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How to quit your job without burning bridges

Resigning—whether it's your first or fifth time—is never easy. Here's the right way to go about it.

How to quit your job without burning bridges

Known as the job hopper generation, one quarter of millennials believe a person should have at least five jobs throughout their career, according to a survey by leading staffing firm Addison Group.

That being said, in trying to find the right fit, there will be times when you'll have to give your notice. Navigating these transitions can be difficult and uncomfortable and counteroffers can often cloud an employee’s resolve, making the move that much harder.

To ensure a smooth shift from one job to the next, Addison Group has developed a few tips to guide first-timers through the process of resigning.

  • Draft a letter of resignationIt may seem old-fashioned, but a letter of resignation allows you to clearly communicate the situation to your manager.
  • Be prepared for an in-person discussion. Managers will often want to discuss a letter of resignation in person, so it’s important you’re prepared to address the items you’ve laid out within.
  • Know what you want. Decide whether you’d be open to a counter offer before you speak with your current manager. If so, clearly state what it would take for you to stay. That said, be prepared that they may not be in a position to counteroffer, so never quit a job just to elicit that response.
  • Be clear on next steps. Ensure you have a clear timeline for your exit in place. To ensure good relations with your current employer, share any thoughts around your replacement and offer to provide training if time permits.

But, sometimes, it's not that simple. Hilary Craft, branch manager of the IT practice at Addison Group shares answers to some of the most common questions about resigning and handling the counteroffer.

What should a letter of resignation say?

A letter of resignation should be concise, professional and to the point – its primary purpose is to serve as an informative note, confirming the position someone is resigning from and the date effective. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a cordial tone and it’s also recommended to include a “thank you” to the employer for the opportunity.

Do not, however, use a resignation letter as an outlet to detail reasons for leaving, or laundry list your frustrations. Regardless of your work experience, good or bad, it’s not advisable to use a resignation letter to burn bridges with previous employees. You never know who you could work with in the future or what connections your current employer has in your industry.

What should I prepare to say in person?

When resigning from a job, first schedule a meeting with your manager. It gives both the employer and employee a chance to discuss reasons for leaving without the shock of receiving a resignation letter with no explanation. The meeting also demonstrates that the employee is committed to leaving on good terms and also shows a willingness to provide knowledge transfer for current projects or responsibilities.

What is a good or bad counteroffer?

Frankly, there’s no such thing as a good counteroffer, for a number of reasons. Overall, the underlying issues an employee faces likely will not change in a short time frame and additional salary or benefits will only serve as a Band-Aid in the near term. We’ve seen a lot of candidates accept counteroffers only to leave that position in the next year or so even more frustrated than they were originally.

What topics should you avoid during the conversation?

It’s crucial to avoid assigning blame or making threats or ultimatums (e.g. I’m leaving unless you give me a 10 percent raise, an extra week of vacation and allow me to work from home once a week).

Focus on looking forward and not dwelling on past situations or issues. Discuss how you can assist with transition or how you can best support your manager in the coming two weeks. If you are interested in a counteroffer, you can also have a frank, thoughtful discussion on what it would take to stay. 

What if the manager says no?

Getting a “no” is the gamble employees face when angling for a raise, so it’s important to understand what you’re really after. For example, if you genuinely believe you deserve a certain raise and your employer refuses to grant your request, it should be understood that you will pursue other opportunities. However, if you’re using a raise ultimatum as a scare-tactic and you don’t have a “plan B,” you’ve backed yourself into a corner should your manager decline.

What should my timeline look like?

Two weeks is the professional standard of time between notifying your manager of your resignation and your date of departure. That said, give yourself a week to formalize your reasons for leaving, which you’ll need to be prepared to discuss with your boss. Be sure to “sleep on it” – do not send a letter of resignation on a whim.

How should I handle my exit interview if I’m leaving on bad terms?

Regardless of you leaving on good or bad terms, any exit interview should be done in a professional manner. An exit interview is not an opportunity to take off the gloves and throw colleagues or managers under the bus; it’s an opportunity to both provide and receive honest, constructive feedback. It ensures you have closure in your current position and best positions you and your previous employer to succeed in the future.

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