Mastering the fine art of resigning with grace

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Mastering the fine art of resigning with grace

Congratulations! You've just been offered an outstanding new job. Now you face the delicate dilemma of quitting your present post by gracefully giving notice to your boss and saying goodbye to co-workers and friends.

Here's what to do before dropping the bomb:

Prepare for your meeting with your boss. Figure out what you're going to say. Your boss might be surprised or confrontational, or he might ask for more details than you want to give. Prepare your speech and stick to it. Don't take it personally if your boss gets upset.

Your resignation letter is permanent. Focus on the positive to leave in good graces. You might work with your boss again or want a future recommendation, so draft your letter keeping that in mind.

In its simplest form, a letter of resignation tells your employer that you plan to leave his company on a certain date. Most letters include a brief explanation for your departure and an expression of gratitude for the years spent with the company.

In your letter, during the exit interview and when you arrive at your next job:

* Avoid red flags, such as mentioning personality conflicts. Even if you're leaving on a bad note, don't get emotional or complain about your job or boss. The rules change, however, if you're blowing the whistle on improper or unethical behavior.

* Tell the truth. "The market in Korea is so small that in a month or two, everyone will learn why you left, especially if you're staying in the same industry," says Shin Shi-gyeong, a career specialist based in Seoul.

* During your exit interview, be as positive as possible. But if certain factors forced you to leave, mention them. "The organization can use them to make improvements," says Sam Butler, a career specialist with DBM Korea. "But stay away from red flags."

When the exit interview is conducted by the human resources department, your conversation is supposed to remain private. But can you trust them? Have an idea before you speak.

* Give fair notice. Don't leave your company in the lurch. But get out as soon as possible after resigning. Your company will survive without you.

Some contracts or companies have a predetermined resignation notice period. Otherwise, two weeks to a month's notice is usually fair.

* If you're resigning as a ploy to get a counteroffer, your plan could backfire. If you get a counteroffer, you should consider how your resignation has changed your standing with your company. Also, you should make sure the issues that drove you to resign have been addressed before accepting the offer.

* Complete a succession plan. Wrap up unfinished business and train your replacement. You'll be a lame duck for a few days, so move quickly on important items to ensure a smooth transition.

* Get references. Ask your immediate supervisor, your department head, people you worked with on special projects inside and outside the firm. Make sure they convey a consistent image. If you're being laid off, don't be afraid to ask for references.

* Say goodbye. It can be as simple as walking through the office and shaking hands with your colleagues. And don't forget to tell your clients that you're leaving.

Mr. Butler of DBM recounts how he was working on a project with an executive in Australia. At a crucial juncture, he phoned her to get additional information only to discover that she had quit.

* Negotiate early for any outstanding salary or commission. Once you're out the door, you'll no longer be a major priority.

* Keep in touch. The people you've worked with are part of your network. "They can help you and you can help them, but only if you keep in touch," Mr. Butler says.

Consider an assistant vice president who resigned from her Seoul-based investment bank when it merged with another company. Six months later, her former boss introduced her to the head of a loan company, who offered her a new job.

Last impressions are just as important as first impressions.


Before you quit:

List the reasons why you're resigning. Most won't be in your resignation letter, but you should be aware of them. Reasons vary, from wanting a higher salary or position, to personality conflicts, to wanting to learn a different aspect of the business, to simply getting a better offer elsewhere.

Ask yourself whether you'd stay if you were offered more money, a promotion or a different career track. If so, talk with your supervisor. If you want a better salary or a promotion (see the Feb. 5 issue of J-Talk), have a list of reasons for your supervisor. If you want to pursue another career track, talk with the human resources department.

Consider all the aspects of the new job. A better salary isn't necessarily indicative of a better job. What will your new responsibilities be? Will you have to change locations? Will your commute be longer? Does the new job offer more opportunities for personal growth?

by Joe Yong-hee
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