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21. how to quit

Category: job

This Friday I resigned from my current role. It was the right timing, a bit earlier than I felt prepared for but I did the work of writing out exactly what I planned to say and practicing with a friend. I was anxious sure, but I meditated that morning and right before the conversation to control all the nervous energy.

Here are my thoughts on best practice rules for resigning from a role:

  1. Try to resign on a Friday afternoon, so that the news can sink in over the weekend and you can start Monday as Day 1 of your 2 week notice.

  2. Have a formal resignation letter drafted and PDF-d, you can even draft the follow up email just in case. I NEVER put the actual recipient’s email address until right before I hit send, this is so I ensure that I NEVER send an email until I am ready.


  3. Schedule time to speak with your direct manager. NO ONE else should know before your direct manager knows. Not even rumors or thoughts, everything is business as usual and professional. Every meeting, every person you talk to that week from Monday through Thursday until you break the news to your manager. Period. It doesn’t matter how close you and your work spouse are. Your manager needs to be the first person to know.

    I started by conversation with, “We are about to have a difficult conversation.” This is to set the tone, I need their full attention on what I say next. Which was, “I am resigning today from [company].” Then I went into my script on gratitude for this opportunity, difficult decision, and gave some reasons for why I was leaving/a narrative to help digest the information.

    BUT KNOW THIS – why you quit, the real reason why, is NEVER something you HAVE to share. You are the master of your own destiny, you don’t really owe ANYONE a reason for your personal decisions and choosing where to work is a personal decision.

    But I put together a nice enough, honest narrative on my decision making because I want the manager to have closure. I want to acknowledge the trust and to provide insight and a story that made sense.

    REMEMBER THIS STORY – you are NOT allowed to deviate from whatever story you decide to tell about you leaving. You do not get to say you are grateful and were happy about the job if that is not a narrative you can maintain in all your interactions (colleagues and thereafter). You need ONE STORY, and you only get ONE STORY to tell about why you left. The reasons could be PLENTY later, but when you are leaving – tell the ONE and THE SAME story to your manager and rest of your colleagues and anyone else where it might have a semblance of a chance of being disputed due to something else you’ve said. SAME STORY – you are a reliable and consistent person. Consistent people are trustworthy. You are trustworthy.


  4. Give your manager time to digest the news, and let him or her set the next steps. Remember, after you resigned and give in your notice, this isn’t your ship to steer anymore. You just reserved a seat on a one-way life raft – you are exiting the boat. Hopefully a good reasonable manager will let you exit by smaller watercraft and not by PLANK.


  5. You should prepare to remain professional and do your best work over the next two weeks. This is NOT the time to take your foot off the gas – people will remember how you started and how you ended.

    Rarely ever do they remember the high and lowlights of the journey. How you end is equally if not more, important than how you started because you don’t get another chance. If you start off bad, fine – you still have time to fix it. If you end on a bad note, that’s it. There is too much risk now, with the competitive market and employers asking for referrals to mess up professional relationships. Be so good and diligent that they would be LYING if they said anything otherwise.


  6. Leave a transition document – Make a list of everything you are responsible for, anything you worked on or are working on, or will need to be worked on when you are gone…

    I had to tell them ASAP because the company was planning too many initiatives and responsibilities around me as a resource. Knowing that I wouldn’t be staying, I gave them as MUCH notice as I could. Of course I could have offered to work more than 2 weeks, but at the end of the day – it’s a job, they pay me for my labor. Although it’s good to be empathetic to how your departure would disrupt the business, I have also been let go before too, so I know if the business needed to make difficult decisions – they would.

    In fact, I’ve seen them do it here. And I have seen it done at other places I worked at.

    That aside, leave a transition document. Remember your coworkers are people too and they will have to pick up your responsibilities when you leave. For me, that means the management of seven recent college graduates. Hiring them was a business decision, it’s not like I said we should and we did. If the business had any concerns about this, they would have raised it – and if they didn’t, then they didn’t plan ahead enough. Businesses need foresight, an operating plan that accounts for attrition and resource changes. I think about those things, this might be a tough lesson for this company but they will be fine.

    And if they aren’t, not my ship to captain.


  7. Think about everything you have learned. Is there anything you want clarity on or to revisit again before you leave and lose access? That report with the tricky formula you spent hours getting just right? Could you study it so it is just a little bit easier the next time?

    In a world of non-competes, we get it, we aren’t supposed to leave with any MNPI (material nonpublic information). But you leave every job and every role with the experience and know-how of having done those responsibilities well. Everything I’ve learned compounds. I don’t need confidential company information or trade secrets to be good in my next role – I am bringing all the tools I need with me, in my brain and my memory. From the challenges I’ve faced, the problems I have solved, and the confidence I have built.

    The new role isn’t the same industry, it isn’t the same product or problems or stakeholders. The information I learned in my previous role isn’t directly applicable, but with a smart brain that can connect the dots…. I have many transferable skills and experiences.

  8. Plan to say your goodbyes – put together a list of 2-6 people you want to have 1:1s with before you leave. This could be wrapping up projects or initiatives or just for networking purposes. Who have you worked closest with during your time?

    For me, I will need to tell the sales team and obviously the interns I hired. I will need to tell the recruiters I corresponded with so they know I am not longer the point of contact. This will be more professional. I will need to tell the Engineering and Marketing team so someone else can manage their recruitment, and financial forecasts. I will do 1:1s with some individuals as a formality, but in an informal setting – just to say goodbye I guess. If time allows.

  9. Decide whether you are leaving a goodbye email and if you are open to previous colleagues reaching out. Do you want to stay connected with them? Professionally we do this as a courtesy, but in my experience, rarely do people ever reach out. Most connect on LinkedIn.

  10. Are there any referrals you’d like to document? Ask those who you’ve enjoyed working with and vice versa if they might consider referring you, whether a document or a formal reference on a public forum like LinkedIn.

    In an increasingly competitive market, it is important to be vouched for. Similar to restaurants on Yelp or Seamless, people trust the opinions of quantity and quality.

  11. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate! You left for a reason – celebrate that reason.

What makes you nervous about quitting? What will you celebrate when you do?

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