So, you have attended an interview, agreed your terms and you have successful landed your dream job. Congratulations, but remember, before you can join your new company you will need to resign from your current employer.
If this is the first time you are going to hand in your resignation, be aware that it is very different from what you see in the news or in movies. Resignations, more often than not, are by necessity quite low-key events for a workplace. They follow certain etiquette and don't have the drama you see in their high-profile or fictional counterparts.
Tried and tested ways of resigning
There are tried and tested ways of resigning, that means there is a whole host of ways not to quit your job.
The whole process starts early. If you have landed a new job offer, the process of resigning from your current role starts the moment you accept.
You will then find things can become quite drawn out. There is a notice to serve and perhaps other obligations to observe, all of which we will come to later.
By following this brief guide, we will make sure that your exit and transition to a new job is a smooth one and that the door isn't slammed behind you as you leave your current job for pastures new.
Step one: make sure you should resign
This is a step that needs more thought than perhaps all the others. If you feel set on leaving a job – either because you have been offered a new position or because you just want to go, stop yourself for a moment.
First, there is no obligation to take a job immediately. Unless you are 100% certain this is the right job for you make sure you think it through. You cannot hold off deciding for ever, but most employers appreciate it’s a big decision and will provide you with some breathing space. If the offer has come in the form of an email or letter, you should feel no obligation to reply the second you receive the offer. You can acknowledge the offer has been made and indicate you will get back shortly when you have checked everything out.
If you have any questions about the job, it’s a good idea to get answers before you progress any further and make your decision.
On the other hand, if you have decided to simply resign with no other job lined up, make sure this is your final decision, consider taking a day or two before you hand any letters in or have a formal discussion with your boss.
The decision to leave your current job should not be taken lightly. There was, after all, a reason you took that job in the first place. There was a reason you got excited when that job offer came in and why you had butterflies in your stomach on the first day.
So check: why are you going? Make a list – write your reasons down on a piece of paper. Then write down your favourite things about the current job. What makes it unique? Special? What would you miss if you left?
We say this because the grass is almost always greener when you look at another job. Perks, opportunities and responsibilities all might look like good reasons to leave, but what are you giving up? Are there pluses to the job you are losing in the process? Is a potential new job more a trade-off than a step up?
If you think it is more the former than the latter, then – should you feel it appropriate – it might be a good opportunity to talk things through with whoever makes the big decisions at your work. If you do, approach it sensitively and not as an ultimatum.
Okay, you've decided to leave
If you decide to leave, make sure you have the offer of a job in writing before you quit. Ideally, have the contract to hand and carefully check it out, at the very least have something from your new employer that says you have a job. Handing in your notice before you have a formal offer in place could turn out to be a big mistake.
Then, as you approach the stage of communicating your new move, check your existing contract for your current job. What does it say about leaving? Almost certainly, there are a few lines in there about notice periods. Often this will be about a month; however other jobs have a concept called 'gardening leave'. Gardening leave is when an employee is asked to carry out notice at another location – or not work at all. This is a practice that ensures a person leaving cannot scoop up a firm's clients before vanishing out of the door!
There are also other related terms in contracts. These can include non-compete clauses, which stop you from going head-to-head with your old workplace for a set period of time after you have left. It is crucial you check through your contract for elements such as this.
Before you accept your new job, you need to clarify this notice period and conditions of your leaving with your future employer. Make sure everyone there is happy and the way will be suitably paved to your new role.
Despite what you might see on TV, resignation is not about revenge. It is not about hurting people who have wronged you, and it is certainly not about making a point.
Instead, it is about observing etiquette that makes sure no bridges are burned and that your old team will stay in touch with you. Moving on can have the added bonus of increasing the size of your network.
We go into more depth about resignation letters elsewhere on our site but keep the resignation letter polite and brief.
Based on your notice period, put up top the date you are leaving.
In the letter, put your reason. Just don't make it vague. If the new job title is more senior, that probably explains it instantly. If you are working in a location closer to home, mention it. Phrase your reason as a positive about the new role, not a negative concerning your current workplace.
Then, thank your business for the good times and the time they put into your development
Depending upon your circumstances, your boss could come to you with some sort of counter-offer. It could be a promotion or new working conditions that suit you.
Don't dismiss them out of hand, the counter-offer could be attractive and could address some of the reasons that you were looking to move. If you think it is unlikely you will take them up on the offer, tell them but say you'll take the rest of the day to consider. That said, if you have just handed in your letter, you probably should not take too long, as you want to start your notice period immediately.
Your notice period
The reason you want to start your notice period as soon as possible is not just to meet a deadline to start your new job. It is also because it can be a difficult time you need to get out of the way. The reason for this is because you can lose a sense of purpose: when you had an ongoing job, your success was intertwined with that of the business. But, with the end in sight, your impact could be more limited and good news will feel more for your colleagues than for yourself.
So keep up the good work and keep busy, fulfil any meaningful obligations you might have. If the opportunity presents itself, enjoy training up your replacement, making suitable notes and create a clean transition. Make sure you leave a fitting legacy to the professionalism you brought.
And when the last day comes, remember an exciting new horizon beckons. There will be things you will miss from your old job. But, if you follow the steps above, there will also be plenty to look forward to.