The best way to resign is to leave your boss wishing you will return.
And the best way to do that is to be gracious and helpful as you move to a new job or step into self-employment. Even if you’re being ushered out, staying upbeat and professional can mean the difference between a good recommendation and good riddance.
“It’s always better to leave a door open than to open a new one,” said Jodi Glickman, president of Great on the Job, a communication training firm. “You always want to leave on a high note so people will want to work for you again.”
So as you give your two weeks’ notice, think through the ways you can shine and help ease the transition. “Don’t rush out the door” without tending to relationships and future references you may need, said Barbara Herzog, a career coach in Washington, D.C.
Here’s a half dozen ways to build relationships as you’re saying good-bye at the office:
1. Tell Your Most Valued Coworkers First. The day you give notice, or as soon as possible afterward, call or visit “the four or five people who have been most supportive of you,” said Herzog. These are your mentor, your best friend at work, the person who hired you – in short the professionals you want to cultivate for the future. You want to tell them yourself you’re leaving. Be sure to tell them how valuable their support was. If it seems appropriate, offer your help to them, their families or their nonprofit causes in the future.
2. Show Respect and Appreciation. “There is some credit due” since your work and development on your current job were a crucial part of why you landed the new one, said Glickman, whose posts appear on the Harvard Business Review blog. “Be appreciative.” This is important especially if you’re going to work for a competitor. Have a candid conversation with your boss explaining the value you expect to gain from your new job and expressing appreciation for her support and opportunities. Draw the distinction between your personal success and your attachment to the company you’re leaving, said Glickman.
3. Find Your Replacement. “I always encourage people to find their replacement” before they leave, said Glickman. If your boss prefers, tap your network and come up with at least three good prospects. Give your employer “a head start” with people who are pre-vetted, she said
4. Exit Without Negativity. Even if you think your insights may help your colleagues or the next employees, don’t share anything negative or that needs fixing, said Herzog. “It is counterproductive to your career,” she said. Instead, make your comments generic and be sure to say you “appreciated the support of my supervisor and colleagues.”
5. Send a Thank You Note. Make the effort to send a thank you note to your supervisor and another senior manager who aided your career. “Be specific about one or two things that meant a lot to you,” said Herzog. The thank you should be separate from a very short, two- or three-sentence resignation letter, and may be sent a few weeks after you’ve departed.
6. Follow Up. Set a Google Alert so you stay in touch with news and changes at your former employer. Touch base with some of your contacts there three to six months after you’ve left. Send a ‘thinking of you’ note, article or piece of information, said Glickman. Then schedule a breakfast, lunch or coffee meeting and see if you can bring something valuable to them.
These approaches can work equally well for staffers departing or freelancers moving on, Glickman said, and smart employers also understand the value of good relations with their alumni networks. “It makes good business sense to leave on good terms,” she said, since you never know when you will looking for work or someone to hire in the future.
Vickie Elmer writes about consumer issues, careers and workplace subjects for the New York Times, Fortune magazine, the Washington Post and other top tier media outlets. Her articles are filled with actionable insights, compelling stories and inspiring people. The mother of three also co-owns Mity Nice LLC, a small social cart business based in Ann Arbor, Mich., which donates to more than a dozen charities each summer and fall. Her motto changes regularly, but her concentration on careers, kindness, creativity and high quality writing remains constant.