What to tell your boss
Miranda recommends the following script:
I have really enjoyed my time here at XYZ company. I've learned a lot and developed a lot of new skills. It's been a tremendous experience for me. I've had a great opportunity presented to me that will allow me to take these skills to the next level, and I've decided to take this opportunity. I wanted to chat with you about the best way for us to handle my transition.
If you don't have anything positive to say about your job, you can be honest about the challenges you've faced without being indelicate, says Howard Seidel, a partner with Boston, Mass.-based career management and outplacement firm Essex Partners. For example, you could say, "I'm not really a fit here, and I've decided to move elsewhere."
A manager who genuinely cares why you're leaving may ask about your decision-making, warns Miranda. Give your supervisor the work equivalent of, 'This isn't about you; it's about me,' such as, "My decision is not a reflection of your management or the work environment. It's just that this other opportunity is a better match for my skills/career goals/will allow me to work with new technologies/in a new industry," he says.
Kathy Simmons, CEO of Netshare Inc., a web-based networking community for executives, notes that announcing your resignation will be easier if you've had conversations with your boss about your career goals. Then, your decision to part ways may come as less of a shock, and your boss may not take your resignation as personally, she says.
"If you'd been telling your boss that you wanted more responsibility and more experience," Simmons adds, "you can say to your boss, 'I loved working here but this job will give me the opportunity to get X. As you know, I've been anxious to work on different types of assignments.'"
Your manager might ask you about the specifics of your new job (your title, job description and salary) because she wants to retain you, says Aboaf. So know what you want to do in the event your boss presents you with a counter-offer.
Simmons warns professionals against getting talked into staying. "That can backfire more often than not," she says. "I have seen that over and over: The boss makes you a counter-offer, but they're thinking, 'I can't trust this person to stick with me so I better start looking for a replacement.' They keep you there to ease the transition, then the employee is terminated shortly thereafter. "
You may not want to tell your boss anything about your new role, and that's okay, say the experts. In that case, you can tell your boss, "I'd be happy to give you that information but I'd rather land first," or "I'd like to wait until the company publicly announces my hire before I say anything about my new role," says Seidel.
Finally, no matter how delicately you phrase your resignation, there's always a chance that your manager may terminate your employment on the spot. Some managers respond that way out of anger. Others tell you to pack up your personal effects because your presence inside the company poses security or intellectual property risks, says Seidel, especially if they know you're going to work for a competitor.
To protect yourself in the event your boss reacts to your resignation this way, remove all personal information from your computer and work e-mail before speaking with your boss, says Simmons.
Next: How Much Notice Should You Give?