How to resign from your life sciences job

Monique Ellis our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 03/05/2017

Handing in an official resignation letter can be pretty daunting. Leaving your job after a number of years can be even harder. After having worked for a company for a long period you are likely to have formed strong relationships within the business; your team may even feel like extended family! This can make the process of resigning from your job tough to navigate. Here are some tips to see you through a difficult time:

1.   Notice period

Good preparation is the key. Before you even consider writing your resignation letter, make sure that you’ve undertaken thorough research. If you work in the life sciences industry, you’ll know that it operates across the globe. Whether you’re working in Europe or the USA, each country will have a different protocol to follow when dealing with resignations. Do you know what the country’s legal notice period is? It may be very different to what you’ve previously experienced. For instance, in Spain, you are required to work a notice period of 15 days. In the UK, it’s common to work for 1 month. Also, do you know if the notice period is set out in calendar days or working days? In Romania, notice periods are commonly 45 day working days, which amounts to three calendar months! Don’t get caught out by the fine print.

Read up on the official resignation requirements specified on your individual contract to avoid delaying the start date at your new employer. Sometimes, your contract may have different protocols to follow compared with the national standard. You can find details of this in your copy of your contract, or if you don’t have access to this, a staff handbook should have the information you need. Failing this, you may be able to have a confidential conversation with your current HR department about your resignation process.

When it comes to setting a date, have a few different resignation letters prepared for the best and worst-case scenario. If you think that there will be room for negotiation with your notice period, put a date that you think you may be able to agree on. If you pre-empt that they will require you to work the full amount of time, have a copy with the latest leaving date. This is common for those in higher positions such as vice presidents and oversight managers, who have a lot of responsibilities and many people connected to them. You should also allow for a handover period appropriate to the level of your role or length of service.

2.   How to write a resignation letter

A crucial aspect of the process is to submit your resignation in writing. In rare cases, the company may accept a verbal resignation, but common practice is to submit a written letter. Depending on company policy this may be required as a hard copy or email, or both. Legally, you are not obligated to state a reason for leaving, but it is likely you’ll be asked at some point so be prepared for this even if you do not include it in your letter.

The style of your resignation letter should be professional and positive in tone. Clearly state the length of your notice period and last working day according to the requirements of your contract/discussion with your manager. As well as the basic requirements, it’s polite to include some pleasant details about your time at the company. Here are some examples of things to include:

  • I have enjoyed being a part of the company and am grateful for the experience I have gained over the last [years of employment]
  • I have grown both personally and professionally thanks to the opportunities that have been made available to me
  • It has been a pleasure to work within the ____ team
  • I will endeavour to make the transition as smooth as possible
  • I wish [name of company] the best of luck in the future

End it by printing your name in full, adding your signature and dating the letter clearly.

3.   Know your mind

You’ve got friends at work that may feel like family. If you’ve been there for many years, you are probably in your comfort zone. You know what you’re doing and that you’re good at it. The fact that you’ve broken through these barriers means that you are likely have a very good reason for wanting to leave. That’s why it is vitally important to know your mind when you enter into any discussions with your employer. If you seem at all unsure, your body language could encourage false hope if they are led to believe that for the right price you may change your mind.

Granted, there may be some room for negotiation, particularly if you’re leaving because your new employer is offering better pay and benefits. If this is the case, have a firm idea of what sort of offer may tempt you to reconsider to save you from being swayed in the emotion/awkwardness of these discussions. Here’s some more helpful information on how to handle a counter offer.

When you can’t be swayed by negotiation, it’s best not to leave anything open to interpretation. Make your letter of resignation polite but firm.

4.   Speaking to your line manager

Many believe that having a conversation with your line manager before submitting your official resignation letter is common courtesy. While it’s something you may wish to do if you don’t want them to be blindsided, it is not a legal requirement. Make your decision based on your relationship with them and the reason you are leaving.

For example, if you are facing redundancy, the process of resigning may require a different course of action, so having a conversation with your manager may not be necessary. If the issue lies in a bad relationship with them or your team, approaching your manager with the news that you are resigning might be too nerve wracking. In this situation, knowing that you have already resigned officially can help to give you the confidence to deal with any difficult conversations that may follow.

Remember, if you choose to speak to your line manager first, ensure that you have your resignation letter ready to submit as soon as possible following the conversation. This is particularly important if you have been with the company for a long time, or if you are in a high position with many responsibilities.

5.   Know how to conduct yourself

The pharmaceutical industry is small. No matter how disgruntled you may feel as you hand in your resignation, it’s crucial to maintain professionalism from the moment you decide to leave. At the time, you may not have the intention to return to the company, but in a few years you could find yourself facing people who you used to work with. Or at least, people who share connections with your previous networks.

At Proclinical, our consultants have experienced countless scenarios in which candidates have been refused based on their poor reputation within the company and/or surrounding network. To leave on a positive note, take the utmost care with your conduct during your resignation and notice period. For instance, keep the news of your departure quiet until you have spoken to your manager and handed in your resignation letter. You don’t want them to find out in the wrong way which could risk making you look bad.

Avoid discussing with colleagues any specific details about why you are leaving, especially if they are unfavourable. For those resigning after a long period, don’t undo years of building relationships only to burn bridges with negative comments.

In the life science industry, and particularly in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, companies value a ‘cultural fit’ as much as someone with the right technical skills. No matter how good you are at your job, prospective employers are less likely to hire you if they don’t think that you will integrate well.

Conducting yourself well during your notice period is just as important. Check out our blog for some handy tips on how to make the most of your notice period.

6.   How to handle your exit interview

Usually, you will be offered an exit interview as an opportunity to discuss your reasons for leaving. This can either be carried out face-to-face with HR personnel or via an electronic form. This is your chance to express your views and deliver feedback about the company. Many companies use exit interviews to keep track of the reasons their staff leave and gather information about how they think the company can be improved. For instance, you may wish to suggest a better benefits package or discuss the management style.

If you have been with the company for many years, it’s likely that you have several opinions and suggestions on how things are run, especially if you have experienced a lot of change during your time with them. However, ensure that you only give constructive feedback that is not fuelled by any frustration that you may feel. Using an exit interview to passionately vent your frustration could jeopardise your reputation and credibility, particularly if it comes across as biased or one-sided. It’s also a missed opportunity to offer worthwhile feedback that will help the company to improve staff engagement for the future.

If you are thinking of leaving your current employer and would like some help with finding your next life science job, get in touch with our specialist consultants who will help to guide you through your job search. They will also be able to provide more in-depth advice on how best to handle your resignation.