Tips on how to resign professionally

Written by: Helen Jones
Published on: 11 Jun 2021

Man straightening tie

Pic: Hunters Race, Unsplash

There is plenty of advice for how to land a good job, but what about how to resign professionally? Whether you’re dissatisfied with your current position, have found something better or are simply ready for a change, resigning can be stressful. 

Yet, resigning professionally is paramount to keeping a good reputation in the accounting world. 

It might seem that resigning from your job would be as simple as giving proper notice, but it’s not that easy. Here are our tips for how to resign professionally. 

The resignation conversation is always awkward. But maintaining positive relationships with old colleagues can be really valuable down the road if you are looking for references or connections to other firms. Here are some tips on how to resign gracefully and on good terms. 

Follow the resignation rules of your company 

Before resigning, check your contract of employment or your employee manual for the expected notice period. This could be two weeks, a month or, in some cases, much more. It's a professional courtesy to honour these guidelines, while any applicable termination benefits may also depend on it. No matter how much your new employer is pushing you to start as soon as possible, you have both a contractual obligation and commitment to your current company to see out your contract. 

If you’re going to work for a competitor after resigning, check for any contractual boundaries that prohibit you from doing so. If you do decide to move forward despite this agreement, you may be asked to leave the premises of your current job immediately. 

Resign face-to-face 

While it might be awkward or even nerve-wracking, it's important that you resign with integrity and arrange for a face-to-face conversation with your employer. There is nothing worse than a resignation email without the chance for a frank and open conversation. As simple as it might be, this is the key on how to resign on good terms. There are, of course, jobs where resigning face-to-face is not so easy. For example, if working remotely or as a contractor, in which case we suggest arranging a video conference or telephone call. 

Be gracious 

During your resignation meeting, make sure to take the opportunity to thank your line manager and wider team for the experience and the opportunity you’ve had at your current job. 

Keep it positive 

Never gripe to co-workers about your dissatisfaction at work. Never bash your current job or bosses during an interview with a potential new employer. And never, ever, ever denigrate your current job on social media. Even after you’ve given your notice and moved on, refrain from public zealousness about how excited you are to get out of there.  

When asked why you are leaving, the ideal answer is “for a better opportunity.” If you don’t have another job lined up, you may have to be more honest, but always put a professional spin on it: “This isn’t the right environment for me” sounds a lot better than “I hate my co-workers!” 

Your resignation should be short and direct. Be confident about your decision to move on, yet appreciative of the opportunities you’ve had.  And make sure word doesn’t get our beforehand. 

Maintain the status quo until your very last day 

While you’re thinking about handing in your notice, and even perhaps actively hunting for another job, maintain the status quo at work. Do your very best to ensure that your colleagues, replacement and clients are well equipped for when you leave. It’s easy to be swept up by the excitement of your new job and have a “last day of school” attitude but assisting in a smooth handover is the mark of a true professional. Start by highlighting any important pending tasks, transferring files and sharing knowledge with your co-workers while preparing to formally let clients know. 

Secure good recommendations 

Asking for a reference while you are still fresh in the mind of your employers will help you to secure more favourable responses. This is not only good practice for those still on the hunt but also if you have secured your next job. 

Prepare for an exit interview 

For some positions, an exit interview is a part of the resignation procedure. These are interviews often carried out by your line manager or member of the HR department. This should be treated as a normal interview, dressing nicely and preparing for questions in advance. Questions usually take the form of your time working for the company and how it could have been improved. It might be tempting to share everything that’s on your mind but remember to remain professional and to think about the positives of the role. 

Keep in touch 

Regardless of whether you are able to secure references, it’s good to stay in contact with all of your colleagues. As you move, don’t lose valuable contacts and continue to grow your network. You may decide to go full circle and work for the company that you once did, and having your previous manager in your favour is a great way to earn your place back. Additionally, your co-workers may be able to offer you opportunities as they grow within their careers. 

Knowing how to handle a job transition professionally is a valuable career skill. Unlike past decades, it’s common, and many believe prudent, to change jobs every five years or so in order to keep one’s experience fresh and one’s learning alive. ICAEW Academy offer high quality learning and leadership development solutions for all career stages, across a wide range of sectors. 

If you’re looking for a new role, ICAEW Jobs have the latest opportunities which you can apply for online. New roles are posted every day from businesses across the UK from a wide range of industries. Get started with your applications today by uploading your CV and get job alerts when new roles appear.