Whether you are off to work in greener pastures, are moving up the corporate ladder by jumping to a new company, or you’re ready to retire, resigning from a position can be difficult. This is even more so when you’re in an executive role where an entire company is dependent upon you. Cutting the ties that bind need not be painful for either you or your employer. Here are 8 tips for a graceful exit.
Before you give your current employer notice of your departure, ensure all details have been finalized with your new employer. Has an offer been negotiated, received, and confirmed with a signed employment contract? Ensure all of your ducks are in a row with your new employer before giving your notice. Verbal promise of employment is not binding. Make sure you have a signed contract with your new employer in hand before turning in your resignation.
Writing a Letter of Resignation and Gratitude
Even if you are not leaving on the best terms, think of this as a brief note of thanks. Your resignation letter should explain that you are leaving, but focus on how grateful you are for the experiences and opportunities you have had while with the company. Include the date of your planned last day on the job and mention your willingness to help transition your responsibilities to others while your replacement is found.
Ensure that you announce your departure to the CEO or Board of Directors before you notify others that you are leaving. You should also be prepared should your boss provide a counteroffer in order to retain you. Consider what your response would be prior to turning in your resignation so you aren’t caught off guard. It might also be helpful to remember that most people who stay as a result of a counteroffer ultimately do not end up with long-term career satisfaction and fulfillment. Most will move on within the first year.
I advise my executive clients to give ample—or even more than enough—notice to the CEO or Board of Directors. Transitions take time, and if you’re concerned about the best interest of the organization, a generous transition period is a graceful way to exit. Give your current employer as much time as possible to locate a replacement, and plan a transition strategy for your department, division, and company so they may continue seamlessly in your absence.
Do keep in mind that while you do want to give generous notice, you are not bound to stay longer than a traditional two weeks, unless it is outlined in your contract. Refer to the contract with your current employer for such details and follow up with human resources if you still have questions.
Handing Over the Torch
While you may be excited about your new position, you have a responsibility to leave your current employer in the best position possible when you leave. You want to be able to use them as a job reference in the future, and you never want to burn bridges if you can help it. With that said, I recommend that my executive clients write down a plan for transferring their responsibilities and unfinished projects. Put together recommendations for shifting your workload to others until your position is filled or for training your incoming replacement, even if temporary, so you can hand over the leadership torch.
Being Humble Shows Wisdom
Be humble about your move. It’s very likely you’re making a transition for your own personal growth and career advancement, but being grateful for the experiences you’ve gained, showing appreciation for your colleagues, and moving on as humbly as you can is an admirable way for a leader to transition. You will be remembered for the way you handle your departure.
Keep It Positive
When discussing your resignation with your supervisor, or anyone else in the company, be sure to keep your words positive. Say as little as possible about why you are leaving and focus on the experiences, growth, and happiness you have had while with your current employer. Avoid making negative comments, as you want to leave on a high note, especially when putting anything into writing.
Wrap Up Loose Ends
Speak with your supervisor or human resources department after you have given your notice to tie up any loose ends, such as employee benefits, relocation packages, and pension plans. Ensure your health, vision, and dental benefits will carry over until you are covered with your next employer, find out about collecting on unused vacation and sick time, and how you should go about rolling over or cashing out your 401(k). Be prepared in the event you are asked to conduct an exit interview prior to your departure. Ask to review a sample of the exit interview questions in advance so you can be prepared with professionally appropriate and constructive responses.
Communication Is King
Decide how and when you will tell your staff, department, or division about your resignation. Will you tell managers just under you about your resignation at the same time as the rest of your colleagues, or ahead of time? Be sure to provide the reasons you are leaving, and try to keep things positive. Avoid negative statements and thank everyone for their hard work and commitment while you were there working with them. Avoid creating fear by being as honest and forthcoming as appropriate about why you are leaving so that others are not afraid your departure bodes negatively for them.
In addition, you will need to communicate your commitment to the transition efforts. Let your leadership team and those underneath you know that your top priority is a smooth and effortless transition for the continued success of the organization and the people you’ve led and served. Be sure to send a final farewell message to everyone to let them know that you will think of them, and offer your contact information so they may stay in touch. This will allow you to have a professional exit marked with style and grace.
I believe you deserve a career that brings you joy, fulfillment, and the ability to live your best life. If you’re having a hard time writing your resume or your current resume isn’t generating the response you’d hoped it would, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website for help now.
Share this post:
About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
Will your resume impress employers? Take this 2-minute quiz to find out.
Get your personalized plan for a resume that stands out and lands you your dream job!
Need a little help getting hiring managers to take notice? Find out what's standing between you and those magic words "You're exactly who we've been looking for!"