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How to leave FE gracefully and professionally

Quite a few people in FE are reassessing their career options at the moment.  As a result some of them will decide to leave the sector.

When you reach this stage it’s tempting to tell any one who will listen exactly what you think is wrong with FE, with the organisation in which you currently work and exactly what has caused you to decide to leave.

It’s a big mistake to do this.

If you decide to leave FE, do your best to part company with every one on the best possible terms.  Don’t annoy your colleagues with remarks about the sector, and by implication, about those who will continue to work in it.

Aim to maintain a cordial but professional relationship with as many people as possible. You never know when you may encounter your ex-colleagues again.  If you remain on good terms with them now, there could be opportunities for all parties to help each other in the future.

How to manage your departure

People regularly move from one job to another within FE, but they choose to leave the sector less often.  It’s important, therefore, to find a way to tell senior people in your organisation that you’re planning to leave without affronting them and without causing ill feeling.  Use the following checklist to help you.

  1. Don’t just put your letter of resignation in someone’s pigeonhole.  Book a short meeting with the right senior person.  If you’re asked why you want the meeting, just say it’s a personal issue and that the meeting will last for no more than ten minutes.
  2. When the meeting starts, don’t prevaricate. Your senior colleague doesn’t know why you’re there – yet. Make it clear immediately what the subject of the meeting is going to be.
  3. Be firm and explain that you have made your decision to leave.  You’re not there to give your employer the opportunity to dissuade you from going ahead with your plan.  You’re not there to have a discussion about your career.   You’ve come, as a matter of courtesy, to let your employer know that he or she will be receiving your resignation in the near future.
  4. Acknowledge that you have gained some valuable experience in the organisation, but you believe that now is the time for you to move on.
  5. Explain that you’re leaving for positive reasons.  You want to take up a new opportunity.  You want to take your career in a different direction.  You want to do something different with your life, and now is the right time to do it.
  6. Thank your employer for the support and guidance you’ve received during your time working in your current organisation.
  7. Agree with your employer a date by which you will hand in your resignation.
  8. End the discussion by asking for a further meeting to be scheduled during your period of notice.  Explain that you’ll want to talk about references, the best way for you to hand over your responsibilities and related issues.
  9. Then leave the room.

Taking charge of your career

Follow an approach similar to the above and you’ll demonstrate that you’re in control of the situation and of yourself.  You’ll also bring structure to the conduct of a difficult activity.  Your colleagues will appreciate your professionalism.

If you decide to leave FE, it’s worth making the effort to make a graceful and professional exit.  In the longer term, you’ll feel much better about your decision – and so will your ex-colleagues.

Margaret Adams Chartered FCIPD is the author of The Solo Success Start-Up Guide. She helps expert professionals plan for a future that they control.  

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