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How to know when it's time to resign - and how to leave well
We always see stories of big-name resignations in the news and on social media. Managers of hedge funds quit with long letters that call out major stakeholders or executive leaders. Other managers resign with viral videos, full-page spreads in national newspapers – or in other loud, public ways.
Whether you’re dealing with an uncooperative team, a negative company culture, or other challenging factors, sometimes it really is an easy decision to resign from a role. Then in other cases, it may not be as clear-cut.
Either way, in your own career, it’s ideal to keep an eye out for signs that it’s time to leave. This way, you can resign professionally before the situation deteriorates – and well before you’ve even considered publicly shaming your manager on social media (not that we suggest that). Because when it comes down to it, while everyone loves the idea of a dramatic exit, the reality is that your career is worth more than that.
When to stay longer in a job
When thoughts of resigning first come to you, take a quick internal look inside, and see if there’s anything that you can do on your side to improve the situation. Especially in the workplace, it can become a habit to look at things through a negative lens: and oftentimes, a change in perspective or an honest discussion, can dissolve a lot of the tension.
When you have low-level disagreements or miscommunications with your manager, first see whether there’s a way to preserve the relationship. It may simply be a case of understanding a different management style, and then working out how to manage it. Staying longer to work things out could help you strengthen your relationship with this person for the future.
However, once you’ve done all you can on your side, look for the following signs that resigning may be the only solution.
How to know that it’s time resign from your role
Look out for these factors to tell you if it's time to hand in your resignation:
You don't feel engaged.
If you’re showing up to work every day feeling disengaged, this is a big sign that it’s time to leave. Even in leadership positions which look great on paper, a manager can become disengaged for a variety of reasons. If you’ve noticed a lack of passion and proactivity in your role, and can’t seem to find a way to get it back, a change may be what you need.
The office has a negative environment or culture.
Whether it’s a toxic manager, a dysfunctional team or impossible targets, once a working environment has turned negative, it can be hard to recover. Don’t feel obliged to stay in an overly negative culture or office environment. This becomes even more important if the stress and negativity begin to affect your life outside of work.
There are no growth opportunities.
It’s normal to want to up-skill, gain new responsibilities and grow within your career. If you feel you’ve reached the end of where you can within the company, you may need to look outside for your next big role. While company loyalty is a great value, keep an eye out for your own career as well.
Another amazing opportunity comes your way.
Especially once you’ve reached a level in your career where you’ve become a specialist, companies will start to seek you out. Evaluate offers that come your way fairly, and decide what constitutes an opportunity that you just can’t turn down. Maybe it’s at a dream company, or better working conditions for your lifestyle or an exciting chance to lead a new team.
How to resign on a good note
Once you make the decision to leave, it’s important to leave on a good note and communicate clearly. Speak with your manager and also prepare a resignation letter. Where possible, preserve your professional relationships.
Before actually resigning, take one more look at your decision. What will you do if you get a counter offer to stay with the current company? If you’re leaving because of feeling undervalued, decide what, if anything, would make you stay in the role, versus your external options.
Ensuring that you have clearly defined reasons for handing in your resignation will also make the actual resignation easier. Above all, keep professionalism in mind, and make it a goal to resign gracefully.
Find a positive
In delivering the message, think about the positives that the job has brought you. Even in the most difficult environment, focusing on the good things when you’re on your way out helps make you appear more professional and constructive. Maybe focus on the good professional relationships you have, the new skills learned, or the stepping stone it’s delivered to your next role.
Especially in smaller job markets, such as Hong Kong, or in specialised industries, you never know who you might end up working with in the future. Even some of the best resignation stories can end with an old manager coming into the picture later as a necessary reference, a future manager, or a network contact.
How to find your next job
Rework your CV, contact a recruiter and start conversations with companies you want to work with. Meanwhile, ensure that you are still present at your current job for as long as you’re able.
When interviewing for your next role, if a future employer asks why you’re leaving, speak more about you than about them – focus on opportunities for growth, new opportunities and what you want to accomplish in the future. After all, dwelling on negative aspects of your current company or manager might make you seem petty or over-emotional – not great qualities in a key hire.
Consult with a recruiter who can help you find roles that are a good match for your requirements and the next step in your career. Look for places whose values match yours, and who clearly walk the talk when it comes to these values. Recruiters have the advantage that they communicate with both you and the employer, allowing you instant feedback on interviews and the hiring process.
Leaving a job can feel personal, especially if you have a strong sense of company loyalty, have built up a great team, or worked on pivotal projects. However, when it’s finally time to leave, try to take emotion away from the equation.
The important thing now is look forward – and towards your next role, and to succeeding in the first few months of a job.