Exiting a Job… with Class

 In Career Tips

As most people know, your career reputation follows you everywhere. How you conduct yourself on and off the job matters, but one area that is especially tricky is when you are leaving the company.

Whether you are moving on to your dream job, or if you suddenly got handed a pink slip, you need to conduct yourself by leaving on a high note, no matter what the reason is for exiting a job.

Why?

Well, if you always do right, then you never have to worry about explaining a potentially awkward or uncomfortable situation in future career discussions.

You also don’t have to worry about how word-of-mouth can damage your reputation. (i.e.: “Can you believe that Susie just up and quit, and trashed all the files in her office? It was a disaster!”)

Tempting as it may be to walk out on a bad job situation, if you can leave on the best possible note, you rise above the situation and reinforce your integrity.

So when exiting a job, consider these tips to do your best as you prepare for your next career step forward:

  • Make a recommendation for a replacement. When you give notice that you are exiting a job, the very first thing that occurs to your boss is, “Oh my gosh, now how am I going to fill this position?!” By being prepared with a solid recommendation of a competent candidate, you are already filling that need and fixing the problem that you are creating. This scores big with supervisors.
  • Put everything in order. Susie in the example above didn’t put things in order, and pretty much left a poop sandwich waiting for co-workers, the boss, and the next person they hire to handle. Do you really want to do that when exiting a job? Do the right thing. Put things in order so resources, files, data, and any other pertinent information that is critical to doing the job is easily findable. Your co-workers will thank you.
  • Make a priority list of coming up deadlines / irons in the fire with details. This is putting everything in order on steroids. If you really want to enhance your professional polish, create a list of immediate things that need to be dealt with including deadlines, contact names, status updates, etc. Classy move when exiting a job!
  • Offer to be a resource after you leave. Exiting a job doesn’t mean you are cutting the umbilical cord to your now former employer. And it isn’t a requirement that you stick around after you’ve already started the new position. But being available and helpful eases the boss’ mind greatly. One thing to watch: Don’t let the previous company becoming a psychic vampire, sucking your time and energy away from the new job.
  • Train someone to cover for you after your final day. On the very last week of your job, before you exit, take the time to orient one of your colleagues about where things are, how to find files, etc.
  • Plan an out-of-office reply. When exiting a job, create auto-responders that direct callers or people emailing to the appropriate staff member who can handle their request. This will alleviate frustration for everyone. Trust me on this one.
  • Thank everyone. If co-workers have helped you or contributed to your success, take a moment to thank them personally via a conversation or thank you note. They will remember your kindness for recalling their assistance.

Why do all of this? I can tell you from personal experience as well as hearing client stories this nugget of truth:

You never know when or where you may run into former colleagues / co-workers / bosses again.

You may even stay in the same network.

Or, you may return to the company again… but in a completely different role.

If you are exiting a job with class, then your reputation is sterling.

And that’s something you can bank on.

Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is a Certified Advanced Résumé Writer and the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. Clients from across the United States and Canada and from all career levels have benefited from Dawn’s highly-focused and results-oriented résumé, cover letter, and job search coaching services. Many professional groups as well as colleges and universities have appreciated the insights and expertise she shares during presentations on career management topics, and she is a frequently requested national speaker as a result

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