Beverly Jones leads Clearways Consulting, a respected executive coaching and consulting practice, and is the author of Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO.
Jones has led university programs for women and was also a Washington lawyer and Fortune 500 energy executive. Based in Washington D.C., Jones works with accomplished leaders in Congress, at major federal agencies, NGOs, universities, and large corporations.
Below she provided her expertise, advice and tips on how to make sure you leave your job with class:
Most professionals understand the importance of getting off to a great start in a new job. But some don’t take full advantage of that other opportunity in a transition: the chance to tie up loose ends in the old job and turn the experience into a building block for the future.
“Bill” is a young lawyer who was let go from his law firm after the leaders of his energy group left the partnership, taking their clients with them. Bill started his week as an associate with a bright future, but by Friday he was ushered out of the office with a small severance payment and a cardboard carton of personal items.
Bill was stunned and angry. However, on the advice of a mentor, he controlled his emotions and quickly launched a plan that paid off later. Bill saw that the firm’s senior lawyers were furious with the departing energy group and associated him with the traitors, even though he hadn’t been invited to join their new enterprise. And he recognized that he’d been unwise during his time at the firm in not making an effort to get to know colleagues outside the busy energy practice. He feared that former colleagues who weren’t his friends would describe him as not competent enough to either stay in the firm or be invited to join the departing unit.
Determined to make the best of his situation, Bill launched a process that changed the way his former firm remembered him and ultimately led to a new job. In the days after his departure, he methodically contacted the law firm leaders and staff and found ways to thank each of them for something. Even though it often felt like a reach, he wrote notes expressing appreciation for the collegial atmosphere, the training in managing client accounts—for any kindness or strength he could describe without being insincere. As a few years went by, he found ways to stay in touch, even referring a little business to a friend in the old firm.
What Bill did so well was reframe his law firm experience in the minds of his former colleagues. Most of them probably didn’t remember him vividly, but now they thought of him positively. This was reflected in the fact that they occasionally sent him energy work they could no longer handle. And when they eventually decided to rebuild the firm’s energy capability, they recruited Bill, this time as a partner.
Use these strategies for a departure that will pave your way in the future
Whether you’re sad to go or can’t wait to get out the door, it’s normal in a career transition to focus more on the future than on the past. But if you’re smart, you’ll do what it takes to create a classy departure. In today’s fluid job market, it’s inevitable that you’ll bump into some of these people again. When that happens, what they may remember is your last few days on the job.
Here are five tips for leaving your job the right way:
1. Give proper notice. Once you’ve decided to accept another opportunity, tell your boss immediately, before word gets around. The boss may not like being surprised by your departure, but it’ll be much worse if the news drifts in through the grapevine. Give as much notice as possible—two weeks or a month is common, but more could be better. And follow up your conversation with a very brief resignation letter that clearly states your last day on the job.
2. Resist the urge to speak up. You may have fantasized about how great it would feel to tell the team what you really think. Don’t do it! Your goal now is to end things on a good note, not point out the error of their ways. Even formal exit interviews should be approached with caution because you can’t really count on confidentiality.
3. Finish your work and leave a trail. Your last days on the job are a great time to show that you have what it takes. If you can’t complete your projects, leave them in good shape so the next person will know where to get started. Write notes about your tasks, contacts, and responsibilities to help your coworkers or your replacement keep things moving. If you leave things in a mess, that’s how they’ll always think of you.
4. Say “thanks.” Think about every person, at every level, who has been helpful to you in some way. Don’t dramatize. But write notes, stop by your colleagues’ desks, or find other appropriate ways to thank them for what they have done or what they have meant to you. The more specific you make your “thank you’s,” the more effective and appreciated they will be.
5. Make plans to stay in touch. Make sure everybody has your new contact information and confirm that you have theirs. If you haven’t connected with them on LinkedIn, do it now. You’re likely to see many of these people again, but don’t leave it all to chance. Think about the people you most want in your future and promise yourself that you will find ways to make it happen.
In a career market where people change jobs frequently, knowing how to say “goodbye” with grace has become an important skill. An essential part of your smooth transition is treating each one of your old colleagues as though they still matter.
Adapted from Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO by Beverly E. Jones, published by Career Press © 2016 Beverly E. Jones. All rights reserved.