6 Resignation Do’s and Don’ts

Sep 21, 2022

Making the decision to change jobs is both an exciting and stressful moment in a candidate’s career. Often, candidates have many questions and doubts about the best way to handle resigning from one company and starting fresh with another one. Here are six simple strategies to help the resignation process go as smoothly and positively as possible for all parties involved.

Don’t: Wait to Start Thinking About the Resignation Until Late in the Process

“Begin with the end in mind” is the second of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s great advice for a wide range of life events, including resigning from a job. As soon as a candidate starts thinking about a career change, they should begin to think about that inevitable moment of letting their manager know they’re leaving. This doesn’t force that candidate to make a move before they’re ready, but it makes that final big step real in their minds and helps them visualize and mentally rehearse that difficult conversation long before they’re walking into their manager’s office or drafting a resignation letter. Keeping that moment in mind from the beginning of the process all the way through identifying great opportunities, interviewing, and negotiating an offer is the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed when the time for that conversation finally arrives.

Do: Communicate Any Concerns or Changes As Soon As They Come Up

Finding the right career opportunity at the right time in a candidate’s career is both an art and a science; it’s not always a perfect process and challenges often arise. That’s okay. Life happens, circumstances change, and sometimes timing doesn’t work out. The important thing is for a candidate to communicate any concerns or changes immediately and clearly when they arise, rather than going along in the process with hidden doubts and changing their minds at the last second. Hiring managers and recruiters want to help candidates find the perfect long-term fit, and they know not every opportunity will be perfect for every candidate who expresses interest, but nobody wants to feel like their time has been wasted. Clear, open communication protects everyone’s best interests and can lead to a positive professional relationship, even if the interview process doesn’t result in the candidate joining the company.

Don’t: Let Your Emotions Get the Best of You

Making a career change is a highly emotional decision, and it can be easy to get caught up in excitement, frustration, or stress throughout the process. This is true for both candidates and their employers. There are three common reactions to an employee tendering their resignation, and unfortunately, anger is one of them. If a manager reacts in anger or frustration to a candidate’s decision to resign, the best response is for that candidate to take on the leadership role in that resignation. Take a deep breath, keep emotions in check, and respond calmly and professionally. It helps to practice these types of conversations in advance, since it’s easy to let emotions run high and much harder to maintain composure in tough situations. That way, no matter what happens, the candidate will know they did things the right way and behaved professionally.

Do: Work to Preserve Positive Relationships

The second common management response to a resignation is the best-case scenario: a handshake and a supportive send-off when a career move sounds like a great step for the employee and their family. No hard feelings. This is a great outcome for a few different reasons, including decreasing the stress levels of everyone involved and preserving positive industry references that the candidate can utilize later in their career. Candidates can encourage this positivity by expressing gratitude for their time with the company, being respectful in their communication, and offering to help however possible during the transition period. Just because the candidate’s employment at a company is ending doesn’t mean the professional relationship has to be damaged.

Don’t: Get Distracted by Counter Offers

The third and final way that managers often react to a candidate resigning is with shock: they can’t believe the candidate is leaving, they didn’t see it coming, and they’re willing to throw more money or perks in a counter offer to convince that candidate to stay. The reality is, counter offers do not work. A resignation fundamentally changes the relationship between a candidate and their employer, and even if that candidate decides to stay, the circumstances of their employment can become tense and toxic because both parties feel the effects of that initial decision to leave. In addition, counter offers do not address the main reasons a candidate chose to leave in the first place. In short, that solution is a Band-Aid on a fatal wound, and most candidates leave that company within a year after accepting a counter offer - but by that time, the great career opportunity they initially accepted has vanished.

Do: Remember Your “Why”

When a candidate makes a decision to change jobs, there is a good reason for that decision. They might want to relocate closer to family, find a position with less travel to spend more time at home, or seek upward mobility that their current role can’t offer. Whatever their “why” is, it’s important for them to keep that reason in mind from the first step to the final offer acceptance and job resignation. Write it down and keep referring to it as a reminder of the exciting future ahead, beyond the short-term stress of the transition process. Ultimately, a candidate is the one in control of their career, and by second-guessing or decommitting from a great career move, they give up that control to short-term circumstances and external pressures instead of empowering themselves to make the right choice at the right time for them and their family.

Big changes are never easy, and leaving a job is one of life’s most stressful events, even when an exciting new job is on the horizon. By managing the resignation process with these six tips, candidates can help ensure that they are confident in their decision to move forward, that they maintain great professional relationships with former and future employers, and that they build a long-term career they can be proud of.

About the Author

Bill Wolfe

Bill began working at Kimmel & Associates in 2007, and he concentrates his service on heavy equipment and heavy civil clients and professionals. He also serves on Kimmel & Associates’ Board of Advisors.

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