While leaving a job on good terms can feel like a hard ask – especially if you’ve been counting down until your last day – ensuring that you leave an organisation on a good note is very important to your long-term career development. Especially when working in a smaller industry, being able to leave an organisation without burning any bridges will ensure you maintain a positive professional reputation and help you when trying to source good references from former colleagues further down the track. Being able to leave a favourable impression on former employers and maintain strong relationships with your colleagues, will also open the door to future career opportunities with the company. Not to mention help in growing your professional network, which will help inform you of future career opportunities.
Consequently, Public Sector People have collated some key steps to follow when preparing to leave your current role:
Ensure You Are Ready
Before making any formal announcements, it’s important to ensure you’re ready to leave; because once you’ve made that announcement, it’s very hard to go back on it. If you’re leaving for another job opportunity, ensure your new employer has made a formal offer that you’ve looked over, approved and accepted before leaving your current organisation. If you’re thinking about leaving because you’re currently unhappy in the role, firstly weigh up the pros and cons of leaving. Are you unhappy due to salary or because you feel like there’s nowhere for you to progress to? Can you resolve any these factors if you talked them through with your manager? Remember that those that don’t ask won’t receive. Before deciding to leave an organisation, it’s always worth meeting with your manager or team on any issues you’re having to see if you can both come to a resolution; whether that be working on a career progression program, asking about available training and development options or a potential pay rise. While the job market is picking up, competition is still very high, so it might be difficult to secure a new role straight away after leaving your current role.
Check Your Notice Period
If after weighing up your options you’ve decided to leave, it’s important to firstly check your notice period. All contracts by Australian law are required to include a notice period, regardless of whether you are in full-time work, part-time work or on a contract role. So, ensure you’ve gone through your contract to determine how much notice you’re required to give your current organisation before you leave. This can vary from organisation to organisation – some may ask you to work out the full period while your employer looks for a replacement, while for contract/casual roles the standard time frame is usually two weeks. Generally, the more notice you can provide your current employer the better, as it ensures you don’t leave them in the lurch. Of course, this can’t always be achievable, but at least four weeks will give your current employer adequate time to find a strong replacement and give you a chance to assist in the replacement’s transition into the role.
It’s important to note however that in certain industries when someone who works with confidential information leaves for a competitor, as soon as they announce their resignation they’ll need to leave the organisation immediately. This is called ‘gardening leave’ and means you can’t start working anywhere else for a set period of time (depending on your contract). If your current role would require you to take a gardener’s leave, you should factor this in, when deciding when to announce your resignation.
Inform Your Employer
First and foremost, it’s important to let your manager, supervisor or team leader know of your resignation in person. This can sometimes be nerve-wracking but it’s important to remember that resignations are a normal part of professional life; the average job tenure for Australians aged between 35-44 is 4 years. For Australians 25-35 this drops to 2 years and 8 months and for Australians under 25 this drops again. Consequently, your employers understand that their employees – especially employees starting out in their career – won’t necessarily stay in the one role forever. Furthermore, taking the time to inform your employer in person, is considered best practice and especially when trying to leave on good terms – is seen as a sign of respect to your formal employer. In the current work environment, many organisations are still required to work-from-home or are working in remote locations, so if it isn’t possible to talk to your manager in person, you should schedule in a video call.
When informing your manager it’s important to keep your reasoning neutral and positive rather than going into detail about how unhappy you’ve been in your current role or how disappointed you’ve been with the organisation (if this was the case). Instead, keep the reasoning for leaving brief; for example you could say something along the lines of ‘I’ve been offered a new opportunity that I’d like to explore’ (if this is the case) or ‘I feel it’s time to move on’, before then telling your manager how grateful you’ve been for the opportunity and all you’ve learnt at the company.
Your manager might try and ask you further questions on your reasons for leaving but remember you may want to seek references from them in future, so it’s best to keep negativity out of the situation in order to remain on good terms. It’s also important to ask what your manager will need from you before you leave, in order to ensure the handover process will be as smooth as possible; handover notes, signing off of particular projects etc.
Finally, before you go into your meeting with your team leader or supervisor, make sure that you’ve written up your resignation letter in order to clarify you’re leaving the company. This solidifies your official day of notice and acts as a record of you officially ending your tenure with the company, that you and the organisation’s HR team can keep. It can also be used as evidence when future employees ask for your employment history, that you left your previous organisation of your own accord.
When you write your letter, you should limit it to the three key elements; giving your reason for leaving, stating your official last day and a brief note of appreciation for the opportunity. Try and keep your reason for leaving as clear and concise as possible and avoid including any emotional reasons in the letter, as this can feel quite antagonising to the person on the receiving end.
While it can seem hard to maintain motivation and productivity once you’ve made your formal announcement, it goes a long way in creating a positive and lasting impression on your current managers, team leaders and colleagues. According to Hubspot, humans have a recency bias where they are most likely to remember and emphasise their most recent interactions and observations with people. If the last thing your colleagues and managers remember you for, was how helpful, dedicated and engaged you were at work right up until your last day, the more likely they will recommend you for jobs in future.
Another key step in leaving a positive impression is providing clear handover notes for whoever takes over your workload. Outlining things like where key documents are kept, listing all of your key responsibilities and the steps to achieve them will not only be a great help to your replacement but highlight all of the key business functions you performed in your role.
Depending on your notice period and the recruitment strategy of your company, you can offer to help train your replacement. This is an extra step that isn’t always necessary however, it will help to accelerate your replacement’s transition into your old role and help your old team gain back some lost productivity. It’s also a great way to display your gratitude to your previous team and organisation and will leave a mark on your colleagues.
Leave on good terms with your colleagues
Maintaining good terms with your colleagues is a great long-term career strategy as you’ll never know when they’ll be able to point you in the direction of a great career opportunity or provide a favourable reference. To maintain a level of positivity, it’s important to ensure you’re not leaving any team members in the lurch on leaving. Especially if you were all working on a big deadline or project before your departure, it’s important to ensure that you’ve pulled your weight; completed all your responsibilities and met all the deadlines you physically can. For those deadlines or tasks you’re unable to make before you leave, make sure you’ve done a thorough handover process with a teammate so nothing falls through the cracks. This ensures you won’t be creating more work and hassles for your team members after you leave – something which can leave a lasting negative impression.
It’s also a great idea to send your teammates a brief ‘goodbye email’. This doesn’t have to be elaborate, but sending a more personal goodbye to people you worked with is a nice way to express your gratitude for working with them. You should also include your personal details (an email address and your LinkedIn profile) so that colleagues have a way to contact you with any networking or career opportunities down the track.