it’s important not to view it so negatively.

Instead, look at it constructively. If you’re not satisfied at your current position, you won’t be bringing out the best in yourself or the organisation. Leaving will benefit both – you’ll be able to maximise your potential at another organisation, and the next person who comes in will have a chance of adding greater value to the company as well.

Just as with a job hunt and accepting a new job, exiting your current employment requires a lot of preparation and effort. Here are the steps to resigning effectively:

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 1) Talk To Your Supervisor/HR

Reasons to resign can be broadly split into push or pull factors, but regardless, you should always try to talk to your supervisor or human resource (HR) manager first to resolve it. All things being equal, it’s usually better to stay in the same company for a long time, rather than spend short amounts of time in many different companies, simply because less time is spent acclimatising to a new environment and more time is spent being productive.

Pull factors in this case would be a better salary offer or a more interesting job scope. If it’s for better pay, let your HR know that you’ve been given a better offer, and let them match it. Or if it’s a more interesting scope of work (don’t confuse this with job description), talk to your supervisor and let them know. Chances are, you’ll receive a similar or even better counter offer. You won’t know if you don’t try.

Push factors are a little trickier – it’s most likely to do with an unpleasant supervisor, colleague(s), or work environment. If you’re unable to speak to your supervisor, try HR; if you’re unable to speak to HR (or HR is your supervisor, like in a small company), then try your best to get a third party to mediate your issues. But don’t bring up resignation yet.

If you’ve tried your best, and the push or pull factors still remains – then you’ve got to prepare for your resignation.

 2) Look For Another Job First

If you’re leaving because of a pull factor, you’ve got it made. Skip this step.

If you’re leaving because of a push factor, you’ve probably got a lot of pent up energy inside you. Channel that energy into a search for another job. Especially if you’ve been out of the job hunt for a while, you’ll need some time to sharpen your interview skills, tweak that cover letter, and polish up your resume. And you don’t want to pick up just any job – find a place where you’ll fit and shine.

Practically speaking, it’s also wiser to look for another job first, because it’s difficult to explain a gap of unemployment on your resume. And if you’ve been employed for a long time, the sudden shock of unemployment can be both jarring and depressing.

Once you’ve got a job offer, it’s time to begin the resignation process.

 3) Check Your Company Policy

The actual resignation is (usually) easy. It’s the lead up that’s difficult, especially reading up on company policies – these are things you don’t usually read until you have to leave. Follow this checklist to make sure you’ve got all your facts right.

–          How many days of notice you have to give (it’s either in your contract, or HR booklet).

–          How many days of outstanding leave you have (it’s the amount of leave days you’re entitled to and how many days of leave you’ve taken).

–          When you’re getting your bonus payout. If it’s soon (one or two months), consider waiting until you’ve gotten your bonus before you leave. However, check if there are stipulations for staying on if you accept the bonus.

–          Your payday. Consider scheduling your last day of work after your payday (in that month), to prevent any issues with your last drawn salary in the company.

–          Other miscellaneous claimable benefits. Once you’ve tendered your resignation, these benefits will most likely cease, so consider claiming them before you leave.

Once you have all this information on hand (and you’re prepared to resign), you can prepare to (but not actually) resign.

4) Prepare An Answer About Your Resignation

Think about what you’re going to say when asked why you’re resigning. If it’s a pull factor, that’s pretty easy. But if it’s a push factor, it’s usually wiser to be tactful about why you’re leaving.

If possible, try to mention the pull factors that are making you leave, like a better job offer (even if you did seek out that job yourself) or even a more interesting industry that you’re entering.

Also, being Asians, it is usually best to mention that you have another job to go to after you leave. Leaving without having another job is usually seen as an act of spite, pettiness, and defiance, and it’s not an impression you want to leave behind at your old company.

 5) Prepare Your Resignation Letter

resignation letter

This is easy to Google, but remember you can set your own last day of work in your resignation letter. You can also include the amount of leave outstanding if you wish, but that HR will also calculate that for you.

Make two copies of your letter, one addressed to your supervisor, and one addressed to your HR manager. Make three copies of each letter, and date all your letters. Keep one copy of the letter for yourself as a spare.

Give one copy of the letter to a colleague you trust. If that’s not an option, mail the letter back to yourself (so that you will have a date stamp on it). This is to verify your intent to resign. It’s important, in case the resignation conversation turns sour and you are terminated. In that case, you have proof that your intent to resign came before the resignation, and will aid you in such a dispute.

Of course, place each letter in an envelope, and address it to the relevant person.

It’s best to prepare your resignation letter at least one week in advance.

Read also: How to Draft a Graceful Resignation Letter (a.k.a. How Not To Burn Your Bridges)

 6) Resign

Schedule a private meeting with your supervisor for at least an hour, but don’t let them know it’s because you want to resign (that’s what the meeting is for). If they press for a reason, let them know it’s HR-related. Most of the time, supervisors will have a sense of what the meeting is about.

Bring the letter in with you (in an envelope), and let your supervisor know that you’d like to resign. The first question will probably be why, which you will have prepared earlier, and the second question will probably be about your future career plans.

Be polite and humble when resigning. Although you have indicated your departure date in your letter, be as flexible as possible about your last day of work. Remember that your duties and responsibilities will still have to be fulfilled by someone in the company, and they will need time to find your replacement. Be as helpful as possible in that respect, because you want to leave on a good note.

Be prepared that your supervisor might be unhappy about your decision, and maintain your cool if that should happen. Ideally, everyone should leave the room with a positive mindset about moving forward, but if it doesn’t happen, stick with your decision.

 7) Your Last 30/60/90 Days With The Company

Regardless of your level of seniority, your last days at the company will have a lot of impact on your colleagues. How you conduct yourself during this period will probably be magnified in the memories of your coworkers, so be extra careful about your behaviour during this period.

Finish all outstanding projects before you leave. This is a given, but it also means not taking on new projects if you don’t have the time to. Be polite when you refuse. Your colleagues might not be happy at the time of refusal, but in the long run it will benefit you to have completed all the work that you were allotted before leaving.

Be proactive and helpful as much as possible. This is to dispel the mentality that people who are serving notice have a less responsible and less hardworking outlook. In turn, this will help improve your colleagues’ impressions of you (remember, you can’t change that once you’ve left).

Archive your work and make it as easy as possible for the next person to pick up from what you’ve done. Filing may be dreary administrative work, but put yourself in the next person’s shoes – wouldn’t you want a good handover?

 8) At Your Next Company

Don’t ever badmouth your previous company, even if you left because of push factors. It doesn’t reflect badly on the company, it reflects badly on you. And remember that your colleagues haven’t gotten to know you yet, so there isn’t the benefit of context to see your grousing in. If you don’t wish to talk about your previous company, then don’t. People will understand.

What If I Receive A Counteroffer After I Tender?

It’s entirely up to you.

If you accept it, make sure the counteroffer meets or exceeds your requirements. Don’t settle for a mediocre counteroffer, because this reflects upon your own standing as a person – you’re easily bribed. Also, remember that accepting a counteroffer brings another set of possible expectations – that you’re only doing this job for the money, that you’re scheming. Be prepare for such impressions to follow if you accept a counteroffer.

Remember to keep this positive mindset throughout the whole resignation process – resigning benefits both you and the company you’re leaving, by reallocating resources more effectively. With such a perspective in mind, you’ll be able to resign both peacefully and effectively.

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