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When informing your employer that you have accepted a position at another company, the approach can be the difference between leaving with great references and industry contacts, or with a bad reputation that will stick around for a long time.

MRL outlines how to resign in a professional way that will help you maintain positive relationships. 

Resigning is an awkward experience, no matter how many times you do it

UK employees change their jobs, on average, every five years and people in the US change roles approximately every four years. Whether this is your first experience, your fourth or fifth, you'll probably still find it to be awkward and uncomfortable. But, there are things you can do to make the process smoother.

How to resign

Follow these step-by-step instructions, and you will leave your current role with integrity, tact, professionalism, references and some network contacts:

1. Secure another job first

For some, you’ll be quitting your job because you are unhappy. We understand how soul-destroying it can be to walk into a job you hate every day, but we strongly recommend securing a new job before handing in your notice. The last thing you want is to be without a job, especially during a pandemic. 

Additionally, a prospective employer would rather hear that you want to work for them, and they are more likely to believe this if you are employed at the time the interview takes place.

2. Tell your boss face to face

Now comes the awkward part, breaking the news to your boss. We highly recommend preparing what you want to disclose and what you don’t want to discuss and sticking firmly to these during the discussion.

We hope that every employer will react as professionally as possible in these situations, but we also appreciate that this is not always the case. In these situations, we recommend being as calm as possible while reaffirming your commitment to the company for the remainder of your time there.

Have a reason for leaving other than ‘I hate my boss’. Some examples include:

  • You are keen to take on a new challenge
  • You’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity that you can’t turn down
  • You want to take a different career path

​3. Be sure of your decision

If you are a hard worker who has helped the business to flourish, chances are your employer won't want to see you go. Once you have informed your boss that you are quitting, you may receive a counteroffer to stay. This is usually a salary increase that matches or is slightly higher than the salary you have been offered for your next role.

While this can be extremely tempting, it’s important to bear in mind what led you to look elsewhere in the beginning. Will an inflated salary be enough to continue working with all the niggles that drove you to want to move on in the first place? 

You should take the counteroffer seriously, and take some time to consider it, but don't let it put off the inevitable. You may find yourself in the same position a few months down the line but without the security of a job offer.

4. Hand in your letter of resignation

This can be done immediately after your discussion with your employer or a little while after. There are set rules to follow when handing in your letter of resignation, and we have an explanation of what to include, as well as a template you can utilise here.

5. Don’t drop the ball in your final weeks

As you count down to your last day, you should continue to work diligently. Rember that you still need a good reference, so you need to stay professional at all times. 

In the same token, refrain from burning any bridges by badmouthing your company or co-workers. We appreciate that you may want to air your grievances, but this won’t change anything and will just break down the relationships you have worked so hard to build.

Take the time in your final weeks to clean up any accounts, produce a detailed handover for your successor and ensure any members of your team have a clear understanding of their responsibilities.

How to resign from a job - Common questions answered

We’ve covered the main factors of handing in your resignation, but there are a few additional questions we are often asked by the candidates we support:

At what point do I quit?

We recommend having a written offer that outlines everything your new company is offering you. This gives you an extra level of protection if anything goes awry. Once you have this, you can then follow the above steps to resign.

How much notice do I have to give?

Notice periods will vary from company to company and are often longer the higher up the pay scale you are. All the necessary information, including the answer to this question, can be found in your employee handbook or contract.

Can you resign via email?

Nothing is stopping you from doing this; however, if you are hoping to maintain good relationships and network contacts, we highly recommend having this discussion in person. We appreciate these conversations can be awkward, but you owe it to yourself to leave with your head held high, doing everything with professionalism and integrity.  

How do you politely quit a job?

The most polite way to hand in your resignation is to give your employee as much notice as possible, so long as this isn't a deterrent to you. Once you have done this, continue to work diligently and refrain from complaining about the company or airing your grievances in public. Finally, leave all accounts or projects neat, along with detailed handover notes to help your successor start on the right foot. 

Can a resignation be effective immediately?

Unfortunately, the most likely answer to this question is no. Your notice period will be outlined in your employee handbook or contract. In some cases, you may be put on garden leave, which is similar to resigning with immediate effect, although it can be implemented at any point between handing in your notice and your final day. Garden leave is given at the discretion of your employer and is not something you have a say in. 

If garden leave is required, your employer will ask you to stay away from the office or company premises but will still pay you in full. Garden leave can be offered if your replacement is found, if your next job is with a competitor or if there is sensitive information your current employer doesn't want you to take away with you. 

If you are looking to move on from your current employer but haven’t found your next project, get in touch with our team. We can help you find your dream role.

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