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Top tips to prepare for a smooth resignation process

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How to resign

When it comes to resigning from a role that perhaps you once loved, with colleagues that have walked a similar path and whom you’ve bonded with. There is no getting away from the fact emotions will play a key part in any decision-making and resignation process on both sides.

However, rather than looking at the end of this process, it’s probably best to rewind and go back to the reasons why you were originally attending interviews in the first place.

Most of the time when you are open to a conversation about a new opportunity or decide to apply, it’s because you aren’t feeling fulfilled in your current role. Maybe it’s because you feel you are being under paid/undervalued or there has been a shift in culture and direction by your current employer or perhaps even you have quite simply outgrown your current role and would like a different challenge. Whatever the reasons they are your own and you don’t need to justify this to anyone but yourself.

Either way, before applying for any roles it probably best to be clear in your head as to the reasons why you are looking to leave. Therefore, ask yourself is it best to have an early conversation with your Line Manager to air any concerns you have and gain clarity on the direction and expectations you have on your own career.  Sometimes these early conversations can save you a bucket of time, energy, and mental resource without having to go through the job search waltz.

If those conversations don’t meet your expectations, then it’s time to get the wheels in motion.

One in the hand

Securing a new job opportunity is obviously fantastic and uplifting news at the same time. You feel recognised and will be buzzing. However, before you roll up to your Line Manager and drop your resignation letter on their desk whilst moon walking out of the office. Make sure that you’ve received a formal job in writing either via email or post. And ideally but not always necessary the contract of employment as well.

On very rare occasions we have seen candidate receive a verbal job offer, usually from large global agencies, then jump the gun and decided to resign immediately to only find out a week later that the budget was never signed off by HQ. Believe us, this can and does happen.

A moment in time

It’s probably obvious but never resign via email. Usually, we’d say all resignations should be done face to face but due to current global challenges this isn’t always possible. Therefore, video or phone will suffice as a first port of call. We do this out of respect rather than sending an unexpected email or letter. It’s a professional courtesy that will carry weight as you move on.

Also timing wise, we always recommend resigning towards the end of the day, rather than first thing in the morning and ideally make sure you have HR close by in case things take a turn.

Give me the reason

Once the conversation starts and the words “I’d like to resign” fall out of your mouth. Your Line Manager will be keen to understand the reasons. At which moment we would recommend being mindful in what you say. For example, if you decided to leave because you can’t stand your Line Manager or are critical of their management style then it’s probably best to not air your rants, as now is not the time or place. Save that for your exit interview.

If though you opt for the truth by saying that you are frustrated that you haven’t been promoted, feel underpaid, don’t like the journey, bored of working on the same accounts, not been given the opportunities to grow, lack of direction etc etc then you are opening yourself up for a straight counteroffer scenario. In which case I revert you to the top of this page. Because if a counteroffer is all it will take for you to stay then you should have embarked on an earlier conversation prior to attending interviews. As regardless of the outcome the damage will have been done the minute you resign.

Your best move would be to go with something along the lines of, “it’s been a great few years and I feel you’ve taught me a lot. However, I’ve reached a junction in my career and now it’s time to move on and learn something new”

Thank them for their time and support and that’s it. This doesn’t leave room for much discussion as you haven’t given them problems to resolve.

You follow this meeting up with a written letter of resignation at which point you can either email it or hand it over in person. If you opt to hand in over in person though we don’t recommend you giving it directly at the end of the meeting as feeling can be a little raw. Especially as your Line Manager may take this personally.

Best to submit it the following morning.

The come back

So you’ve resigned and you’ve followed the advice. However, you may still find yourself in a position where they will want to counter offer you. Now this can go many ways but the most common scenarios is usually passive aggressive.

It will start out with your current employer wanting to identify where you are going, what was the package on offer and what has attracted you to them so much.

At which point without invitation you may start to receive advice along the lines of “why are you wanting to join them, they are smaller/not a good as us/I know someone who worked there and hated it/”. It may not always be as obvious as this, but they will want to weaken your resolve and soften you up before the counteroffer.

Once they have cast doubt on your reasons or the role in question, the counteroffer will follow. And on paper it may appear attractive and will be followed with one of the following:

  • “This is confidential, and I shouldn’t really be telling you this, but we were looking at promoting you in the next six months.”
  • “We will match your new offer and put it into effect next pay day. I had meant to review it anyway.”
  • “Don’t make a decision now, have a think about it and we’ll sit down next week and discuss it.”

They may even start to map out your new improved career path if you stay. Which again will sound tempting. However, this is all well and good and on the face of it will seem flattering. But the golden rule is it should never take for you to resign to receive a promotion, pay rise, change in responsibility, or resolve your issues etc that you’ve been searching for. Especially if you’ve had the conversation only a couple of months ago about your career progression.

Obviously as a grown up the final decision will rest with you as too whether your seriously entertain staying. But from the team that helps facilitate and support people careers. 1 out of 10 people that decide to take the counteroffer tend to realise within a couple of months that the promises made either didn’t come to fruition or the deeper routed reasons you wanted to leave haven’t been resolved. And within 3-4 months they tend to be back on the market looking for a new opportunity again.

As advisors we ALWAYS recommend to any candidate who is currently employed to engage with their Line Managers first to see whether the challenges or concerns, can be resolved first before engaging in a new job search.

Closing the curtain

Although we have perhaps spelled out worse case scenarios. In reality, most resignations will go very smoothly. Regardless though you should always be prepared before you start this process. Especially if you work in a niche space where the chances are your paths will cross again one day.  Perhaps you may work together in a different company or perhaps in the current market never rule out businesses being acquired.

For any further support and advice on how to resign please feel free to get in touch with any of our team.


Jefferson, the marketing, communications and creative industry’s specialist business & careers transformation consultancy


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