Leaving Your First Job

How to Resign Gracefully

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Most recent grads focus on the near-future: finding that new job and getting hired. And why shouldn't you? It's the first step in what will be that scary/fantastic/fulfilling journey called Your Career. But, with every beginning, there eventually comes an ending, which means at some point you'll have to take a deep breath, make that walk down the hall (or, in most of my cases, the adrenaline-induced awkward shuffle) to tell your boss, "I quit."

Resignations can be just as daunting as first interviews and in thinking about what I felt was important insight for the newly-, or soon to be newly-, minted corporate citizens, I realized that no one ever prepared me to leave my new job, only to land it.

I'm not suggesting you go into your first job with a mindset of how you'll exit, but I am saying that it's inevitable and it doesn't hurt to have an idea of how you'll make your grand exit. So here is a reference guide with some tips on how to handle your first resignation and a some helpful tips to keep in mind.

1. You are not the first person to resign.
Unless you're looking to get out of a terrible situation, just remember that your boss(es) know that people leave and they accept it. Most are rooting for you to be successful and to take that next step. Whether you've found another job that 's a better fit or a developmental stepping stone or even a 180-switch to another industry, it's your career and your blissful right to say, "Sayonara."

2. Be honest…but not too honest.
Your boss or HR representative is going to ask you why you're making the decision to leave. You'll get questions like, "Was there anything in particular that we did wrong or can improve upon?" "Was there a problem with a specific colleague or manager?" "Do you have any suggestions for how we can make this role/this department, etc. more successful?" These questions are usual but recognize they can be leading and somewhat two-sided. That means that your answers can either be used for good or for…. well, you get the idea. Remember that you'll need references one day and burning bridges won't get you very far. If your boss asks you this during your resignation conversation, tell him you'd like some time to think about it and get back to them. I find that many people leaving their first job tend to blurt things out because they feel like they have to have an answer immediately. You don't. And you need to be careful about what you say and how you say it. If you have some constructive criticism or ideas for how to improve/change things, great! Feel free to say it, but take the time to make sure you say it right without pointing fingers or placing blame.

3. The resignation letter.
You will need to draft one of these for legal purposes to provide to your manager the day you resign. Keep it short, sweet and complimentary. Call out your manager and team in a positive way and thank the company for the opportunity they've given you. You can find great resignation letter templates online to follow, but just make sure you personalize yours. These letters get sent to your HR department and your boss' boss so check them thoroughly, then check them again. DO NOT go into detail about why you're leaving, ( "I'm getting SO MUCH MORE MONEY! Peace out!") and DO NOT complain ("This place sucked the life out of me"). Save those thoughts for your close friends and family, not your colleagues.

4. Keeping in touch.
It's certain that some of your colleagues will be a valuable resource for you as you move into the next phase of your career. They'll be networking partners, future reference points-of -contact and probably friends. I have made many missteps in not making it a point to keep up with people and I regret that . Of the colleagues you respect and like, be sure to get their personal email addresses or phone numbers ahead of time and proactively reach out once you've left. Don't wait for them to. You'll include your personal contact information in the email you have to send before you leave but it's on you to keep those relationships going.

5. The goodbye email.
I hate these because they're sappy and go to everyone at every level so they have to be these gushy, "I'll miss you all!" communications that are hard to write and even weirder to receive. When I left my first job, my email included a quote from Walt Disney; something about only having a vision of a mouse and a dream and how that correlated to success or reaching your dreams? Mortifying…and just, no. But it's protocol and you have to do it, so say thank you, say goodbye and tell people you'd love to hear from them and provide your personal contact information. As noted above, I do always send a separate email to the very specific people that have contributed to my role experience at the company I am leaving with a much more heartfelt thank you that always goes over well.

6. Making sure you're ready to walk out the door.
Every company is different and some may have a policy of escorting you off the premises immediately after you resign, particularly if you're in sales. If you know you are going to be leaving, I always advise people to plan ahead. Email yourself any projects you've worked on that demonstrate your skill-set or prowess before you go, delete personal information/images/web sites off your work computer, that means deleting your "cookies" and automatic passwords as well as your browsing history before you leave. (Quick aside: as a general rule, keep personal stuff off of professional equipment.) Take home anything you want to keep the day before and make sure your purse/briefcase is packed before you go in to announce you are leaving. It sounds mean or unkind but companies need to protect themselves, too, so just be prepared.

Your career will always involve changing jobs and finding new opportunities to move forward and advance yourself. It's expected and supported and, know that as I write this, I am excited for whoever is reading this to start their journey and experience all the twists and turns, ups and downs, successes and failures of a career-path. It's the truth, it's not easy, but it's incredible and the knowledge you'll gain will be invaluable. Just be prepared to say goodbye, even to a job you love because another one is just too good to pass up and, trust me, those conversations get easier.

About the Author
Samantha Gladis is currently the Associate Marketing Director for Epicurious and Gourmet responsible for strategic and consumer marketing. Previously she was Manager of Strategic Marketing for USA & Cloo Networks with NBC Universal following a 2.5 year tenure with Discovery Communications as a Specialist in Ad Sales Marketing for Animal Planet, Discovery Fit & Health and Planet Green. Samantha is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a BA in Psychology and serves on the board of the Advertising Club of New York.

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