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Leaving your job......10 top tips

19-Mar-2012

Most new jobs begin the same way - with leaving your previous job. Yet, while there's plenty of advice about how to get in the new door, or what to do in those first weeks, there's a deficit of advice regarding the equally-important requirements when leaving your old employer. Given the damaging and long-term mistakes that can be made at this vital juncture, Here, then are '10 ways to leave your employer':

1) Give good notice. It's always tempting to walk out on a job once we've found more gainful employment elsewhere. The incentives are all now beyond the door so why hang around? Indeed, in some industries you are immediately sent on 'gardening leave' to prevent you taking company secrets (or clients). But most sectors still expect you to give at least a month's notice and they'll be mightily miffed if you can't be bothered. But remember - your behaviour now says more about you than any other moment in your employment with that company. So it isn't just your reference you need to worry about (or the terms of your contract, come to that), it's your reputation. Even if your new employer pressurises you - insist on working your statutory notice period. Ultimately, your new boss will be impressed by your professionalism (and if they're not, then you should question theirs).

2) Work your notice. After your first, the most important month you'll ever work for your existing employer is your last. Refuse jobs or execute them poorly, slouch off with fake illnesses, create problems with colleagues or simply be on a go slow is the quickest way to undo all the positive work that you used to win your new employment. This is one I've learnt painfully - but being an idiot at this point will leave them happy to see the back of you. No matter why you are leaving - leave well. And, you never know...

3) Build rather than burn bridges. Indeed, this is a strong moment to build bridges between your current employer and your future career, so burning bridges is stupid in the extreme. This is a good moment to heal wounds with hostile colleagues, or repair any broken bonds around the building. You have nothing to lose by this, and everything to gain. Thinking it your chance to offload some 'home truths', meanwhile, creates the exact opposite dynamic. As for the boss, make sure he/she leaves with positive thoughts about you. Slag them off, and they'll be glad you revealed your true colours before leaving. Be nice, and they'll see the positives they noticed when employing you. And, as stated, you just never know...

4) Owed money and holidays. Don't be greedy. If you agree to work to a certain date, accept it. If you have holiday owing (pro rata) - fine, but why not give them the choice of buying it back? Many employees assume that they'll be somehow shafted in the final analysis, but they rarely are. In fact, they are usually the shafters, which is a shame. And the insistence on pushing for the max can mean that resistance builds and you get the minimum. Creating conflict for a few pennies is self-defeating in the long run. It's extremely unlikely that the wages team are out to 'get you' no matter what you think. So relax.

5) Hand over docs. If you want to leave a strong legacy then write a blinding handover document that details everything they need. It should be the most important project of your notice period. If you become difficult at this point - guarding information or writing poor instructions - then, again, it will reflect badly on you. Most will assume you were covering poor execution that's only now being revealed, which is hardly the legacy you want to leave. Meanwhile, clearly written, comprehensive and well-presented document will make your memory live on into the future.

6) Honesty and integrity. This is NOT the time to stock up on stationery or make long calls to your auntie in New Zealand. In fact, what may have once been tolerated as an unstated perk of the job will almost certainly now be seen as 'taking the micky'. So care - and integrity - is required. 

7) References. Sure, you can insist on one of those pre-written references if you worry that you'll not get a fair reference from your outgoing boss on request, but most employers see straight through them and assume there's a reason you don't trust them as a name on your CV. If you're really concerned that they'll diss you at some future date (an unlikely eventuality unless there's been a serious breakdown) then why not talk to them about it? You have nothing to lose, and it may clear the air. If they remain ungenerous then you could always find a more supportive manager as a referee.

8) The exit interview. Certainly, I've had people tell me what they think of me as they head for the door for the final time - and I always take notice of what they say. But it usually tells me more about them (like most people with high fear of failure, I tend to be well aware of my faults). Yet constructive criticism from someone first stating the positives they took from the job, and then perhaps the areas we should look at, before ending on a positive note (the classic 's**t sandwich' in other words) will always have me listening more than hurled insults. But why not be extra generous? Really emphasis the positives and minimise the negatives. Leave with them loving your positivity - again, you have nothing to lose.

9) Stay in contact. Once in the new job, quickly make contact with your old employer and let them know how you're getting on, and give them your new details (as well as a willingness to try and solve any lingering issues from the handover). Again, temper the smugness - you are now a fellow professional in the industry, so act like it. All sectors are networks of people and both you and your old boss have won a strong new contact, which will help at industry events if nowhere else. Synergies can soon be explored in all sorts of directions - a wonderful result. 

10) Sanitise your memory. When talking about your old firm, stay positive. Again, this is one I've learnt from bitter experience but if you now feel free to slag the company you'll create a bad impression of yourself and of your CV (why did you work at such an awful place for so long?). And it may get back to your old company and damage the relationship, which - again - is a pointless own goal. Why not big them up, and with it your role at the heart of their machine? If nothing else, it will help you see your time there as a positive experience.

Robert Kelsey is author of What's Stopping You? Why Smart People Don't Always Reach Their Potential and How You Can.

 

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