• Estimated read time: 5 mins
  • Date posted:12/08/2019
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After weeks of networking, job hunting and interviews, you’ve scored the life science job that you’ve been dreaming of. Congratulations are in order.

Despite the jubilation, you have a moment of apprehension. You still have to hand in your resignation and serve you notice. What will your manager/director say? How will your colleagues and direct reports react? Do you even have time to meet that project milestone, yet alone the project?

With all these emotions and thoughts clouding your mind, it’s important to remember that how you leave is as important as how you started. Even if you’re dissatisfied in your current role, while it may be tempting to tell your boss that you’ve never seen eye-to-eye, it’s not recommended.

Remember your personal brand and leave with dignity. Here’s how to resign from your executive role without burning bridges.

How to prepare for your job resignation

1) Ensure you have a signed offer letter or contract.

No doubt you’re excited by your job offer, but don’t hand in your resignation until you’ve signed and returned your offer letter/contract. Not only does this give you time to read and digest the offer letter/contract and negotiate your compensation package, but should you prospective employer pull out, or the offer letter/contract contains information that raises red flags about your prospective employer, you won’t risk being out of a job.

2) Familiarise yourself with your contract

This will ensure you’re acquainted with the company policy in preparation for handing in your notice. In particular, pay attention to the following:

  • Notice period: This typically varies with territory and position. Executive-level roles in Europe typically require three months notice, but in the United States, it can be as little as two weeks. While it is possible to negotiate your notice period, always work to a schedule dictated by your notice period.
  • Restrictive covenants: Also referred to as restrictive clauses, these are designed to protect your current employers business (non-compete clause), clients (non-solicitation clause) and employees (non-poaching clause). To avoid a lawsuit, ensure you understand what your existing contract states you cannot do, and for what duration, after leaving your current employer.
3) Prepare for a counter offer

Companies are anxious to retain their top talent, especially executives in the life sciences. So when key personnel resign, companies often make a counteroffer, even if they refused that person’s request for a raise in the past. Though flattering, counter offers rarely address the reason(s) for your resignation, so they are best rejected. Here are 9 reasons to reject a counter-offer.

Handling your resignation 

Though you’ll need to put your resignation in writing, you should verbally resign to your Manager before handing in your written resignation. This will allow you to clarify:

  • Your expected leaving date based on your notice period: Ensure your intended leaving date corresponds with your contracted leaving date based on your contracted notice period.
  • When you should inform your colleagues and key accounts: Breaking the news that an employee is leaving is difficult for employer and employee alike. This is especially true for high-performing executives whose announcement, if not handled appropriately, might cause internal and external uncertainty. Confirm with your Manager the best course of action.
  • Handover procedure for key projects and staff you manage: Discuss with your Manager as to what is required to be handed over and the agreed procedure for doing this.

Ideally, you’ll have penned your resignation letter beforehand, but don’t necessarily hand it over there and then. You might need to make alterations to reflect what was discussed with your Manager. However, be sure to hand in your amended resignation letter to your Manager within 24 hours of the conversation. When writing your resignation letter, consider the following pointers:

  • Keep it formal, concise yet upbeat;
  • State your notice period and formal leave date;
  • Highlight some of your recent achievement;
  • Note what you will do to help during the transition;
  • Print your name in full, sign and date.

How to prepare for role handover

1) Know what to handover

Do not assume that your successor will have like-for-like responsibilities. When key employees leave, companies take it upon themselves to reviews the job description and make adjustments to reflect the department or organisational needs. You might find that several different employees take on different elements of your role, at least in the short-term. Find out who to handover to.

2) Don’t rush

An effective handover relies on your due diligence and planning. You handover might be one of the most important projects you deliver during your tenure with your current employer, not just the last. You need to set aside appropriate time for your handover period – at least 2-4 weeks – meaning a large proportion of your notice period will be occupied by preparing your handover.

3) Create a handover report

You handover report should cover matters such as the status of current projects, any upcoming milestones, items that need actioning or are awaiting action and key stakeholders. You should also detail any issues that have been uncovered and how to troubleshoot and resolve them, if this is known. Wrap it all up with a detailed introduction, including the project’s history.

4) Offer to help find a successor

In the interest of keeping your executive job resignation positive, there is no better display of grace than offering to help your employer find your successor. After all, nobody knows the job better than you. You can lend your expertise to all aspects of the hiring process, from defining the candidate persona and job description, to shortlisting, interviewing and choosing a successor. In short, you become the hiring manager for the position you currently occupy, though the extent of your input will likely depend upon progress with your handover and length of your notice period.

5) Offer to train your replacement.

Though your notice period or start date might not allow for it, consider offering to handover to your replacement. This means welcoming your successor on board, walking them through your handover report and showing them the ropes for 24-72 hours. That way, your successor can get the lay of the land directly from the person who landscaped it (excuse the agricultural puns) rather than having to interpret your handover report and rely on formal onboarding/training delivered by individuals who can’t possibly understand the roles remit to the same degree as you.

How to prepare for your exit interview

Taking the form of an online survey, interview with a third-party provider (to ensure confidentiality) or member of HR, exit interviews help your employer keep track of:

  • The reasons you are leaving;
  • What aspects you valued most;
  • What could be improved.

The information they gather is of vital importance as it can help your employer improve their Employer Value Proposition (EVP), thereby improving  retention, productivity and engagement. However, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Talking to Forbes, Maggie Mistal, career consultant and executive coach, said you should prepare for an exit interview as you would a job interview. She also advises that you vent ahead of time, not during the interview and giving constructive criticism by focusing on the positives. Read here advice in this article: Exit Interview Do’s and Don’ts.

How to part with grace

As discussed previously, leave it up to your Manager as to when to inform colleagues and key accounts that you are leaving. In the meantime, continue to work diligently and complete your handover preparations with the care and attention you would any other assignment. After all, you are still on the company accounts, and you’ll want your Manager to leave you a glowing reference.

As the days count down to your departure, you might find that your workload diminishes. That is, unless you are involved in hiring your successor, in which case you are likely to be at capacity until the day you leave. Use your new-found spare time to audit your inbox, folder structure/documents and do some wider reading to ensure you can hit the ground running in your new role.

Finally, ensure that you set aside time to say goodbye to those that you worked closely with, and crucially, those who helped you succeed. Consider sending a ‘send-to-all’ email to inform the wider organisation as to your departure, but seek advice from your Manager first. This will help clear up any confusion after you have left and serve as a final reminder of the value you brought.

For more job search advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life sciences…

* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.