Depart your dot-com with grace

With almost daily news of dot-com closings, some employees are not waiting around for the funding axe to fall and the pink-slip invitation to leave. Instead, they are pursuing opportunities with established businesses. HireStrategy’s vice-president John Qudeen and CEO Paul Villella share advice on resigning from dot-coms.

The basic steps in resigning from a dot-com are no different than when resigning from any other company, said John Qudeen, vice-president of technology and executive recruitment at HireStrategy, a recruitment Web site based in Reston, Va. Emotionally, however, exiting a dot-com can be worlds apart from leaving an established business.

“Struggling dot-coms tend to be small and have very strong cultures. Many people have a great deal of themselves invested in the company, not just monetarily but emotionally as well, and those who leave get branded as ‘traitors’ or ‘uncommitted.’ When deciding to resign, it is important to separate who you are from what the company is,” Qudeen said.

Here are HireStrategy’s recommendations:

1. Write a short resignation letter

Don’t resign via e-mail and don’t deliver your news without a formal, short letter. Be upbeat and positive in the letter: do not air any issues, Qudeen said. “Note that you’ve enjoyed working at the firm, but that you have another opportunity that offers you career growth and new challenges.”

Qudeen also advises including a statement that you will make every effort to provide a professional, orderly and seamless transition of your duties during your final two weeks at the company. In the end, you will have separated yourself from the company while coming across very professionally.

2. Review employment agreements

Review contracts, non-competes, stock-option agreements and even your dot-com offer letter for restrictions on future professional activities and potential loss of monies and options. “Some firms require you to exercise options immediately upon resignation; others give you anywhere from 30 to 90 days,” Qudeen said. Contact a lawyer if you have questions on terms.

3. Set up the company for success

“Go into the resignation meeting with a plan for turning over your work,” said Paul Villella, HireStrategy’s CEO. This will protect your reputation and also protect the company. “If you’re the only one with a particular technical skill, document your work and offer to stay more than the usual two weeks, if possible,” Villella said.

4. Be diplomatic at your new job

Your colleagues at the new company will ask why you left the dot-com. Don’t bash your previous employer: It will reflect poorly on you. “You never know when you will work with those people again. Say you left for a better opportunity that was more in line with your personal career goals,” Villella said.