There’s something to be said for leaving a former employer with style. We’re in the middle of a time when more than a few employers are having to downsize and plenty of people who would otherwise be assured of a job are getting the axe. Just because a former employer may have directed you to the door, however, you can still walk out with your pride intact. The same holds true if you’re leaving an employer willingly. As long as you stay in the same industry, you’re guaranteed to run into people you’ve worked with in the past over and over. It’s not unheard of to return to the same company, or find a former coworker at a future employer.
No matter the reason you’re leaving your employer, do it with a little style and grace. You still need goodwill from your past employers — references, anyone? — and you are likely to have plenty of positive relationships at your old place of employment that are worth preserving. There are a few things you can do to make your transition a little better.
1. Skip the theatrics
The fact that you’re moving on to a new employer is not an excuse to engage in theatrics. I worked with one otherwise brilliant man who took the moment of his resignation as an opportunity to explain at length the faults of our employer. Aside from burning a few bridges, he ensured that the two weeks’ notice he gave turned into two weeks of sheer misery. Constructive criticism is not out of line, but there is a time and a place for it — an exit interview is usually the best choice. But theatrics can span a wide variety of actions. It seems like every employee bears some hard feelings towards a supervisor — but all in all, try to leave it at the statement that you and your former employer were not a good fit and move on. At the very least, your resume will be healthier in the long run.
2. Write a few thank you notes
It’s not necessary to write a personal note to every person you worked with, but if you had a coworker or supervisor who particularly acted as a mentor or otherwise helped you along, take the time to thank them. People remember the little touches and if they’re dwelling on the thoughtful note you left, any small problems along the way will become so much water under the bridge.
3. Tidy up your loose ends
I’ve seen the greatest argument for leaving things organized for the next person while sitting in a waiting room: a new receptionist was obviously struggling with a mess left by her predecessor. A phone call came for that former employee and the new receptionist mentioned she had left the organization — managing to slip in a comment about how she had left the business in a difficult position. The person who comes after you will have a chance to discuss your abilities to clients, co-workers and anyone else who comes in the door. Even if you never meet your replacement, try to leave a good impression.
4. Network with your co-workers
Before you leave the office for the last time, you should have the contact information of every co-worker you plan to stay in touch with. There’s nothing wrong with making sure you connect with all of those individuals online through LinkedIn or Facebook. Hopefully, you had a good relationship with your peers: these are people who you share a common interest in your industry, who will hear of new developments and job openings and generally can be good friends to have. Personally, I’m always in favor of the farewell party: it’s a clear opportunity to exchange contact information and make sure you stay in touch. And do stay in touch — this isn’t high school, when you promised to be friends forever and didn’t talk after senior year.
5. Do something memorable on your last day
Bake cookies. Hand out farewell cards. Do something to remind your co-workers that you will no longer be occupying the next cubicle over. For some people, this sort of action can be a matter of guaranteeing that you have that great business network or reference sealed up. It’s can be just as much a matter of saying goodbye to people who you’ve spent a lot of time with, shared stresses with and connected to. You may need that little bit of closure before moving on to your next job and it can’t hurt to have a little fun on your last day.
The way you leave is likely to be the thing your supervisors and co-workers remember best about you. At the very least, it’s probably the most recent interaction you had with them. Make the effort to leave with a little style and you’ll find that not only do you have a number of unburned bridges in place, but you also have some pretty solid relationships worth maintaining. Don’t make your exit all about your resume, though. References and networks really aren’t everything. It’s equally important to make sure that you’re comfortable and happy about your transition. While making it absolutely clear to your boss what you think of him may feel good while you’re telling him off, but, honestly, it’s probably not a step you’ll be happy about when you finish.