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Resigning with professionalism

Even for the most seasoned professionals, resignations remain a tricky mine field.

Resignations are an unavoidable occurrence in corporate life and as uncomfortable as they may be, should be dealt with at the same level of professionalism that you have displayed throughout your career.

Whether to accept a new challenge or to change directions in your career, when it’s time to move on here is some helpful advice before you hand in your resignation letter.

Give ample and proper resignation notice

Check your company’s policy manual to be sure you are following correct resignation procedure. If you don’t, not only might you be burning a bridge with your former employer, but you may also deprive yourself of termination benefits, such as pay for unused holidays. Many employment contracts now also contain non-compete clauses, which will influence the timing and options available to you after you’ve left the company.

Offer to help

With your impending departure, someone expectedly will have to take on the workload you have left behind. This may be distributed amongst your previous colleagues or rather someone new will be brought in to take over your old position. Consider offering to:

  • Assist in finding and interviewing your replacement
  • Help out until your replacement is on board
  • Ease your replacement into their new role

This will help make the transition as smooth as possible for you and your employer and will reflect better on you professionally which will help when you need to…

Ask for recommendation letters

Ask bosses, colleagues and direct reports for recommendation (reference) letters, while they can still recall your finer points. Online networks, such as LinkedIn, are also gaining in popularity amongst hiring managers as references can easily be requested from your previous supervisors and colleagues. With new hires becoming increasingly scrutinised during the recruitment process, a positive reference can be the difference in landing your desired job.

Avoid jumping the gun

It is highly recommended that you secure a solid job offer in writing before submitting a resignation letter. This will ensure your transition between jobs is seamless and you are not left in a problematic position, if a promise of a job offer suddenly falls through.

Don't bite the bait

Your management or HR department might ask you for "constructive criticism" during your exit interview. Never criticise the company or its employees. In the end, this will reflect poorly on you and you never know who your next boss might be and where paths will cross again.

Don't accept a counteroffer

Despite how flattering it might be, many career advisors agree that it's not a good idea to accept a counteroffer. Once you've made it perfectly clear that you want to jump ship, your loyalty will be in question. Your employer might be making a counteroffer only to take advantage of you until they find a "more dedicated" or cheaper replacement.

After you’ve handed in your resignation letter, it is only natural you may have feelings of guilt with leaving your company and colleagues. But keep in mind your reasons for leaving and remember that you are progressing on a positive direction in your career, so it is important to stay focussed on your new professional challenge.

For more advice on switching career paths, here are some tips on successful career transitions.


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