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Resigning with grace

Sylwia Vargas
I teach React, Redux, JavaScript, Ruby, Rails at Flatiron School | I care about web accessible and inclusive tech | she/her
Updated on ・5 min read

🥳 I have good news to share: this week I started a new job! 🥳

I am now a full-time technical writer at Vonage, a company that offers text messages, voice, and video calls for your app.

This change didn't appear out of thin air and involved a lot of preparation and stress. I wanted to document my process in a series of blog posts on resigning, looking for a job, and starting anew somewhere else for the future me (and you all!). Today I want to share my steps for leaving a job I loved.

While at it, I also want to know everything about the most wholesome exit rituals you do or you've witnessed ✨ Are there any resources that you find especially helpful in managing this process?


In order to introduce some structure into the process of resigning from the job and going through the offboarding process, I created a checklist for myself. As changes stress me out, I didn't want to feel like I was forgetting some of the less obvious tasks.

Here's the checklist. Some points are self-explanatory. On some, I wanted to give more context and they link to paragraphs below:

Before you quit:

After you've landed a job:

Before your last day:

  • Social 💃🏻
    • Make sure you have contacts to your favorite teammates;
    • Ask your colleagues for recommendations on LinkedIn;
    • If you are in charge of any projects or processes, consider creating a write-up so it's not a hot mess after you've left -- I have been documenting my processes, messages, and learnings and so this wasn't much of an issue for me;
  • Admin 💼
    • Ask about when your benefits expire, and whether/how you should transfer your 401k if you had that, and when/how you should be expecting the last check;
    • Ask about whether there's any non-compete or non-disclosure (if you don't know about it);
    • Make sure you did download your W2 and paystubs;
  • Tech 💻
    • Transfer ownership of the google drive files to your teammates;
    • If it's possible, save non-proprietary examples of your work!
    • Download your bookmarks (and passwords if you saved any on your work computer that is not company-related);
    • Backup files if you have any personal ones;
    • Consider deleting bookmarks, passwords, history, cookies, credit cards, personal data (and if you've synced your Chrome browser with your account, do that while still logged in);
    • Take care of the personal mail on your work account (if you have any);
    • Change your slack presence
    • Wipe your disk if the tech support allows for that;
    • Clean your laptop off the stickers -- that's a nice gesture!

Before you quit

✨ Explore other roles

I do not find stress exciting. I find job search very stressful, which is why I thoroughly check a company before signing a contract so I could potentially stay there longer. That also means that I found the possibility of changing roles or teams worth considering. Before I quit, I explored other roles in my company - I talked to my manager and to a lead of another team. Sadly, that was not possible and that's when I talked to my manager about my exit process.

✨ Discuss your exit strategy

This isn't something everyone can do. I imagine lots of toxic workplaces where having such a conversation could possibly result in getting fired. I have been fortunate enough to always work at companies and with managers who supported me in this decision. This time around we discussed the timeframe and the communication etiquette. I updated my manager all throughout the process and once I landed a job, we agreed on when my last day would be. While I had a date in mind, I also didn't want my exit to be disruptive because I did value my workplace, my manager, and my colleagues.
Even though I was a lead instructor in my last role, there wasn't much transfer of skills and knowledge beyond what I had been doing throughout the years. I am very serious about documentation, sharing tools, and bringing everyone on the same page so I didn't have to train anyone to substitute me. However, that would have been a part of a typical graceful offboarding and I'd map this process out with my manager. This time around, I only transferred google drive files ownership, forwarded a couple of emails to my colleagues, and created a list of resources I typically used for a given subject.

Once you've landed a new job

✨ Send a resignation letter

You need to follow the exit process that's outlined in your employee handbook. Usually, it means sending a formal resignation letter, specifying the end date, and going through an exit interview.

✨ Exit interview

The exit interview is just a formality but it's also a way for you to give feedback that could help your colleagues and your prior company. Was there a direct reason why you left? How could your company keep you onboard for longer? Or, has there been any worrisome trend you've observed pertaining to the team culture? I wouldn't recommend throwing anyone under the bus unless there are serious concerns you would like to voice (in which case, a personal takeaway could be that you perhaps could have voiced them sooner).

I did take a full opportunity to reiterate the stuff that I wish was different. That being said, I don't think I was overly negative because, in the end, I really loved working there and my colleagues.

✨ Messages and Communication

I wanted to be really intentional about my good-bye messages.

In the past, I learned about folks leaving the company in a group setting and it always shocked me and sometimes put me to pieces in public. I don't like surprises, especially if they mean that a cherished team member will no longer be a part of my workday. I didn't want the same for my colleagues.

Initially, I sent DMs to the colleagues with whom I felt the closest. Then, I announced it on the team slack channel so everyone can learn about it in private. Then, I talked to the cohorts I was leading and explained how this process affected them (it didn't).

Only then I took to LinkedIn and Twitter and surprisingly, this was the most stressful part for me. I guess that putting myself so much on the spot is not something I enjoy immensely. I did not know what to write and I am lucky to have wonderful friends (@bigfishh and Eric Kim!) who are always supportive in such processes.

Before your last day

✨ Change your slack presence

I thought it would be on-brand to change my slack picture to "404: Person not found".
404: Person not found
While at it, I also changed my slack name to "Sylwia Vargas - twitter.com/SylwiaVargas
Tech writer & Former Lead Instructor, SE" so everyone knows how to reach me after my account has been deactivated. It's just a goofy thing.


✨ Now, your turn ✨

  • What are the most graceful exits you witnessed?
  • Do you have any exit rituals?
  • Are there any resources that you find especially helpful in this process?

Discussion (20)

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panditapan profile image
Pandita

aaah you definitely resigned with grace! I'm going to save this blog post in case I need to resign (hopefully not soon).

I've never seen graceful resignations D: I think it's a bit unusual when it happens (in my life at least! lol). I've seen a lot of ghosting, anger and high tensions but nothing similar to your experience (which needs to be more common!).

Congrats on your new job! you'll do great :D

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author • Edited

Ohhh isn’t that sad? We spend so much time at work that ideally, our decision to move on would be dictated by an opportunity to grow professionally and not by being disappointed. And in the perfect world, such a decision would be supported. I have been very lucky with almost excusively lovely exits ✨

Quite a few years ago, I tried to leave gracefully (and gave a three month notice!!) but towards the end my boss started treating me like air — she’d ask my colleague to tell me something even when I was right there in the room 😳 I tried to clear this out before moving on. She told me she felt betrayed with me leaving (even though I was moving countries). I didn’t do much of it because that was not on me - people leave companies, that’s a fact of life. I still am in touch with the folks there and I still feel good about the company and my overall experience there.

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panditapan profile image
Pandita

Yes that's true! Life is all about unions and separations, it's hard to accept though!

I'm glad that you've had some really good experiences exiting! I haven't really hahaha I'm definitely in the bag of leaving a company because of disappointment, but hopefully going forward my experiences improve overall :3

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madelene profile image
Madelene Campos

I resigned just this past Monday from a job I've been in for 3 years! The above confirms that I "did it right". Thank you for that! We use Basecamp for our team announcements, and a few have resigned prior to myself, so I kind of had an idea of how to "do it right". Like you said, the team message was posted well after my engineering manager was aware (first verbally, then in a formal email/in writing) and after a few individual colleagues were personally approached (so they didn't have to be surprised via the Basecamp post). This post couldn't have arrived in my inbox at a better time :)

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Oh that’s fantastic! Thank you for sharing this. Folks who show consideration for others’ well-being always make my day 🌞
I hope that you’re off to a new adventure — or just to a good well-deserved rest!

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madelene profile image
Madelene Campos

Both! Taking a week off in-between adventures :)

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aboutandre profile image
aboutandre

This is a great post for today. I'm a freelancer and after long months of consultancy with clients it always comes a time to part ways.

Today was one of those days with my favorite client.

But I always want to have the possibility of future partnerships. I've learned to "leave gracefully" (as you so nicely put) with all my companies, even before I started freelancing. Everywhere I was so humbled and glad to hear "If you ever want to come back, the door is always open".

I always invite the whole team for a lunch, even the trainees. You never know who will have a lead for a great job/project somewhere in the future (plus I can deduct 70%). Today I will just buy nice chocolate bars for everyone and leave them at the front desk, where the secretary can send each one of those to the members of my team with the next WFH package. With Covid this is the best I can do.

I've always asked for an "exit talk", as employee or freelancer. I want to receive feedback, positive or otherwise, but constructive. Maybe I'm lucky, but I never worked in such a toxic environment that I just had to run out of there.

I think at the end it's more about every single day that you work should be graceful. Thank colleagues daily for the great work (this is too often overlooked). Be a mentor. Share ideas. Be a human being.

Then leaving is just another graceful day.

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

THANK YOU for this comment!

I always invite the whole team for a lunch, even the trainees.

^ that’s so important! I’m always annoyed with how some folks just try to please the higher-ups and totally disregard the interns, the admin staff, the maintenance staff. Beyond the “networking” and “relationship-building”, I just think it’s the baseline courtesy to recognize the hard work everyone does!

I think at the end it's more about every single day that you work should be graceful. Thank colleagues daily for the great work (this is too often overlooked). Be a mentor. Share ideas. Be a human being.

I could not agree more!! Thank you.

I hope that your exit goes smooth today - and that it’s possibly not a “goodbye” but a “see-you-later”!

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huncyrus profile image
huncyrus

Resign with grace is most likely just urban legend in IT (Insert "change my mind" meme here). It is always salty and bad - from some(ones) point of view.

But here are a few thing, what is positive:

  • In Sweden, there is a tradition (at least in the area where I live) to have final lunch/dinner with all the colleague where they eat together the leaver favourite food.
  • In Germany, there were a professional courtesy when leaver receive multiple recommendation from colleagues and the company itself. (This one should be normal, but it is not, 99.99% company does not care of an employee, even if they stated that, this only true until its beneficial or inside a comfort zone)
  • In UK, I seen as contractor different companies where the leaver bough some beverages and a cake for the leaving day.

And as the darker side:

  • Many time people just disappear (company set every access off), and then the employee cannot be found (phone/email/personally). I seen this in almost everywhere in EU.
  • Many company - just like a ritual - try to avoid every payment from the leaving moment. Surprisingly, not just small companies but huge conglomerates also try to trick out money from leavers pocket.

Under 20 years, I seen many different things.

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mkshid profile image
M. Hassan Khurshid

Hi Sylwia!

I am really happy to see that there is someone else trying (and succeeding) to resign with grace :D I am in the middle of one too I hope that everything will go fine!
I am definitely attached to this company, to my colleagues and to what we achieved together in these years but not having anymore an opportunity to grow professionally lead me to decide to leave the company but I would like to maintain a good relationship even after I leave so I am proceeding with more or less the same plan/path :D

You definitely made my day! Thank you!

Congrats on your new job!

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Ohhhh thank you 🥰 I love your attitude to moving on — especially that relationships made on a job are a real treasure you get to carry wherever you go. Who knows, maybe in 5 years you’ll all end up starting a business together, or just remain/become great non-work friends?

I do recognize how a person’s leaving can be sad for folks. I also see how someone’s resignation can give a rise to lots of questions for oneself -> “what AM I doing here? why AM I still here? is this job not good?”
I believe that some folks get sour not because of the resignation itself but more do, with their own internal conflicts. Good news is that time usually fixes that 💕

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mkshid profile image
M. Hassan Khurshid

especially that relationships made on a job are a real treasure you get to carry wherever you go.
Who knows, maybe in 5 years you’ll all end up starting a business together, or just remain/become great non-work friends?

Yes totally! I could not agree more!

I also see how someone’s resignation can give a rise to lots of questions for oneself -> “what AM I doing here? why AM I still here? is this job not good?”

Good point! I did not think about that but actually, I am trying to explore some opportunities that probably I would not have thought about taking seriously before! 🤯

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pauljherring profile image
PJH

After you've landed a job:

  • Send a resignation letter

I believe you've missed a step before sending that letter: Resign verbally to your line manager (where you can state reasons etc. if you really want/have to.)

The resignation letter should be a simple affair with only a few sentences, detailing the fact you're resigning, and your last day at work. Possibly confirming your understanding of what's happening with untaken holiday.

"Thanks for the memories" optional.

But it should be sent after you've had that conversation.

The resignation letter is not the place for airing gripes, or explaining how fantastic the offer you're taking up is, or anything else you'd've had in that conversation with your line manager.

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author • Edited

Thank you for your comment — I agree! If you see the section before that (and the comments I wrote), you’ll see that that’s exactly what I propose 💕

EDIT: Hmmm I see how this could not be clear — I’ll add more direct phrasing. But, yes, my process definitely involves keeping my manager up to date with the job search news, which also included the verbal resignation.

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy

Exit interview? Are those even real?

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Yes! I always had that, even in Europe. I assume you never had one? How has resigning and offboarding typically looked for you so far?

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kolanse profile image
Samuel Ochuba

Congratulations on your new job. Very insightful article. Definitely bookmarking it for when I will need it

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Thank you, Samuel ✨

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Bojan Božić

Congrats Sylwia, I'm so happy for you!

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Thank you, Bojan!
I was just about to message you, actually (and finally)!