The Proper Way to Resign: Creating a Past You Can be Proud of

By Pepper de Callier


As Czech professionals become more mobile and the economy provides more opportunities, more upwardly mobile professionals will resign from one position to accept a new one.  It’s a fact of life. Research shows that a career is rapidly becoming a collection of employers over the span of one’s professional life.  And, as we transition to more of a serialized career model, the manner in which one exits an employer will have more importance.  Indeed, it will have far reaching consequences on your future career and how you are perceived by potential employers.

While the tendency is to look forward with anticipation to the next challenge, this is a time to stay solidly grounded in the present.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  One is purely ethical and professional and the other is common sense. From a professional standpoint you need to make the transition with a minimum of disruption for your employer, and, from a common sense standpoint, you need to manage the timing of the process in order to protect yourself.

How you have left an employer sends a strong message to a prospective employer about your sense of character and ethics.  And your new employer will get a preview of how you are likely to treat them when the time comes -- a point that is not lost on hiring managers.

Every past employer is a future reference whether you want them to be or not.  And every time you leave a place of employment you create a transition in your career that a knowledgeable interviewer will want to probe: Why did you leave -- what were the circumstances around your departure?  How did you deal with transitioning your workload and client relationships?  A knowledgeable interviewer will be listening very closely for red flags which will knock you out of the running very quickly or greatly enhance their perception of you.  And, once the second one of these transitions is discussed, one of several patterns will begin to emerge: a high maintenance employee, poor people skills, poor conflict resolution skills, shallow considerations, or, someone who is managing their career wisely, maturely, and professionally.   

I would also add that there is a growing trend in the Czech Republic to conduct in-depth reference checking.  A wide informal network among HR professionals is forming which allows open, candid referencing to be done quickly, thoroughly and “under the radar screen.” 

Here are the important things to consider when resigning:

First of all, as you go through the recruiting process remember this: It’s a small world, people talk.  Be very careful with whom you share your plans.  You want to be sure you leave on your timing vs. being fired and asked to leave.  Timing is very important and whoever is first to act will set the tone of all events that follow.

Never say anything to your current employer until you have a signed formal offer of employment.  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen an informal offer withdrawn, literally at the last minute, leaving the candidate twisting-in-the-wind.

Then, after you have formally accepted the offer you should write your resignation letter giving notice.  It should be one of the shortest letters you ever write.  Here’s an example:


Dear Boss,

Please accept this letter as my notice of resignation effective 1 October 2005.  In the meantime I want to do whatever I can to smoothly transition my current activities to whomever you feel appropriate.  I look forward to working out the details of this transition with you at your earliest convenience. 


Ideally, this letter should be handed to your immediate supervisor in person.  This is not something to handle by email or telephone. 

Except in rare circumstances, I would not advise anyone to accept a counter-offer from their current employer.  There are exceptions to this but, as a general rule, the bond of trust and respect has been broken by your acknowledging that you want to leave and that you have accepted an offer from another employer.  The relationship with your colleagues and boss will never be the same.  

The discussion with your boss should focus on how you can make the transition as easy and seamless as possible, period.  This is not the time to vent frustrations or to settle old arguments. 

Your current employer may want to negotiate some elements of your departure such as timing, for instance.  Be very careful here to include your new employer in that decision process. 

Proper attention to your resignation will speak volumes about you professionally, especially to those who are just getting to know you.

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at

*These are reprints from Pepper de Callier‘s newspaper column in Hospodarske noviny. 

Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By
From beginning September 3rd, 2012, you will be able to start your week with an insight, or new perspective that will help you move closer to your goals as a professional and a personally fulfilling life as one of today’s most respected coaches, authors and leadership authorities, Pepper de Callier, shares his thoughts with you in a short inspirational video of two to four minutes every Monday morning on YouTube in a series titled Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By. 

Top companies on
Expedia ManpowerGroup Utilitywise Prague Grafton Recruitment s.r.o. Amadeus Media Group Dorset Recruitment