Leaving a job that's passed its 'use by' date?
We've all agonised over the prospect of leaving a job and eventually come to the conclusion that it's time to move on. Either the job has become untenable or a far better opportunity beckons. But before you rush headlong into your shiny new future, it's wise to carefully plan your resignation.
Burning bridges may provide short-term satisfaction as you let loose and share a few less than complimentary home truths about the company you're leaving. However, the fallout is likely to have a far greater negative impact on you than your current employer. While it's tempting to think, "Oh well, it doesn't really matter, I'm leaving anyway," actually, it does.
People remember what you say and do and the world is a small place. While your great life redesign provides a fresh start, chances are someone from your old world will know someone in your future. Your reputation will travel ahead of you and before you know it, when you're introduced to someone you want to impress, they'll instantly make a connection and snap judgement. "Aren't you the guy who left XXX under a cloud?"
A veteran of 9 carefully considered resignations and through my work as a professional career coach, here's what I've learnt about how to keep your reputation intact, enjoy your last few weeks and walk out with your head held high.
7 Ways to Exit Your Job Gracefully
1. Know where you're heading
A clear plan for the future will give you the certainty you need to move forward confidently. Even if you’re not jumping straight into a new job, choosing to take stock and work out what you want to do next is a positive step. Be confident about your resignation and feel optimistic about the future you’ve chosen.
2. Get the timing right
While it's tempting to resign as soon as you've decided that it's time to go, think about what's best for you and the organisation you're leaving. Consider your notice period and make sure you tell the right people in the right order. Your boss won't want to hear that you're leaving via the grapevine.
If the nature of your work means your company will need you to finish up immediately, plan for this and don't take it personally. Policy is not a personal slight on your competence or value.
3. Decide how you want to be remembered
Act without regret and consciously choose the legacy you want to leave behind. Once you've decided, act accordingly. Whether you have a day, week or month from resignation to exit, work to create a positive last impression. Invest as much focus and energy in this as you did in creating a positive first impression when you started.
4. Don't take your eye off the ball
Resist the temptation to 'down tools'. While you may not feel as committed to your role once you've resigned, this isn't a time to stop responding to emails just because you won't be involved in the future.
Focus on what you can realistically achieve during your notice period and do whatever it takes to wrap up incomplete tasks or projects. Identify opportunities where you can add value by getting things done and be pro-active about helping your colleagues succeed. Your professional reputation and integrity are depending on it.
5. Accept the disconnect and let go
You may notice that once word of your resignation gets out, you're invited to fewer meetings, your inbox seems emptier and fewer people are asking for your help or opinion. This is a normal response to change and again not personal.
Your colleagues will be learning to manage without you over this time which is healthy. Consciously use the freed up time to make it easy for them, organise your files and facilitate a handover.
6. Maintain perspective
Become a ‘fly on the wall' and simply observe what's going on, without engaging emotionally. Everything is relative and this job won’t have been all good or all bad. Once you've resigned, it's no longer about you and this is a great time to create short-term, quick wins that will make a big difference long after you've gone.
7. Celebrate a job well done
Take time to reflect on all you've achieved and learnt. Capturing achievements and lessons learnt along the way will help you identify your strengths, core skills and what you're most proud of. Even the toughest challenges that brought lessons you wouldn't have chosen, are invaluable. Recognise the positive difference you've made and use this as a springboard to your next job or a new career.
The last few days may be a blur of farewell coffees, lunches and drinks which are a great time to thank and acknowledge those who have made a difference to you. Be generous with your thanks, particularly to those you found challenging to work with. As you hand in your pass, close the final box and turn off the light, take a last look around and be thankful for the experience.
It’s time to pick up the box, hold your head high and walk through that door one last time knowing you’ve made a graceful exit. The future beckons…