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Resignation: How to Make a Smooth Exit

A graceful exit is the only way to go for professionals who want to avoid burning bridges while progressing their career. A graceful resignation also puts you in a favourable position when it comes to receiving excellent references.


How to Write a Resignation Letter

When you accept a new position, it’s time to write a resignation letter. But not before you’ve received an official ‘letter of offer’ and are aware of any contractual agreements in place with your current employer, explained Life Coach Heather Currie.

“Before you hand in your resignation, ensure you have re-read your signed contract to identify your notice period and to be aware of any other important contractual details.

“If you’re in an industry where you are likely to be “walked” on the day, subtly plan to clear out your desk and get your administrative affairs in order before you hand in your notice.

“If you’re leaving a legacy and with lots of internal knowledge that may be undocumented, you may consider preparing a short handover document in good faith, in case your last day is the day you hand in your resignation,” said Ms Currie.

Joseph Liu, Career Consultant & Host of the Career Relaunch Podcast, said because resignation letters are filed with a human resource department, it’s essential to keep it positive and diplomatic.


At the very least, Mr Liu recommends the following:

  1. State that you are formally resigning from your job and the date you intend to depart, acknowledging any notice period you’re required to serve as part of your employment contract.
  2. Include positive anecdotes both of what you’ve gained from your role and one of your key contributions.
  3. Convey that you would like to keep the doors open to returning in the future if your circumstances change. After all, you never know what the future holds.


Ms Currie agrees: “A resignation letter should be calm, clear, concise and professional as this will stay on the company’s records.

“If you have constructive feedback or otherwise for the organisation before you leave, speak to your manager, human resources department or request an Exit Interview if this is not automatically offered – don’t include this in your resignation letter.”


How to Give Notice

If you can book in a short fifteen-minute meeting with your manager, before formally handing in your notice, this is advisable, said Ms Currie.

“Book this at the beginning of the day, so your manager and team have time to process and start the formal exit procedures.

“You can specify at this stage how you would like this to be announced and what part you play in this procedure, but this will be at the discretion of your manager.

“If you have any feedback on your experience and constructive criticism or ideas, let your manager know that you would appreciate an opportunity to share this before you leave.

“It may not be appropriate to do it at the time of resignation, and it will allow your manager, team, and organisation to process your decision,” said Ms Currie.


How to Handle the Exit Interview

Prepare to be fair, honest and professional, advised Ms Currie.

“There is a huge difference between giving emotive, unconstructive feedback and constructive professional feedback.

“It is, perhaps, an emotional time depending on your tenure and experience at the company, and you can let them know how you felt during your time there.

“If you are raising any issues, give tangible examples, impacts, and timeframes, so this can be formally documented and can be potentially useful in the future.

“It is often important to attend an exit interview to give closure and share details of your experience and areas for improvement in a way that doesn’t burn your bridges.

“Overall, keep interactions polite, civil and professional under all circumstances.

“If you had a bad experience, give feedback in a way that can be used and then move onto your new opportunity.

“Most industry networks are quite tight-knit so don’t do or say anything that could compromise your reputation or undermine your experience, work and value that you have brought to the company during your time,” said Ms Currie.


Resignation, especially if you’ve been with a company for a long time, can be daunting. But resignation done the right way will keep your career moving in a positive direction without burning bridges.


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