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Resigning With Grace: Keys to Your Successful Exit Strategy

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We might as well all admit it...at one point or another in our careers, we've all had fantasies about what fun it would be to resign from our jobs.

Regardless of why we're leaving our present employer, we imagine the look of shock and awe on our colleagues' faces. And we relish the image of their envious faces as we gleefully head for the nearest exit.

But, resigning from a job is a serious public relations event, and doing so requires a carefully developed and flawlessly executed communication strategy. Here are some tips for leaving your job in a way that shows co-workers you have strong leadership skills and the business savvy to resign with grace.

  • Remember the power of face-to-face communication. If possible, tell your immediate supervisor in person that you are resigning. Assuming you are a strong and respected colleague, your resignation will be a big deal to your boss, and the most respectful way to resign is in person. Then, give your boss a formal resignation in writing.
  • Give your employer a lot of time to replace you. Only give your present employer short notice if you are highly expendable, unskilled, and easy to replace. But if you are a strong and respected colleague, assure your boss that you will help recruit and train whoever will take your place.

  • Mach Creative
  • Plan to negotiate. In some cases, resigning will lead automatically to you being firmly escorted out the door by a security guard. In other cases, your present employer may offer you more money, or a even a promotion, in an effort to convince you to stay. It pays to have a plan on how you will respond to these offers. My advice: a polite "No thank you."
  • Stay ahead of the story. Chances are, you will share your news ahead of time to a few close colleagues, people whom you can trust not to spill the beans or to feed rumors about your soon-to-be announced resignation. In addition to choosing your confidantes carefully, make sure you time your resignation so that you are in control of the announcement, not anyone else.
  • Prepare your talking points. Everyone, from HR to people who barely know you, will ask you to divulge the "real reason" you're resigning. In this case, it pays to be as vague and abstract as possible. After all, five years from now, your present employer may want to ask you to return as CEO. This is no time to unload all the pent up negative comments. Stick to such generalizations as: "I've learned so much here," "This opportunity just appeared out of the blue," and "It's the next logical step for my career."
  • Keep your expanding network strong. Even though you're headed to a new job, be sure to stay in touch with key former co-workers. Sure, there are bound to be people you hope never to see again, but there also are people you'll want to remain in your network of esteemed colleagues. Some people leave an employer and figuratively (and literally) drop out of sight. Big mistake. Even if you work in a global city, expanding your network—people you know and like and trust whom you can help and can help you—is critical to your long-term success.

Sure, saying good-bye is never easy. But, following some of these tips can ensure that saying "Good bye," doesn't become detrimental to your career.

–Susan Mach, PhD

Susan Mach, PhD, is a communication coach, trainer, and strategist. She teaches management communication part time at major NYC-area business schools, and investment research report writing at NYSSA.

As an impartial, nonprofit forum for the finance and banking industries NYSSA encourages discussion and debate among its member and other professionals. Commentaries, however, should be taken as the sole opinion of the author(s) and not of NYSSA. If you would like to submit a commentary to the Finance Professional's Post, send your article to the editor.

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