Building Bridges: Making a Graceful Exit From a Job
November 2004 – Katherine Spencer Lee
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Great news! You have landed a coveted IT manager position at an expanding company. You’re looking forward to your new role, but before you check out from your current job–both physically and mentally–it’s important to make sure you’re following proper etiquette.
The way you handle yourself during your transition can greatly impact your career. Those with whom you work–including potential references–will take note if you act inappropriately or negatively, and the word can spread quickly. You never know when you might work with some of these individuals again in the future or if you’ll return to the company in a different role later in your career. So, it’s important to leave on positive terms. Here are some tips that will help ensure a graceful transition.
Give Adequate Notice
If you are unhappy in your current position, it can be tempting to make a quick exit. You may be upset that you were never thanked for your hard work on a server upgrade, or perhaps you struggled in an uphill battle for funding for your IT projects. However, despite any issues you may have, it is always best to take the high road and give at least two weeks’ notice. You’ll reinforce your professionalism and allow adequate time for management to prepare for your departure.
Be Ready for the Response
Before you hand in your resignation, take time to think about your supervisor’s likely reaction to the news. Counteroffers are common, as companies strive to retain valued IT professionals, so consider your answer in advance. Evaluate the critical factors in your decision to leave, so you know what conditions, if any, might persuade you to stay.
Also, don’t be surprised if you are asked to leave immediately once you resign. Some organizations choose to take this approach to help protect confidentiality and maintain morale in the group, particularly when employees plan to join a competitor.
Stay Focused on the Job
Use your final weeks to complete projects, organize your work and provide a status report to your supervisor. Create a brief guide to your position that can be used by your successor. For example, you might note the hardware and software vendors with whom you have established relationships and the typical approval process for IT purchases. Inform key contacts of your upcoming departure and let them know who will be your interim or full-time replacement.
Don’t Pack Too Quickly
Before you remove items such as computer disks, books, files or brochures from the office, ask for approval from your manager. The last thing you want is to be accused of stealing, which can not only look bad professionally, but also have legal ramifications if the information you take is considered intellectual property. Also, avoid discarding any information before receiving guidance from your supervisor.
Watch What You Say
This is not the time to point out that certain company policies are misguided. While you should be honest during the exit interview and explain any important issues, maintain as positive a tone as possible. Remember, you never know when you might run into former colleagues again or require their assistance. The manager you complained lacked sufficient technical expertise for his job may end up working for the same employer as you a few years from now.
Offer thanks to your supervisor and co-workers for their support during your tenure with the firm. Provide contact information should they need to reach you after your departure.
Finally, try to budget some extra time for a vacation or a short break before you begin your new position. This will help you to recharge and renew your enthusiasm so you can hit the ground running at your next job.
The right attitude is critical to building bridges–and not burning them–as you get ready to assume a new position. Provide sufficient notice to your manager, remain positive and take steps to make it as easy as possible for someone new to move into your role. You’ll help to maintain effective working relationships and ensure a smooth transitional period.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology (www.roberthalftechnology.com), a leading provider of IT professionals for various incentives, with more than 100 locations in North America and Europe.