Michael Sterling

Exit Strategy: How to Resign the Right Way


If you’re in Public Accounting, you may be caught up in the flurry of the post busy season job search. In my last article,13 Hidden Ways to Fail an Interview, I outlined the most common ways candidates bomb an interview without knowing it. Now, let’s say that, instead of an interview being a flop, it’s a success. You received a job offer, and accepted it! What next? You need an exit strategy. Everyone is familiar with the adage, “Don’t Burn Bridges.” It is cliche, but correct. There’s a right and a wrong way to resign. Here’s how to resign the right way.


Be polite and professional. Telling your boss, “I’m outta here!” just makes you look bad. Keep in mind, you may end up working with, or for, this person again in the future. Also, don’t trash the firm, your former boss or co-workers on social-media.


Time your resignation. Since two weeks’ notice is considered the norm, make sure your resignation properly coincides with your start date at the new firm.


Try to avoid an extended start date. Even if your new job begins in 10 weeks, don’t give 10 weeks’ notice; wait eight weeks and then give two weeks’ notice. This way, you’ll protect yourself from disaster in the unlikely event your new firm announces a hiring freeze a month before you come on board. By staying at your old job for only two weeks after you’ve announced your resignation, you won’t be subjected to the envy, scorn, or feelings of professional impotence that may result from your new role as a lame-duck employee.


Some firms will make your exit plans for you. I know a candidate whose employer had the security guard escort him out of the building the moment he announced his intention to go to work for a direct competitor. Fortunately, he was still given two weeks’ pay.


Your resignation should be handled in person, preferably on a Friday afternoon. Ask your direct supervisor if you can speak with him privately in his office. When you announce your intention to resign, you should also hand your supervisor a letter which states your last date of employment with the firm. Let him or her know that you’ve enjoyed working with them and the team, but that an opportunity came along that you couldn’t pass up, and that your decision to leave was made carefully, and doesn’t reflect any negative feelings you have toward the firm or the staff.


You should also add that your decision is final, and that you would prefer not to be made a counteroffer, since you wouldn’t want your refusal to accept more money to appear as a personal affront. Let your supervisor know that you appreciate all the firm has done for you; and that you’ll do everything in your power to make your departure as smooth and painless as possible.


Finally, ask if there’s anything you can do during the transition period over the next two weeks, such as help train your successor, tie up loose ends, or delegate tasks.


Keep your resignation letter short, simple, and to the point. There’s no need to go into detail about your new job, or what led to your decision to leave. If these issues are important to your old employer, human resources will likely schedule an exit interview for you. That’s a conversation I also suggest you keep short and to the point. If you didn’t have the courage to bring up an issue while you were on the job, don’t bring it up on your way out the door!


Be sure to provide a copy of your resignation letter for your company’s personnel file. This way, the circumstances surrounding your resignation will be well documented for future reference.


By following some proven protocol, you’ll exit in good graces. Last impressions are often lasting impressions. Be sure to leave a good one.


As a career coach and recruiter specializing in public accounting, I advise candidates on issues like these daily. Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website. And connect with me on LinkedIn.


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