It is an unfortunate fact but a true one: no matter how many years you worked at a certain place, no matter how much you contributed, and how central you were to a company’s culture and mission- a careless exit can cost you your legacy. Of course there are any number of reasons to move on from a company and some situations may be more emotional or fraught than others. But as much as it depends on you, it is in your best interest to leave well. As you continue in your career, your time at the company you are leaving will always be reflected in your resume and it will be a part of your story you must account for. You may need them to speak on your behalf someday or future opportunities may emerge through their network. Consider these ideas on how to smooth a delicate transition.
Make your plans on your own time and technology.
In the interest of keeping your plans confidential and respecting the time during which you are still employed at your current organization, manage your outreach and communications off the clock. You will want to use a personal email address and phone to communicate with recruiters and hiring managers. Complete your resume and writing tests at home or away from your office. Doing so will not only protect your integrity but ensure that you can control when and how you share the information surrounding your transition.
Ask for what you need from your new employer.
Typically your new organization wants you to begin as soon as possible, but you have some bargaining power if you feel you need more time to finish things well at your current company. Leaving your old boss in the lurch by taking off in the middle of a high-stakes project or just before a major event will certainly muddy their impression of you. Within reason, don’t be afraid to ask your new employer for what you need to leave the other job well. Hopefully, they will be pleased to know they are bringing on such a conscientious and reliable employee.
Be mindful of those who will succeed you.
Depending on whether or not your company’s yet found a replacement for you, offer what you can of your time and energy to pass on what you know about doing that job. You might ask if it would be helpful for you to create a guide for others to follow, especially if you had responsibilities that no one else shared or if you pioneered a new way of operating. Include those things you wish you’d known from the start and helpful tips you picked up along the way.
Sequence how you spread the news.
I think we can agree that your supervisor shouldn’t learn about your job change through a tweet. Neither should your co-worker. You’ll want to share the information internally before it goes out to the public. This may take some coordinating with your new employer too as they too are preparing to announce your new role. When you are ready to share the news, be strategic on social media. Leslie Bradshaw, one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business,” has a great post on how to sequence the news. She suggests letting your departure and new gig be two separate announcements, with some space in between. On using digital platforms, Leslie reminds, “No matter what terms you’re leaving on, never go negative. If you find that you cannot show reverence and gratitude, then keep it short and neutral.”
But there are other ways that you are broadcasting your feelings about the transition. In an interview on how a CEO communicates the sale of a company to employees, Paul Silber of Blu Venture Investors says, “Communication isn’t just what you say or what you write, it’s how you act.” Your tone and focus in the last weeks of a job will speak volumes. Maintain enthusiasm for the work and continue working diligently until the very end.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.