How to resign from a job (without burning your bridges)
Samantha Furley, July 11th 2022

The last couple of years have fundamentally changed our attitudes to work. We’ve navigated lockdown, furlough, hybrid working and – for some, at least – a stuttering return to the traditional office environment.  

But what has also changed is the way in which we think about our jobs. 

Pre-Covid, a job for life was already an outdated prospect. Now it’s positively archaic. Two years of setting up your laptop at the kitchen table, juggling important deadlines with home learning and sharing a condensed workspace with partners have sparked novel discoveries about our work life and what we want that to look like.  

The result? Behold the ‘Great Resignation’, which saw employees globally re-evaluate their options and resign from jobs en-masse. 

It’s now commonplace to reassess our career choices. We upskill, we change industry. Maybe you’re seeking progression or a better work-life balance. For some of us, securing a new job is the easy part. But plucking up the courage to resign from your current job is a whole different ball game. 

It’s a conversation that very few of us really want to have. But, when done properly, resignation doesn’t need to be an unpleasant conversation for either side. So, if you’re ready to quit your job, here’s some advice from our tech recruitment team on how to resign – properly.  

Ready, steady… quit! 

Stop! Are you really – like, really – ready to quit your job? Before pressing that big red button, think about what’s motivating you.  

Be certain of your decision. Are you resigning from your role out of frustration? Is there a lack of opportunity or progression? If your job is working for you on several points, sometimes a simple conversation with your line manager or the business founders about your issues is all that is needed to resolve them. 

Be clear about what you want and try to avoid letting emotions cloud your judgement. 

Check your terms 

Before resigning from a job, check your contract. Not only is it professional courtesy (as well as simple good manners), but your termination benefits might be affected.  

As a recruiter for startups and scaleups, we regularly see them offer equity options to new employees. If this is the case for you, have a think about how resigning from your post may affect any options that may have been vested or awarded to you by your startup employer.  

Your new employers may be pressing for an “ASAP start” but remember that you remain contractually committed to your current employer for the length of your notice period. 

Resign face-to-face 

It’s an awkward conversation to have, but it needs to happen. So bite the bullet and resign face-to-face (or at least over MS Teams or Zoom if this isn’t feasible). Keep it simple and to-the-point. It’s not a debate. Yes, you can probably expect questions about why you’re leaving a job or where you’re going, but you’re not obliged to share this information if you choose not to. 

Most managers will accept your resignation with understanding (and, hopefully, sincere congratulations) but there’s always the possibility of someone reacting badly. If this happens to you, stay calm and assured. Don’t get into an emotional interchange, maintain your composure, and remember that this is a sensitive experience for them, as well as for you.   

Write a resignation letter or email 

Once you’ve informed your manager of your decision to resign from work, follow up with a resignation letter or email. A job resignation letter should be short, factual and professional. State your intention to leave your job and your last day of employment (as per the terms of your employment contract).  

If you wish, you can state your intention to remain professional or your commitment to completing a full handover during your notice period. One thing to avoid however is using this letter to air your grievances. Save it for HR or your exit interview. There are better routes open to you for this.   

Counter offer… should I, shouldn’t I? 

Quite simply, startups and scaleups don’t want to lose good employees. If you’re a highly valued member of staff, your CEO may pull out all the stops to keep you. This may involve them presenting you with a counter offer, maybe with a financial incentive to stay. But if you’ve made it this far – to the point at which you’re handing in your notice at work – should you accept it? 

Only you can answer this. But ask yourself these questions: Will it solve the underlying issues for you? Are the reasons behind the counter offer in your best interests? Will this counter offer give you greater satisfaction? Take some time and think about why you wanted to leave your job in the first place when considering whether you should accept an employer counter offer.  

Be gracious 

Thank your line manager and/or employer for the opportunity. Be professional. If you’re leaving a toxic environment or you’re seriously unhappy in your role, it may be tempting to have that ‘mic drop’ moment but resist it. Trust us when we say that you’ll feel better leaving with your head held high and your emotions firmly intact.  

Boomerang hires – where an employee returns to a former employer – are more common than you think and can offer a great solution for both parties. Rehiring former employees can work particularly well for startups that scale, whilst rejoining a business allows you to develop your skills elsewhere before returning to them for the next stage of their journey. 

Don’t burn bridges 

It’s a cliché but the old adage rings true: Don’t burn bridges. Not only are you likely to need a reference from your employer in the future, but it is also very possible that your paths will cross further down the line. 

So, go into a resignation conversation with complete confidence in your decision. Keep it clear, concise and straight to the point. The chances are you’ll leave that conversation feeling relieved, not regretful.  

Remember… professional people resign professionally. Do it properly, be graceful and respectable. 

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