It is natural to have some apprehension as you make a career change and we know that resigning can be an emotional or uncomfortable situation. Here are some recommendations that many of our candidates have found helpful.
- When to give notice: We recommend a Monday the two weeks prior to your start date with your new employer. If you give the notice later in the day, you won't have to spend the rest of the day answering the boss's or co-workers' questions about why you are leaving and where you are going. Of course, you can determine what constitutes an appropriate transition time or what will be most conducive to making the transition effective for the parties involved.
- Second, you should write a letter of resignation and give it to your boss to open the resignation meeting. We suggest a very simple four-sentence, two-paragraph letter of resignation that is direct and to the point. The letter reads like this:
Please accept this letter as my official notice of resignation. I appreciate the work we have been able to accomplish together at (company name), but I have now made a commitment to another organization, and plan to begin with them in two weeks (or whatever your target date is).
Know that it is my intention to work diligently with you to wrap up as much as possible in the next two weeks (or respective time frame) to make my resignation as smooth as possible. If you have any suggestions on how we can best accomplish that goal, I hope you will share your thoughts with me, as I am eager to leave on the most positive note possible.
There is plenty of subtext involved in this letter which time and space do not allow us to explore here, but let me just mention that the words "commitment," "two weeks," "together," "smooth as possible," and "positive" are not accidentally used in this letter. It is also no accident that "thank you" does not appear in this letter. There is nothing to say thank you for. Yet, that is how many resignation letters inappropriately begin. Furthermore, candidates giving notice must understand it is unprofessional and inappropriate for them to use the resignation letter to tell the current boss where they are going, what they are doing in their next job, or how much they will be making.
- The final item is the verbal icebreaker needed to open the "giving notice" meeting. It is merely a simple paraphrasing of the resignation letter. I suggest that with the above letter in hand (or one that is sent electronically) you open the resignation meeting conversation by saying:
"Boss, I have made a commitment to join another organization. Please accept my letter of resignation. I would ask that you to take a minute to read my letter before we discuss how we can make my transition as smooth as possible."
Almost every boss in the world knows what is about to happen when their employee walks into their office with an envelope in their hand. This opening gets right to the point without unnecessary small talk.
Remember, the conversation need not be about where you are going and what you are doing next; rather it should focus on your transition. We suggest you deflect questions not related to the smooth transition by simply saying:
"I know you may be curious about that, but it is not my intention to discuss where I am going or why. My decision is made; I have made a commitment to another organization, which I plan to keep. If it is really important for you to know where I am going and why, let's talk about it when it is not an emotional issue for us, say a month from now. Today, my goal remains to discuss how to make the transition as smooth as possible."
That deflector might seem a bit impersonal, but it helps reinforce the purpose of the meeting is to leave on as positive a note as possible through a carefully planned, smooth transition.