By guest writer Nelson Sebati, Entrepreneur and Non-Executive Chairman at Murason Business Services. He has 10 years’ experience in recruitment, talent acquisition, career transitioning & on-boarding, with a specific focus on IT and Executive skills. He is a certified Career Strategist and Job Search Coach. He studied Entrepreneurship at Wits Business School, Law at UNISA, BBBEE at SBL among other numerous qualifications& is currently a member of the YBSA, BMF, REC-UK, APSO, CSSA, ASA, and IoDSA.

A key aspect to finishing a new job search is exiting from your old job. For the majority of people resigning is an afterthought. After all you have a new job and what does it matter what your present employer thinks of you? You don’t work here anymore. Right? Wrong!

Although your initial impulse may be to tell your employer to “Take this Job and Shove It…”- It is vital to resist this alluring temptation. Resigning from your present position in a legal, professional and positive manner is particularly important. The world we live in is just too small. In today’s global village marketplace you might be working with or for colleagues in the future that have professional or personal relationships with your soon to be former employer.

When handled properly, leaving a job, no matter how good or bad can be a positive experience. Here’s how I would recommend you to do it:

  1. Make sure that all the paper work has been signed and completed with your new employer. Never resign from your current job in good standing without a firm, preferably written and signed offer of employment.  If you are consulting with a Job Search Coach or Career Strategist, seek advice on how best to proceed given the dynamics of your circumstance. A good Career Coach will be able to elucidate your role and responsibility in a resignation situation.
  1. Keep the news to yourself; regard any discussion about your potential resignation as tantamount to tendering it. Even if it is in an effort to get more input from your colleagues while you are working out the decision I think it is dangerous to seek such advice from people whose own jobs and lives will be impacted by your choice. If you need 3rd party counsel, get it from a trusted cohort who preferably works in another company.
  1. Determine when your last day of employment will be. Give ample notice of your departure. In South Africa our Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) states that a contract of employment can be terminated at the request of a party to the contract only on notice of not less than one week, if the employee has been employed for four weeks or less, two weeks, if the employee has been employed for more than four weeks, but not more than a year and four weeks, if the employee has been employed for a year or more.

    It is important to remember that no agreement may require or permit an employee to give a period of notice longer than that required of the employer and termination of a contract of employment must be given in writing. It is common practice to stick to these standards, but if you can’t give the required notice make sure you explain why in your resignation letter.

  1. Draft a letter of resignation. It doesn’t have to be long or detailed, but it should be in a business letter format. As a minimum simply state your name, your position, the company you work for and the last day of employment. For example: “I, Nelson Sebati, resign my position as Non-Executive Chairman of Murason Business Service Pty Ltd effective July 30th, 2013“. If you desire add a statement of appreciation to the employer for your successful tenure with the company. However you are under no obligation to reveal details of your next engagement, whatever it may be. Drafting a resignation letter tends to be very emotional, but try to abstain from any badmouthing of the company or your boss, this not the dais for it.
  1. Resign. Hopefully telling your boss about your resignation will result in nothing more than a pleasant conversation about your future goals. It may include some standard questions on where you are going, when you are going and most importantly why you are going. So be prepared to answer these questions. Keep the conversation simple and light. If you have had a problem with the company or manager, ask for a formal exit interview with Human Resources. If you are “lucky” they may even try to entice you with a counter-offer, but before you decide to accept it do some research on counter-offers. I would suggest you also read my article  on counteroffers called The Counter-Productive Counter-Offer.
  2. Follow up with the Company Administrator or Human Resources. Make sure you get what is coming to you for unused annual leave and mature shares, provident fund, commission, etc. Also make arrangements to return whatever rightfully belongs to the company.  Remember according to section 42 of the BCEA you  entitled to a Certificate Of Service stating your full name, the name and address of the employer, a description of any council or sectoral employment standard by which the employer’s business is covered, the date of commencement and date of termination of employment, the title of the job or a brief description of the work for which you were employed at date of termination, the remuneration at  date of termination and  if you so requests the reason for termination of employment. Remember a Certificate of Service, not to be confused with a letter of recommendation, is a legal requirement for compliance with regulation and no employer can decline to provide it.
  1. Serve your notice with decorum. Once you have rendered your resignation and it has been accepted, make sure that you complete all the aspects of the handover and the exit policy. It can be tempting to take it easy while serving a notice period, but how you behave will leave a lasting impression – a graceful exit will ensure your legacy.

We all have heard the old adage “Don’t Burn Bridges“. It is good advice to remember because parting words carry more weight so be vigilant of what you say. South Africa’s corporate community is well connected and many people have relationships across industries and disciplines. You can never know for certain who knows whom in this marketplace. Follow the steps outlined above and make your resignation a positive experience for yourself and your employer.