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How to Resign Professionally from a Role in Pharma

While most recruiters focus on tips for acing the interview stage, it’s equally as important to ensure you resign professionally from your current role. Resigning might seem like no big deal, but it actually can play a pivotal role in your career trajectory. In fact, a poorly managed resignation process could stain your professional reputation and follow you for years to come. This is especially relevant to the Pharma industry, which can seem like a small community at times.

So, if you find that you need to resign, do it the right way. Here are a few best practices to help you resign professionally from a role in the pharmaceutical industry.


Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Before you take the initial steps to tender your resignation, it’s important to be sure that a resignation is really in order. Like many difficult decisions in life, sometimes the simplest approach is the best. So before making any drastic moves, start with a list of the pros and cons of your current position. If the pros are worth fighting for, then you should ideally reach out to your manager and try to work on the cons together.

Be proactive and think of solutions to your issues or problems at work. The worst your manager can say is no, and if that’s the case then you have your answer—it’s time to leave.

Remember that if you have specific issues regarding your job (and your happiness), the only way to resolve them is to communicate with the people who can help you sort them out. If there is an issue and you keep it to yourself, nothing will change, and your discontent will only grow. Your manager is not a mind reader, they cannot help you fix a situation they have no knowledge of, and you could risk a good thing by shutting down the lines of communication.

Make sure you are also basing your decision on what might be counter-offered. Everyone is countering at the moment and you don’t want to unnecessarily waste anyone’s time if really you just want a bump in your paycheck to stay!

If you decide that the best course of action is a resignation, then the following steps will help you part ways professionally.


Mum’s the Word Until the Ink Is Dry on Your Next Contract

When it comes to leaving any job, a good rule of thumb is that you should never officially resign without having another signed contract in place. Many professionals feel the need to be polite to their manager and give them advanced warning, which is admirable, but risky. At Planet Pharma, we’ve seen health issues prevent moves, un-signable contracts, huge contractual delays, negative informal references, withdrawn offers, and a whole range of other challenges cause upsets at the final stage. The most professional thing you can do is to avoid conversations about your potential exit at all costs, regardless of the relationship you have with your manager.


Mind What You Say to Your Coworkers

Keep quiet, regardless of your excitement and do not disclose to other employees or managers that you are looking to resign. Your direct manager should be the first person to know about this once the ink is dry on your contract. So be respectful and honor this.

Why would I not tell my close work friends and colleagues?

It restricts your options and the options of your employer. Think about this:

  • How will you feel if an unrefusable counteroffer is presented and you’ve just told half the office you’re leaving?
  • What if a counteroffer can’t be presented because you’ve already notified several team members? Your employer won’t want counters being seen as the norm. We’ve seen this firsthand—counters not be offered once an individual has shared news of a pending exit.
  • How will your manager feel once they realize they’re the last to know? Help them to create your narrative.

Most importantly, try to refrain from badmouthing the company on your way out. Remember that your experience is yours and yours only, so there’s no sense in stirring up trouble or having your negative comments get back to those in charge.

And finally, keep in mind that the life sciences and pharma industry can be very small. We have seen managers unknowingly follow employees with damaged perceptions, due to a bad employee exit, to a new company. Talk about an uncomfortable situation.


Familiarize Yourself with Company/Contract Protocol

Be sure that you know the rules of your company and be prepared to follow them. The following questions should be high on your research priorities:

  • What is the notice period?
  • Who do you have to submit your resignation to?
  • What are the restrictive covenants in your contract?
  • What does your “non-solicit” state?
  • What is the gardening leave policy?
  • Will you have to pay back a sign-on bonus?
  • Will you lose out on any upcoming bonuses?


Draft Your Resignation Letter

A well written and carefully constructed resignation letter can do wonders for your positioning within a business. It can be the difference between an old employer wanting you back in the future or wishing you’d never joined!

Remember, resigning is not typically a nice experience for either you or your manager, but a very complimentary resignation letter (often viewed by upper management and human resources) can really ensure you’re exiting with minimal damage to your boss. It can go a long way to helping them sleep that night! Many companies also have an “eligible for rehire process.” Should you re-apply for a position with them in the future, this letter is likely to be stored on file and could be your ticket back in. If your new gig does not go to plan, then having a safe option to return to might be exactly what you’re looking for. In general, avoid any negativity where possible.


Be Prepared for Some Pushback

If your work has been good to date, you may get a little, or a lot, of pushback. So be prepared!

Resignations are not always a smooth one-conversation wonder. They are sometimes a drawn out battle of wits, over weeks, involving multiple stakeholders, a nervous future employer, and a lot of secrecy. There may be conversations with multiple senior stakeholders in an attempt to keep you. This can involve people you have never spoken to or have never given you a minute of their time before. Suddenly, everyone will want to give you time and to tell you how important you are to the businesses plans.

There will likely be counteroffers. This could be in the form of an increased salary, improved title, change of role or department, change of manager, improved conditions, change of client, reduction in hours, or anything really for that matter! What you’ve been longing for, what you’ve been asking for, may suddenly appear on your table. Make sure you’ve assessed your new opportunity against what you’re likely to be countered with.

The best way to avoid a counter is to be open about it. Say you have made up your mind and that you respect your employer’s time and do not want to waste it. Why should they go and put together a counter, get it approved by various stakeholders, if you really don’t want to stay? Be solutions-focused. Discuss your handover and make it clear that you’re done.

If you are told to take time to think about it, chances are you probably have already been thinking about it for some time, right? So just send over your letter of resignation and get things finalized.


Think about What Information You’ll Share and What to Keep to Yourself When Resigning

When parting ways with an organization, give some thought to what you want to share about your future plans and what you prefer to keep under wraps. Throughout your resignation process and perhaps during your exit interview, your manager or members of the HR team may ask you some not-so-innocent questions. Be prepared to field these questions, know in advance how you’ll respond, and be aware that your answers may be used against you.

Some common questions to look out for are:

  • Where are you going?
  • What is the role?
  • What is the compensation?
  • What can we do to keep you?
  • What did you not enjoy about your current role?
  • What can we offer you to keep you?
  • If we were to have offered X, then would you stay?


Resign Face-to-Face or Via Video If Possible

While the world has changed considerably over the last year, it’s still important to hang on to the human element as best we can. So, if at all possible, make arrangements to speak to your manager face-to-face. If an in-person meet isn’t possible, then at the very least try to arrange a video conference. This is important because it gives your manager the opportunity to talk openly and share feedback. Remember, communication is a two-way street, so don’t rob them of their chance to say what they need to say.

In a similar vein, avoid any late-night memos to your manager requesting a time to speak the following morning. This out-of-hours contact will only lead to worry and concern, which you really don’t need to do.

The resignation process is a hard one but a vitally important one. A process that will unduly shape your career in the future. The ultimate key is to know why you’re leaving in the first place. To problem solve as much as you can with your current employer and to decide to leave based on what your current employer could offer you, not what they currently are offering you. If you don’t think your conditions are favorable then speak about it, be proactive in your approach and shape your career… it’s yours after all!


Photo Credit: Canva
By Spencer Cricks, Senior Director of Recruitment (EMEA), Planet Pharma

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