Movin’ On Up: 5 Ways To Avoid Burning Bridges When You Change Jobs

“I quit!” It’s not as easy as that. Well, at least not in the world most of us operate in.

However, the challenge of articulating that you are resigning we all know well. In fact, that moment of conversation with your (soon to be ex-) boss is one of the highest stress points in the cycle of career change.
By this point in our careers, we have all resigned a number of times to move on to pastures new, and we have probably seen tens of people resign around us. We’ve seen it go remarkably well and horrendously badly; we’ve endured the ripple effect resignations cause and yes, we’ve heard the gossip. And because of this, we’re conscious of the fact that resigning is an art, and not to be taken lightly.

To help you manage this delicate process, I’ve listed a few of the key dos and don’ts of resigning with dignity:

Own your exit narrative
Rule number one in ensuring you leave your job with your own credibility intact and that you don’t offend others, especially your boss, is to get your story straight. Rule number two is to be consistent with your story; don’t say one thing to your boss, and one thing to your peers; it will only reflect badly on you.
Although I always advocate authenticity, on this occasion, honesty is rarely the best policy. Be cautious and considerate to others in your explanations; even if you feel very smug about leaving for your new role, keep that for your home-life, don’t let it define your exit. Likewise if you’re dying to tell your boss you’re leaving because of a lack of pay-rise or because of an issue you’ve already flagged with them, resist. Focus your reason on why you’ve accepted your new job, and why you feel that is a good move in line with your career goals.

Don’t waver and don’t even consider a counter-offer
You’re good and you’re well liked, so it should never be a surprise when a company tries to keep you. Don’t be bought by emotions, or caught by the strings of the loyalty violin, because it’s likely in 6 months, when you’re starting to look at the job market again, they may not take it so well when you tender your resignation again. Make a clean cut, and keep your dignity intact.

Be as flexible as you possibly can be
It’s vital you work your notice period. In fact, if you can offer to extend it, even by a week or two, not only will you sweeten the blow, but also you will demonstrate that, even though you are moving on, your loyalty to your boss and your willingness to help them do their job, is still very much intact. Not to mention the brownie points it may earn you in terms of a reference.

Never bow out early
You’ve got to be prepared for a cold shoulder, but don’t let it affect your work ethic. People react, and, even at the highest of levels, they get upset. In all likelihood this cold shoulder will only last as long as it takes them to calm down and regain their pragmatic outlook. Hence, it’s essential that you maintain momentum in your job. Remain focused on your deliverables, and why the company pays you to do this job.
In fact, it’s at times like these it becomes really important to step up, and not get dragged into negative office gossip. Leaving positive impacts such as documenting what you do to pass on to a new recruit, or volunteering to get involved in the recruitment process will really strengthen ties with your soon-to be previous employer.

Show humility and always be grateful
Finally, an obvious but commonly overlooked point. Reign in the temptation to talk about what fantastic new benefits your new company has, or how they’ve invited you to their amazing black-tie end of year party on a yacht already. Likewise, show consideration and gratitude to those who have invested time in you, such as mentors, bosses and other superiors. By acting in this manner not only will you leave on the best of terms, but also it will make it possible to reconnect easily in the future.

Most importantly, be strategic with your exit strategy – you have a long career ahead of you and you never know when you ex-colleagues will cross your path again. As a customer or supplier, as a hiring manager in that cool now start up or that Institute lunch…

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