Here are six things you can do to make sure you leave your job on good terms while making a strong impression on your colleagues and expanding your professional network.
Ask your manager and coworkers what you can help with before you go
I was let go during the third round of layoffs that year. Earlier the same year, in the second round of layoffs, a very reliable coworker (let’s call him Jim) was let go. They gave him the bad news in the morning, and told him he had until the end of the day to clear everything out and wrap things up. He immediately emailed my boss and me—he had been supporting us on that special project—to let us know he had been let go. But, more importantly, he also told us he was working to give us credentials to all the servers, databases, folders, etc., that we would need to take everything off his plate. He even put together a document with passwords, URLs, network addresses, instructions, etc. He left us a full manual to use once he was gone.
He didn’t have to do that. He could’ve just said, “Well, I guess that’s it for me,” powered down his laptop and signed off for the day. No one would’ve faulted him for just clocking out and leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves. Instead, he took care to make sure his coworkers had everything they needed to continue his projects in his absence.
But that’s not the end of the story. A few years later, a friend of mine heard that Jim was looking for a job and had applied to her company. “Do you remember Jim? He’s looking for work and just applied at my company. What do you think?” I said, “Hire him immediately!” Then I told her the story I just told you. Jim had been very good at his job, but he had also demonstrated exceptional character and reliability in the worst of circumstances. He’s working for my friend’s company now and he’s a superstar.
Document the projects you’re working on to prepare your successor
The best anecdote I have for this one is the same one I just shared with you. Jim is the prototype here—do what he did.
Bundle up relevant documentation, emails, etc., and save them somewhere others can get to them
In 2014, I decided it was time for a change, and I moved on to a new company and a new opportunity. Before I left, I found out who would be replacing me on each of my projects, and I sent them a .zip file with everything they would need to know about the projects they were inheriting. I sent them documentation, relevant email trails, specs, files—anything they might need after I was gone. I wanted to make sure the clients I had worked with would perceive the transition to be silky smooth.
A few months later, I heard through the grapevine that one of my old projects was having some trouble. Nobody could find the contract and statement of work, and they needed those documents to resolve some discrepancies between the client’s and company’s interpretation of the project’s scope.
I had worked on that project for a year, but it pre-dated me by about 18 months. When I first inherited it, I ran into similar issues locating the contract, statement of work, and other documentation describing our responsibilities and deliverables for the project. So I spent a Saturday morning looking for all that documentation and bundling it up.
“I sent all that stuff to Ben before I left. Tell him to look for an email from me in March. There should be a big .zip file attached to it, and the client’s name is in the subject. The contract and SOW are in that .zip file.” A few days later, I got word that everything was there, just like I said. If I hadn’t sent that .zip file, that information may have been lost forever. I saved the company a lot of grief and managed to bolster my reputation at the same time.
Even if your company already has everything stored in the cloud, you can still put together a single document that points to everything your successor will need.
Make sure to quickly return all your equipment in good shape
If your company loaned you a laptop, mobile phone, headset, monitor, keyboard, printer, iPad or other equipment, make sure you ask what you need to return, and how you can return it. Many companies will tell you to just keep some stuff (especially printers), but don’t assume you should keep anything. Assume you should return everything, and only keep things they explicitly tell you to keep.
And think about the IT person who will receive that box. Don’t just randomly throw a bunch of stuff in there and ship it. Be sure to include a Post-It with your laptop password, your mobile phone PIN, and other bits of information they may need to access those devices and reset them. Ask yourself, “If I had to open this box and process all this stuff, how would I want it to be packaged?” and do that.
Reach out to your closest coworkers before you leave to make sure they’re part of your network
You should also reach out to your closest coworkers—the ones you would IM to make snarky jokes when something funny happened—and personally tell them that you’re leaving. They may feel slighted if they don’t hear from you, and you want to leave on the best possible terms.
While you’re reaching out to your closest coworkers, make sure you have their personal contact information so you can keep in touch. They may be the ones who find a big opportunity for you later on, and you want to make sure they can find you when they do. Your network is one of your most valuable assets when it comes to finding good opportunities, and this is a great chance to extend it before you leave.
Reach out to your colleagues to say goodbye and share your contact information
This is a pretty standard practice nowadays. Usually, people put together an email to their team, or practice, or department, tell them it was great working them, they’ll be missed, and to reach out if they ever need anything. This is about 50% genuine and 50% networking.
The genuine part is that you’re giving your former coworkers a way to find you if they run into an issue with one of your old responsibilities. The networking part is that you’re sharing your name, email address and phone number so that your coworkers have your contact info in case they find an awesome job you would be right for.
Here’s a short example you can use to say goodbye and make sure your former coworkers know how to find you if they need to. This is a real email—slightly modified—that I sent when I left a great job in 2015.
To: ACME Corp—Consulting Practice
CC: Josh Doody <[email protected]> [personal email address]
Subject: See you around!
Today is my last day working with this amazing team at this amazing company. It has been a pleasure working with all of you, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to work with such a great team of experts. The amount of talent in this group is really astounding.
I've been in this industry for almost 10 years now, and I've learned that this is a very tight-knit industry where I continuously bump into old friends. I'm sure we'll cross paths again, and that's very comforting given how great this team is.
If you ever need anything or have any questions for me about any of my projects or responsibilities please reach out and ask. Don't spin your wheels trying to figure something out when you could just email me for a quick answer!
And of course, please stay in touch and feel free to reach out at any time to say hello.
My personal email address is: [email protected]
I'm on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshdoody
Thank you for this tremendous opportunity, and for making this such a fantastic place to work!
All the best