Your hard work has paid off and you’re now ready to take on your next career opportunity – congratulations! All that is left to do is to tie things up at your current gig.
Every career girl should know that leaving an organization is an opportunity to demonstrate personal integrity. The way in which you leave your job can strengthen your personal brand within your organization, give others an idea of your own personal standard of excellence, and show management that you have an understanding of the importance of succession planning. All of these combined will be the difference between getting a “so-so” reference and a “glowing” reference.
The best practices listed in this article are from my own personal experience in leaving my job to pursue full-time MBA studies. If you want to leave your job on amazing terms that will guarantee you a glowing reference, plan to do these six things before your last day:
1. Make a training binder
Every job conducts processes that not everyone – even your manager – will know how to do. So, create a training binder for the next person who will assume your role. After you leave, the training binder will act as a self-led training tool that will save your department training time and resources. The best time to prepare this is when you know you will have down-time; for example, the first 30 minutes of your day before everyone else arrives to work.
Another optional accompaniment to your training binder is a Gantt chart that outlines a list of tasks and their due dates in the short-term after you leave. This will both give your manager a visual tool of your tasks and their due dates (which is super helpful for task delegation), and help the new hire get up to speed with the rhythm of your job. Here is a downloadable template of the Gantt chart I used, and this is what it looked like when I handed it off:
2. Give notice
Giving as much advance notice as possible will begin your departure preparation off in good spirits for everyone. I knew my plans well in advance prior to leaving my last job, and because of that, I was able to give three months notice. I concluded my resignation letter with:
“In giving three months notice, it is my intention to fully support the XYZ department throughout the transition of my responsibilities. I look forward to assisting you in preparation for a smooth transition just as my experience at Company XYZ has prepared me for a smooth transition into my next chapter.”
Including a closing statement similar to the above tells the reader that you act with intention, that you are cognizant of the impact your impending departure has, and that you go above and beyond to guarantee the success of your department after you leave. Once your letter is submitted, it’s reasonable to assume – and, frankly, silly not to assume – that your scheduled departure will increase your workload during your remaining weeks. Take note!
The above concluding statement can be written into any resignation letter that gives a minimum of two weeks notice. Plan to use this in conjunction with the other best practices on this list – especially #1 and #3.
3. Prioritize your projects with your manager
Shortly after you give notice, arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss projects and tasks that require completion. Bring a prioritized list to this meeting and expect to work with your manager to adjust this list to meet the needs of your department. You should also plan how you will keep your manager up-to-date with your progress (a shared worksheet, a weekly or bi-weekly chat, a scheduled progress email, etc).
During my last few weeks, I also helped some of my colleagues with their work if they needed it. I felt that this enhanced the existing rapport I had with them, and gave the impression that I was not slowing down and/or checking out of my job early.
4. Conduct informational interviews with your references and with people of interest in your organization
Informational interviews will unlock helpful career insight and could connect you with future opportunities; and right up until your last day, you have immediate access to the insights locked inside the incredible minds that work alongside you. Start by carefully selecting 2-3 individuals whom you’d like to interview about their careers, prepare your interview questions, and arrange a time to meet. I’ve made a detailed step-by-step guide on how to ask for an informational interview here.
In general, inviting someone for an informational interview shows that you take care with and take control over your career research. Informational interviews are also an introduction into the career mentor relationship if that is something you’d like to develop with one of your interviewees.
Time permitting, regardless of whether or not you’d like to invite them to an informational interview, you should meet with your manager to go over any feedback they have for you. Implementing their recommendations before you leave will show that you take feedback well and are coachable. This is a 10/10 move, especially if your manager will be one of your future references.
5. Prepare for your exit interview
Your exit interview is your last chance to talk about the upsides and downsides of working at your organization. The upsides will be easy to talk about. The downsides? Maybe a little more difficult. Ace your exit interview by:
- Preparing suggestions for improvements to any downsides you discuss. This way, you avoid coming off as a complainer; and,
- ask for your exit interview questions ahead of time. Your HR department will appreciate that you are preparing for the interview by organizing your perceptions into the most thoughtful, most thorough feedback possible.
Research common exit interview questions if you are unable to get yours before your interview. You can start with these:
- What are your job ideals and how well did your employer meet them? Think about your employee benefits, your ability to work from home, traveling for work, etc.
- What do you like about the organization?
- How well does the organization communicate its values to its employees?
- What do you wish you could change about the culture of the organization?
- What do you like about working with your team? What do you wish you could improve within your team?
- How well were you supported in your career development?
- What could the organization have done to make you stay?
Don’t underestimate your exit interview. What you discuss in this meeting, and what suggestions you bring forth, could have a positive impact on your friends and colleagues who still work at the company.
6. Send a goodbye email
Lastly, I like to send a department-wide – or organization-wide – “goodbye” email to everyone that I worked with. The format of these is simple. Start by briefly stating what it feels like to leave, thanking your colleagues for the time you spent working with them, including that you will take the valuable experiences lived and apply them to future situations, and then conclude by offering to stay in touch via LinkedIn. Don’t forget to include your LinkedIn profile URL if you offer to stay in touch this way.