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How To Resign With Style & Get An Awesome Reference

By Sarah Breinig

Resigning Can Be Challenging

The process of resigning and writing a letter of resignation can be quite stressful and intimidating since this is usually very emotionally charged.

Do Not Vent Any Grievances

The key to a successful resignation is to ensure that you do not transfer any of your negative emotions either verbally or in written from. Your objective is to keep it professional business like.

Your resignation letter should be drafted just like any other business letter. Your letter of resignation will be the final document (along with your exit interview notes) in your personnel file. Your resignation letter will be among the first documents looked at when a prospective future employer calls to confirm references or if you ever reapply.

Preserve Your Good Character & Reputation

Resigning the wrong way will "burn bridges" and will likely come back to haunt you in the future. It will most certainly lead to bad feelings between you and your employer, a bad reputation and even a bad reference.

Resigning the right way will contribute to your goodwill and continued success in your career and personal development. You will also be able to maintain good links with your colleagues - who may have a direct or indirect impact on your future career progress.

Considerations Before Resigning

Carefully clear your mind and have a reality check. Evaluate all your reasons for resigning before you decide conclusively. After you make up your mind, be consistent and stick to it. Here are a few points to consider:

  • How will you handle a counter offer? Don't resign in order to leverage or negotiate a counter offer. It's unprofessional. Once you resign, your loyalty to your employer is in question. If you are a valued employee, you may be given a counter offer - but this may be just a way to keep you longer until a replacement is found. Also, if you've already accepted an offer with a new employer, retracting that offer may have a negative impact on your integrity.

  • Are you aware of company exit policy? Some companies will ask you to leave immediately once you give your resignation. This could be a problem if you were unable to pick up your personal belongings or documents from your work area or clean up your personal files from your computer. Find out how previous resignations were handled and don't give advanced notice of your impending resignation.

  • Are you aware of company compensation policy? You may automatically forfeit specific benefits when you resign. You may loose upcoming bonuses, severance pay, holiday entitlements, insurance benefits, retirement accounts, and company stock contributions. Study all contracts you have signed to fully understand this.

  • Are you leaving for reasons that might require legal counsel? If so, then consult an attorney before you submit a resignation or sign any documents. Issues involving discrimination, harassment, safety and fraud is better handled with the advice of an attorney

The Resignation Letter

A good resignation letter can be short and concise, however, an exceptional letter of resignation accomplishes much more in that it leaves your current employer with a positive feeling about you and establishes a basis for positive references in the future. Here are the points to consider for your resignation letter:

  • Don't get personal or write personal remarks about your life and feelings in your resignation letter.

  • If you are leaving on bad terms, resist writing negative comments or complaints about the company, the job or the employees in your letter of resignation.

  • Clearly state that you are resigning and the effective resignation date.

  • Indicate that you regret leaving and mention positive things about your experience, your colleagues, your work and your company.

  • Express enthusiasm and appreciation for the job and responsibility you've held and the experience/knowledge you've gained.

  • Emphasize and highlight your most important contributions to the company.

The Resignation Meeting

During your resignation meeting, you should be prepared for any kind of reaction, ranging from congratulatory handshakes to guilt trips to out-and-out confrontational anger. Your plan is to maintain composure, be courteous and professional at all times. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Think ahead what you are going to say and stay with it - don't get derailed. Your manager might want more details but at this stage you want to keep it to the point.

  • Focus on the positives no matter how satisfying it may seem to "unload." Only discuss the positives regarding the company, the co-workers and the job. Resist speaking anything negative - it simply will not do any good and it may come back to haunt you.

  • Stay on track. If you are given a counter offer, simply say, "I am not here to get a counter offer - I have an opportunity that I can't pass up."

  • End your meeting on a good note and show that you will be fully cooperative with everyone until your last day and hand over your resignation letter enclosed in an envelope.

Leaving On A Positive Note

Don't underestimate the importance of your performance during your last few weeks. It's tempting to relax and release but this is not a good idea as your professional reputation is at stake. Here are a few points to think about:

  • Remain focused. Continue to give it your very best effort right up until the last minute you're there.

  • Your co-workers will be curious about why you are leaving. Tell them exactly what you told the company. Assume that anything you say will get back, and negative comments you make can be used to make your co-workers look loyal while making you look like a liar.

  • Ensure that you've completed any outstanding tasks and participated in the smooth handover of any unfinished work with accompanying documentation. Keep your manager informed that you are actively participating in this process and that you are being as co-operative as possible.

  • Maintain a positive attitude about the company you are leaving and resist gloating about your next job. Your colleagues will remember your professionalism.

  • Spend some time to speak to all of your colleagues and associates. Thank them for their support and their contribution to your time. Get their contact information because they will be helpful to your future personal and career development.

  • If you have an exit interview, avoid any negative comments or criticisms. If you did have problems, be objective and brief in your statements and maintain your professionalism and composure.

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