When you receive confirmation that you have been hired with a new employer, the next steps you take can either end your tenure on a positive note, or create a situation where you may not receive a positive (and valuable) referral from your current employer.
There are many social and mixed emotions that impact professionals as they prepare to leave their employer for a new opportunity. And whether your tenure was pleasant with your employer, or whether you are leaving because of a conflict with management or other members of your team, you want to make sure that you conduct yourself in a professional manner that does not damage your reputation, or future opportunities.
Each employment experience that you have, is a bridge that you build that helps you advance in your career. If you are leaving because of a conflict, or poor organizational culture fit, it can be hard to separate your emotions and continue to perform at your peak during the last few weeks of your tenure.
But if you want to use your experience to your benefit and get that coveted referral and endorsement from managers and members of your team, it’s important to follow these three steps as part of your professional exit strategy.
1. Discuss Your Exit Plan and Essentials
Provide a written notice to your employer, indicating your departure date. This should be provided to your direct manager first, who will then information the HR department about your notice. What should the letter include, to avoid animosity or miscommunication with your current employer?
Start by stating your exit date. Then, it is good to reflect briefly on the appreciation that you have for the work experiences and growth that you enjoyed, while you were an employee. Be gracious and reflect on the opportunities, the people you worked with, and why you enjoyed your role. This helps keep the departure notice pleasant, positive and professional.
Next, you should outline briefly (or prepare a separate document) that demonstrates the steps you will be taking to make sure that your work duties, summaries, assets and collateral are organized so that the employer can pass this information along to the next employee who will be assuming your role. This shows the employer that you care, and that you are a consummate professional that will take steps to minimize the impact of your departure on your department, and organization.
2. Document Your Processes and Organize Your Collateral
Some professionals create a manual electronically, of processes and the location of collateral, passwords and other information. Think about your daily duties and how you perform them. If you were to train someone new to do these activities, what would that person need to know to train quickly and begin fulfilling the responsibilities of your role.
This is the ultimate gift you can give a former employer as part of your professional exit strategy. While you are finishing the last few weeks of your tenure with the employer, you will still have to perform your regular duties, as the employer begins to search for your replacement (or restructuring of your role to be shared between other employees). Make an itemized list of each function, and then a schedule to help you document it each day, to make sure this work gets done for your employer.
What should a professional exit strategy collateral file look like? It should contain some (or all) of these elements:
- A directory page of passwords and login information for software that you use, or folders that have restricted user access, which are essential to your daily functions.
- A weekly schedule or workflow summary, that provides valuable insights into your duties, when they occur, and who they involve. This will help the HR department define the duties and type of skills your replacement will require.
- A detailed explanation of each task you perform. This should be documented as an instructional explanation for each activity, including a list of resources you need to complete those tasks.
- External stakeholders, vendors or suppliers that you use as part of your normal duties. Remember to include contact information and export your work contacts list into a .csv file and include it in your exit documentation.
Professionals who have had a negative experience with their employer (which prompted the job search for a new opportunity) may feel angry or have a personal grievance that makes these exit tasks seem superfluous.
There is no guarantee that the employer will give you a positive referral (and some organizations simply do not, under any circumstances). However, this hard work during your final weeks provides your best opportunity to get a quality work recommendation from your human resource department and / or managers and peers.
3. Maintain a Positive and Helpful Attitude for a Professional Departure
Let’s start by saying that most employers (and co-workers) will expect you to be laissez faire in your last few days of service. After all you are leaving, right? And you are happy and excited to be leaving the organization. That psychology is innate, and a carefree, low productivity demeanor is almost expected of employees in their last week of service.
You may even encounter some animosity from co-workers and management, as you head into your final days as an employee. Again, it’s not professional but understandable from a human nature perspective. You are leaving a community because you wanted something else, and that puts you on the outside of that community. Expect a little bit of push back or a shift in otherwise warm relationships, because that is common.
It would be easy to act that way too, but how does that reflect on your reputation within the industry? Try to understand the complex emotions and the difficulties that employers have replacing a talented and long-term employee. Have empathy, instead of animosity for your former team.
You can protect your reputation, leave on good terms, and demonstrate your professional ethics by being the same hardworking and caring employee, to your final day. That’s how solid reputations, business networks and referrals that advance your career are built.
We’d like to hear from our readers and international business community. What was your most successful exit from an employment role, and what did you do to help your employer prepare for your replacement? Did you go the extra mile for a grateful employer? Leave us a comment below.