Want a better career? You’re not alone: 40% of employees quit their job after only 6 months. If you’re changing jobs, how do you resign from a company while staying in good terms with them? After all, their influence is your key to many future career opportunities.

Is there such a thing as a graceful exit?

In theory, the answer is easy: be in control, especially when your resignation is controversial and unexpected. Take UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation after the infamous Brexit.

Britain leaving the EU was already an issue unto itself. Cameron could have rallied the minority against the majority who wanted to leave the EU. Despite being against the result, he was tactful in his speech. He even encouraged citizens to support a smooth transition.

You can show the same level of professionalism and maturity when you resign. You can do the same with these five tips:

Tip 1: Have a plan before you resign

If you are going freelance, starting your own business or taking a break, then you can get into the details after you quit. It’s a different story if you’re planning to join a different company.

  • Do not resign until you have a formal employment contract or offer letter.
  • Keep quiet about negotiations with your new employer. Make sure that it’s not leaked to your workmates.
  • Review the details, from the benefits to the scope of your job responsibility. Weigh the pros and cons, and make sure you’re happy with what you’ll get.

Tip 2: Know your reasons for leaving

If you’re having mixed feelings about leaving, first ask yourself whether you want to or not. If you’re not sure, one of two things can happen:

  • You’ll wake up one morning and realize you love your job. But it’s not as easy to come back because you weren’t clear why you left in the first place. Most companies do not want people who are not committed to stay.
  • You will push through with resigning, but the people you left will assume the worst. Because you did not set the tone, you allow other people to fill in the blanks.

To avoid that, make sure that leaving the company is what you want. Here are a few thinking points that you can use to weigh whether you want to stay or go:

  • Assess your reasons. Do they make sense to you?
  • Look at the opportunities you have, and align that with what the company can offer you.
  • Think about the long term and short term consequences. Are you ready for them?

Take your time, and act only when you’re 100% certain that you’re better off elsewhere. This will also help you if your boss decides to give you a counter offer. In that instance, would you still want to leave?

Tip 3: Talk to your bosses first

People talk, that’s inevitable.

Avoid being the subject the office gossip scene by approaching your bosses first. Tell them about your plan to resign. This shows that you respect them even as you leave. More than that, you will be able to control the message.

Would you want your boss to hear the worst possible version of the truth? Obviously not, right? So set a meeting with your boss the moment you’re decided and have a solid offer from a different firm.

Do it in person, rather than through a phone call or an email. It’s more polite and formal. This is also your opportunity to thank them for what they’ve done for you.

Tip 4: Make a good last impression

Last impressions are as important as your first.

You came to that company with a competent resume and passed the interview with flying colors. Make sure to part with the same standards still intact.

Here are a few tips how:

  • After talking to your boss, hand in a formal letter of resignation to HR.
  • Give two weeks’ notice so they can find someone to fill your position.
  • Make sure to turn over all your files, equipment and anything else that’s company-owned. Document everything you’ve turned over and that the right people receive them.
  • Finish all your projects. If that’s impossible to do within 2 weeks, then endorse them to your teammates or train a replacement. Sustain the goodwill you built with the company by performing well in those last weeks.

Tip 5: Keep the bridges that got you to greener pastures.

According to the statistics, an employee stays at company for 4 to 5 years on average. So don’t feel that bad for seeking out other opportunities, even if this job made that possible. Here are a few things to remember as you leave your company.

  • Never speak ill of past colleagues and bosses. An unprofessional and rude attitude in the corporate world makes it hard to advance your career.
  • Be humble and positive. Remember the parts that you enjoyed, be it the work hours or your teammates.
  • Be tactful during the exit interview. It will be tempting to be brutal about everything that’s wrong, from policies to bosses. Even if it promises anonymity, there’s seldom any guarantee of secrecy.
  • Be memorable for the right reasons. Show gratitude to everyone you got to work with. The gesture could be as simple as informing them you’re leaving, or you can add more effort by giving them handpicked gifts.

To sum it all up, you can lift these tips straight off of David Cameron’s book:

  • Tell the people who matter first.
  • Be transparent and rational in explaining why.
  • Don’t transfer the blame.
  • Command and give respect.
  • Offer to help even when you’re set to leave. 

Through this, you’re building a good reputation for yourself further down your career. You’re also retaining the connections you’ve already made.

As an employee, it’s your job to show that even as you leave you still add value to your boss and your team. In fact, you can start now.

Treat every moment with your firm as an opportunity to prove your worth.

That way, when you decide to come back or ask for a recommendation, they’d be more than happy to help you.

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