It can be said that a person’s exit makes a far bigger (and lasting!) impression than their entrance. In both personal and professional situations, I must say that I’ve always found myself firmly in this camp. And while my husband hasn’t always agreed with me (can you say life of the party!?!), I’ve always had great success when I’ve timed my exits to leave folks “wanting more.”
While professional exits were once rare, in our current business environment, they are plentiful. Regardless of the reasons, most of us will change jobs from 5-20 times in our lives. Now that’s a lot of Exits, Resumes, CSV’s and Interviews! If you’ve ever wondered how to gracefully exit your current job while getting your former employer to leave the proverbial door open, then these tips are for you:
- Timing is Everything. If you want your employer to welcome you back with open arms, your exit simply has to be well-timed. As a rule of thumb, make sure your exit doesn’t cripple them. So don’t leave in the middle of a major project, or while the office is short-staffed due to vacations/surgeries and the like. And if you really want to leave the door ajar, give your employer the option to be a part of the “discussion” on the scheduling of your departure.
- Be a Star. News flash-bosses rarely worry about average employees leaving and almost never campaign for their return. So, if the possibility of a return to a former employer is important to you, then it’s important to be a rock star. Not sure what it takes to be a top performer at work? Check out, "7 Ways to be Indispensable to your Boss."
- Work til the End. There’s not much simpler in theory; however difficult in application than the concept of staying engaged and productive until your final day. Look, I know first-hand how exciting it is to have a new venture just waiting for you as soon as you fulfill the notice you gave your existing employer. But I also know that they are still paying you and have every right to expect results for their investment. And if you want the door open for your triumphant return, just remember, what you do/don’t produce in your final few weeks is likely the last thing they will remember about you.
- Stay in Touch. We all know the importance of networking, yet many people take contacts at previous employers for granted. If you truly enjoyed the atmosphere and would be open to working there again, make sure to nurture the relationships you built once you’ve left. The reality is that before bringing you back, typically others will be asked their opinion about you, your work and the possibility of your return. Basically, you want to maintain enough contact that they remember you and would give a resounding thumbs up. The connection can be physical or via social media but just remember you’re aiming for the “Oh, too bad Sally’s gone. She would have been great at this.” Vs. “Sally who?”
- No Surprises. While surprises might be fun in your personal life, most of us hate them at work. And if the thought of returning to your current employer is intriguing, then it’s important you strive for complete adoption to the “no surprises” mentality. This covers everything from accuracy in your work, to leaving good notes that help others during the transition to cleaning the food out of your desk!
- Tell your Boss First. Admittedly there are many different ways to announce your exit. But if you think a return appearance is a possibility (and realistically isn’t it always?!?), don’t tell HR directly or share your plans with your BF at work before talking to your boss. While these other paths can all be effective at spreading the word and moving you towards the door, only direct conversation with your boss first leaves the door open for your return. It’s vitally important that your boss hear your plans before he hears them anywhere else. News travels faster than imaginable and as mentioned above, no one likes surprises…especially your boss.
- Dance carefully in the Exit Interview. While not every company completes exit interviews, they are growing in popularity. If you are afforded the opportunity (or required) to share your thoughts upon leaving your employer, it’s important to recognize the delicacy of the situation. Regardless of what you may be told by HR, you should expect that your exit interview will be shared with your direct supervisor and their supervisor. Needless to say, while speaking negatively about management may feel like vindication during your exit, it can also completely close the possibility of a triumphant return. If there is ANY chance that your paths will cross with this boss again (and realistically isn’t there always?!?), focus your comments on the positive aspects of the company and leadership. Bottom line: Strive to be as professional on the way out as you were on the way in!
- Say Thank You. Unfortunately, we often take things (and people!) for granted. While I certainly understand the excitement for your next venture, it’s important to acknowledge the experience you gained and the fact that it likely prepared you to take the next step in your career. Don’t skip the chance to let your former leadership know you appreciated the opportunities and perhaps even their management style. It may be a simple note on your last day or you may wait until you’ve been at your new employer for a month or two before sending a handwritten note to express your appreciation. Regardless, always remember that people like to be told “thank you.” Many of your colleagues will skip this critical step so it’s an easy chance for you to move ahead.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you think your first or last day on a job is the most important?