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Resignation 101: How to Gracefully Quit Your Job

Resigning: How to quit your job like a pro

So you’ve decided to hit refresh!  Congrats on making such a brave, inspiring and life changing decision.

Unless you are one of the lucky ones who can take their job on the road, once you’ve decided to hit refresh you are going to have to quit your job.  

How to Quit Your Job
This can be very difficult as there are many considerations.  Some practical ones, like how much notice you should give, who you should tell (and in what order) and what you should say (and not say).  But there are also more emotional considerations such as, how do you actually muster up the courage to resign. It can be a difficult conversation.

I’ll cover all the above, using my own experience as a reference, and hopefully provide you with some useful tips on how to gracefully quit your job.

When to quit your job

Deciding when to quit your job depends on your position, work environment, and if you have an employment contract with a resignation policy.

Assuming you don’t have a contract, deciding on how much notice to give can be like walking a fine line… you want to give enough notice to be fair to your employer, but not so much that they may find a way to preemptively terminate your employment.  And let’s face it, unless you’ve won the lottery or came into a large inheritance, you will need as much money as you can to start your new life.

I had a professional job and was on good terms with my employer so I gave more than two months notice.  In fact, I didn’t have a final end date when I resigned as I was still wrapping up some other things, like selling my house.  I gambled that they would not find a reason to terminate me before I was ready to go. And luckily I was right. They appreciated the advance notice and were flexible with respect to my end date.  Actually my manager jokingly berated me for not trusting him and telling him sooner!

How to Quit Your Job

I gave a lot of notice – two to four weeks is standard for my position.  Why did I give so much notice? Part of it was that I wanted to be fair, but more so because I had made the decision to leave quite some time before and was afraid I would accidentally let it slip.

My refresh was such a big deal to me – and one I was so excited about – that it was at the forefront of my mind. I wanted to share my news with people with whom I worked. And having your manager hear that you are resigning through the office grapevine and not you personally is not the way to go!

But this may not work for you.  You may not have an employer who is understanding and flexible.  You may have a legitimate reason to fear that if you give more than a month’s notice, you will be terminated as soon as you resign. Only you can gauge what is right, but in any situation I would recommend providing at least two week’s notice.

You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned being fair to your employer and thought why?  For some, the decision to hit refresh may have been influenced in part by not being happy at work. But even if that is the case, I believe it’s important to leave on good terms and not burn bridges. You never know when your path might cross with someone from your former life.  If possible, be fair,  professional, and provide adequate notice.

Who should you tell that you’re quitting?

I think it goes without saying that the first person you should tell is your immediate manager, at least formally.  You may have a trusted colleague or mentor that you want to confide in before you resign, perhaps even before you make the final decision.  That’s up to you – that carries some risk so be careful.

Prepare an official letter of resignation and find time to tell your manager when you know they will have time to discuss your departure. It’s ideal to share your news during a low-stress and non-critical time, but that may not always be possible. If you need to, schedule a meeting to ensure you have the time you need.

How to Quit Your Job
Once you have told your manager, they should notify the human resources department, if one exists in your company.  If not, you should personally tell your human resources representative. Next, tell your immediate team, especially anyone who reports to you, unless your manager insists on otherwise.

Last, I suggest informing anyone with whom you work closely.  If you work for a large company you can’t tell everyone personally, but trust me, word will spread.

What to say when you quit?

This is one time you may want to prepare ahead. I’m not suggesting you follow a script, but having a general idea of what you want to say can make the discussion easier.  

Although you may be nervous, there’s no need to blurt the news out, nor beat around the bush. Rather than just saying “I quit”, you could say “I wanted to talk to you today to let you know I am resigning, effective….”  

Often managers will be concerned you’ve taken a position with the competition, so best to ease those fears right away. You don’t have to get too personal about your reasons for wanting to hit refresh if you don’t want, but saying “I’m not leaving to go to a competitor or because I found a better job, I’m leaving to make a change in my life.  I’m going to ….,” should suffice. You can fill in the blanks with your refresh story, or the parts you are willing to share.

Your manager may have many questions, and may even be critical about your decision.  Feel free to answer what you feel comfortable with, and for any topics that feel too personal or negative, it’s best to be polite and professional. Try “I’d rather not discuss that now” or “I’m very happy with my decision”.  

How to Quit Your Job

Bring a close to any questions or criticism by saying you’d like to ensure you leave the company in the best possible state and would like to turn the conversation to transition planning.  This will likely be very well received and is part of being fair and not burning bridges.

You’ve made the decision to leave and you can make it easier for your coworkers by working with them to transfer your knowledge.  It’s advisable to create a transition plan. In your resignation discussion, let your manager know that you will provide one in the coming days.  

Wrap up the conversation by discussing how to tell your coworkers. Let your manager know that you’d like to personally tell a few people. Make sure you get approval before doing so.  

End the conversation by thanking them for their time and let them know that you are still 100 percent committed to the job for the rest of your time there. Depending on the position and your plans, you may even offer to be available to answer any work-related questions after you leave.

Even though I gave over two month’s notice, my replacement wasn’t confirmed until shortly before my last day.  I had four days to train and transition my role. About a month after I left, I agreed to go to London to provide training (all at the company’s expense of course!). For me that was part of leaving on good terms.

If your job or the work environment was a reason for leaving, hopefully there will be time to discuss this during an exit interview.

Managing the aftermath after you quit

Once your co-workers have heard about your resignation, you will likely be the subject of a lot of conversations and discussions, possibly even gossip.  People will be curious, and perhaps a little jealous. This is all understandable. Hopefully the majority of the reactions will be positive and supportive, but I suspect you will find at least one person who has some questions or a negative opinion they feel like they must share.  

If this happens, try and shrug it off, knowing that you are doing the right thing for yourself. And if you were unhappy with your job, your manager or the company, don’t engage in any gossip. Just focus on how excited you are about your plans and if pressed on the reasons you’ve decided to hit refresh, just say that it is something you need to do for yourself.

How to Quit Your Job

Finding the courage to quit your job

I’m sure some of you are thinking all of that is great and practical, but how do I muster up the courage to actually have the conversation?

Remember you have already demonstrated a tremendous amount of courage in choosing to change your life and hit refresh.  Not to discount how difficult the road ahead may be as you move towards your goal, but you have shown that you already have the strength and fortitude necessary to handle the unknown.  Feel confident in knowing that and you’ll probably find the conversation won’t be as difficult as you might have thought.

Written by Sharon Kelly. Follow her at www.ditchedmydesk.com or on Instagram @ditched_my_desk.

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