Leaving your job gracefully

JULIE CHASE | MAY 26, 2021

Last month one of our clients landed his dream job. Colin worked at a Fortune 100 tech company for 14 years. During the first 9 years, he had a progressive career led key initiatives, delivered impressive results and was promoted every other year. However, the last 5 years were stagnant. Colin was given the projects that no one else wanted and weren’t material to the business. Over the last few years, he felt stuck, discouraged and resentful.

So when it was time to resign, he wanted to lay it all out — the mistakes, wrongdoings and missed opportunities. I empathized with him as there were several egregious events he experienced. But I wanted to understand why it was important for him to share this list of woes and if he believed it would make a difference.

The truth was that he had shared his concerns repeatedly over the years and they were brushed aside. Colin knew that this time would be no different. He was more upset with himself for staying so long. With that new awareness, he shifted the focus to making a smooth transition and leaving on a high note.

If you go out with a bang, that’s how people will remember you. Not for all the great programs you created or the revenue you generated, but for the infamous email you sent or walking out on the job.

Here are ways you can leave gracefully.

Prep and practice

Whether you’ve had the best experience or not, it’s nerve-racking to tell your manager you’re quitting. When we’re nervous and unprepared, we’re most likely to ramble and say something embarrassing or unnecessary — especially if they react in an unexpected way.

Rehearse what you’re going to say with a friend or family member. Be straightforward. Lead with the fact you’ve accepted a new offer and are giving your notice. Then share gratitude for the experiences, skills and support you had throughout your tenure. Let them know you’d like to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Ask them how they’d like to tell the team and respect their wishes.

Have objective responses ready for various reactions. If they jump into bargaining mode (e.g., offering promotion), stay firm. Say that you appreciate the offer, but you’re leaving to expand your skills or joining a company at a high growth stage where you’re able to contribute in a bigger way. The worst thing you can do is prolong the resignation process. 

 In the unlikely event they ask you to leave that day or moment, make sure you’ve saved all of your documents (including ones from shared drives), resources and address book.

After your meeting, send a short note to formalize your resignation. See template below.

Create a thorough transition document

This thoughtful and generous act that will make a lasting impression. 

  • List your projects, the current status and key stakeholders. Let them know what needs to be done next and suggest owners
  • List your ongoing responsibilities, especially the ones that no one thinks of (e.g., updating the team events calendar)
  • List the resources (dashboards and documents) and processes you created or often use 
  • List account info for tools and subscriptions 

Prepare for an exit interview

If you’re lucky enough to have an exit interview, prepare for it. Share what you’ve appreciated about your time there. Select a few things you found the most challenging (e.g., having 3 bosses over the past 2 years). Present it as constructive feedback. Make recommendations, especially actionable ones (e.g., conducting a brief survey to check the overall health of the team or organization).

 Send individual farewell emails

While it’s common to send a large group email, a nicer touch is to write a personalized message to every person who helped, supported and coached you. Share something specific that you appreciate about that individual. Share your contact information AND connect to them in LinkedIn.

Ask for recommendations

This is a fantastic time to ask for recommendations. Be selective — you don’t need many. If you’ve been there for a few years, aim for 3-5. If you’ve been there a long time, go for 5-8. Ideally, it’s good to have a mix of a manager, senior leader, colleague and direct report. You can also include internal clients, customers and partners. 

Ask them to focus on a specific project, accomplishment, area of expertise or skill like cross-collaboration leadership. If you see something you’d like to change, make edits and see if they’re willing to publish the revised version (I’ve yet to see someone that said no).

Colin followed all of these steps and was greatly appreciated for making a smooth transition. He left in good standing formally (eligible for rehire) and more importantly, made an endearing impression in the hearts and minds of his colleagues.

P.S. Are you ready to uplevel your career and land a job where you’ll feel fulfilled, realize your potential and get the comp you deserve? If so, then watch our video and book a session with one of our job strategists. We’re excited to talk with you! 

Resignation letter example

Keep it short and simple 

 Name.

 I am writing to notify you of my resignation. My last day will be June 12, 2021.

I have truly enjoyed my time at Company. I have gained valuable experiences and skills over the past X years. I greatly appreciate all of the support, knowledge and opportunities you have provided. It’s been a pleasure working with you and the team.

I’m committed to making this transition period as smooth as possible. I am working on a document that lists all of my current projects and core responsibilities. I would like to review it with you tomorrow and discuss how you would like to handle the transition. 

Best,