Leaving

Its not just how you start a job.

Over the course of your career you’re going to leave more than a few positions. Depending on the survey you look at you’ll have between 8-12 employers and countless “jobs” within those firms.

You’re going to be doing a lot of moving around.

In many ways thats how we learn and advance ourselves. I know all of the execs that I’ve worked with consider moving between roles and companies essential to development. You’ve got to leave to get to go.

But don’t shortchange the leaving process. Do this well and you’ll build your network. Done poorly, people will remember you for the wrong things.

Timing

  • Most of us (Stateside anyway) work without contracts, therefore the notice period before leaving is variable. By convention we imply two weeks is nice, and it is, but it won’t always work. Sometimes the window is shorter and that’s just unfortunate. If however you’re managing a team or a critical project it really should be longer. While senior execs may provide months of notice most of us are okay with 30 days if our work is complex. Be smart here: provide enough for your current employer to manage the transition, but not so much that they’ll be annoyed with you staying too long. One more thing – you “offer” notice: in some fields or instances that firm will reject your offer. You’ll be gone the moment you say bye. Prepare ahead by ensuring anything you need you’ve already removed from your desk and/or servers.

Work

  • Assuming your notice was accepted continue to do your job, and do it well. You’re getting paid for it so be professional about it. While you may be a little lax about taking a longer lunch – it won’t hurt anyone – be careful about showing up so late or departing so early it raises eyebrows and tempers. You’re there to transition out, not to mess things up. Keep it cool and do your work, and to the extent you can, index everything you’re leaving behind so people can pick up where you left off.

Low Key

  • You’re tempted to shout about your new job, the great perks, reduced commute, increased pay, etc! Don’t. Do not say anything more than you have to – and you have to say very little – because everyone else is staying behind, Don’t dampen morale by boasting about all the goodness you’re about to receive and by contrast your current coworkers are not: this doesn’t help anyone, and the momentary high you get from boasting turns sour within minutes as truly no one likes a braggart. Keep your last few weeks cool and calm and let loose with your friends on your last night – they’re not working with you and will celebrate your new found success: they won’t resent it like your coworkers will.

Bridges

  • I know, you’re tempted. You want to tell that dolt in accounting where he can stick it, and that idiot in marketing that she never made any sense. It would feel good. Don’t. Do not, do not do this. Be big about things and let sleeping dogs lie. No one benefits from you “being real” and getting a few things off your chest, and you in fact will lose in the long run as people remember how you left – not necessarily a lot of what you did when you were there. Do not under any circumstances burn bridges: the dolts and idiots were put in your life to teach you something. Learn from them.

Thank You

  • On your last day say goodbye to your boss in person (or call if located remotely) and be pleasant. You’re doing two things here. One is you’re providing closure, as in, I no longer work here – don’t call me for anything. The other is a sense of respect and gratitude – thanks for the opportunity. This last goodbye sets you free to work on what’s next feeling fully focused on the future without any nagging unfinished business. Say goodbye, leave, move on.

Leaving well is an art and can be done beautifully with everyone feeling good about the transition. Do your best to make that so. People remember how you left.

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