This evening I spent some time helping a former colleague find a new job. He joined a startup a few months back that has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 economic slowdown. While I am generally happy to support the job search of a trusted colleague, this one was made easier by the class he showed us when he left. He resigned with more than standard notice, ensured his replacement was fully trained, and stayed focused in supporting the business until his last day. He embodied a saying I have repeated many times over the years: “No one ever remembers how you arrived at a company, but everyone will remember how you left.”
So in a world of economic turmoil, it’s important we remember we work in an industry in which reputation and integrity are everything. Here are my top 5 tips for resigning the right way:
#5: Ensure a successful transition
What is the single most important thing that will be remembered about you after you are gone: did you leave your team in a good place? All your hard work and accomplishments can be forgotten by your colleagues if you leave them abruptly and without a clean transition. There are many ways to do this - e.g. define a clear transition plan, offer flexibility on the length of the transition, stay focused on your current job until your last day. I once had a DevOps engineer provide eight weeks to transition his job since he was particularly intertwined in everything we did. I'm not recommending everyone do this, but I am fairly confident his manager and everyone on that team will never forget what he did to support them.
#4: Stay focused
It’s hard to remain focused on your current job when you are excited for your next one. But as long as your current company is paying your paycheck, give them your focus and attention. If you complete your agreed upon transition plan ahead of time, seek out additional ways to help your team, colleagues and business. This is your last chance to leave a positive impression on people you may work again - or people you may need for references or advice. Trust me when I say this: it will be remembered.
#3: Offer to provide support after you leave
Sometimes you can’t transition everything about your job in your agreed upon transition period. In these exceptional cases, offer to provided limited support after you leave. I once hired an engineer from a small startup where his leaving would have a significant impact. His condition for accepting my offer was that he would provide a few hours of support to his previous company for the first month working for me. I happily accepted his requirement not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it also told me everything I needed to know about the person I was hiring.
#2: Don’t recruit from your former company
Regardless of whether or not you signed a non-solicit agreement, it is bad form to recruit from your previous employer. Early in a previous startup I had an engineer leave and try to recruit one of my engineers. While his colleague didn't end up taking the opportunity, I never forgot that move. When this engineer needed my help in his future startup, let's just say I didn't rush to provide it. I live by a simple rule: I won't recruit from a company I worked for at least a year after leaving. Period. You can break this rule... but you won't be working with me a second time.
#1: Don’t go to a competitor
This one I will never understand. You spend your time working in a company, learning its business, its people, its internal processes, its intellectual property, and then you… go to a competitor? This is the tech equivalent of leaving your significant other for his or her best friend. You simply don’t do it. Even if you think you can tow the line of working at a new company without divulging internal knowledge of your previous one, let's be honest: it is almost always impossible. Not only do you put you and your new company in legal jeapardy, but everyone else in your previous company will likely remember this move for as long as they know you.