One of the most important aspects of starting a new job or career is leaving your old one. For most people, resigning from a position is an afterthought. After all, what does it matter what your old company thinks? You don't work there anymore, right? Wrong!
Resigning from a job in a professional manner is very important. You never know who you might be working for in the future, or which one of you new supervisors has a relationship--be it professional or personal--with one of your former employer.
True story: My friend Bob (not his real name) was so fed up with his employer that when he received a new job offer, he stormed into his boss's office, let him have it with both barrels (figuratively speaking of course) and walked out the door.
Much to Bob's surprise, however, his new company underwent a sudden change of management and rescinded the job offer before he'd started. This put Bob in a very precarious position--no new job, and nothing he could easily return to. (Bob ended up crawling back to his old employer on hands and knees, begging to have his position back.)
This, of course, is entirely unnecessary. When handled properly, leaving a job, no matter how good or bad, can be a positive and rewarding experience. Here's how to do it:
First, determine when your last day will be and do your best to give ample notice of your departure. It's common practice to give your employer at least two weeks notice. Although this isn't a law, it is common courtesy and ought to be considered a minimum. If you can't give two weeks notice, explain why in your resignation letter and make a point to tell your boss in person.
The next thing you need is a letter of resignation. It does not have to be a long drawn out work of art, just short and to the point. In it, state the reason for the letter:
I am resigning my position as Director of Marketing at Spacely Space Sprockets effective February 29, 1997 to take a position with Cogswell Cogs.
Then, if you so desire, you can add a little something about your time with the company:
I appreciate the opportunities presented me at Spacely and consider it a foundation on which I can solidly base my career.
Then sign it and you're done with the letter.
The next step in resigning is telling your boss. Hopefully telling your boss will result in nothing more than pleasant conversation about where you're going, when you're going and, most importantly, why you're going. (If you're lucky, your boss may try to entice you to stay with a counter offer of his/her own.)
Whatever the subject of discussion, keep it civil. Your parting words should be positive and appreciative, not bitter or antagonistic. If you have problems with the company, the job, or with management, request a formal exit interview on your last day of work. This will give you a place to air your grievances and your company useful information that it can put to good use.
Finally, follow up with the Administrative or Human Resources Department to ensure you get all that is coming to you--pay for unused vacation days, retirement or pension money, etc.--and the company gets back whatever rightfully belongs to it--car, laptop, etc. Make arrangements to return these items promptly and in good working order.
You've no doubt heard the old adage "Don't burn any bridges." I cannot stress the importance of this. It's a small world and you never know whom you're going to meet when you round the next corner!
William Murray is a freelance journalist working out of Washington, DC. Current projects include writing for CNN and NPR as well as ACHIEVE Online Magazine. Bill is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Journalism and has a Masters Degree from the American University in Radio and Television. He resides in Arlington, Virginia with his wife Kathy.