So you’re changing jobs. That’s exciting! You’ve probably realized you need to have an internal succession plan—but in addition, you also should spend a good amount of time preparing your external communications plan. That is, how you’re going to announce the move to your network, industry, and the world.
Why? Well, it’s a great chance to talk about your new and former employers, frame your accomplishments in the best way possible, and position your move as the exciting news that it is—all important parts of building your brand.
I recently left JESS3, a data visualization firm I co-founded in 2006, to join the founding team of Guide, a tech startup focused on turning online news and social streams into video, and I just went through this process myself. Here are the sequential strategies I found useful.
Don’t Leave Digital Crumbs Before You’re Ready to Announce
First things first: Don’t give any clues of your departure on your social media profiles before you’re actually ready to announce it. While it may seem obvious not to check in on foursquare when you’re out interviewing for a new job, you should also avoid friending, following, or Linking-In with your potential new boss and teammates. While it may be tempting to stay in touch or follow up via social media, keep it to email—or better yet, a handwritten note.
Why be so paranoid? As Jay-Z famously said: “The streets is watching.” Any swarm of new friends or connections would have surely tipped my hand early. So, only when the news that I joined Guide was finally public (months after I accepted the job) did I finally friend my new team.
Develop a “Launch Sequence”
This is commonly used lingo for rolling out a new product—but let’s face it, in today’s world, you and your brand are just as much a “product” as a new app or pair of sneakers. So you need to have a well-laid-out plan that is tightly sequenced around the when, what, and where (more details on all of this in a bit):
- When you’re going make your announcement. This should be timed down to the minute, as information will quickly spread and you want to own the message as much as possible.
- What you want to convey (or “talking points,” in media training speak).
- Where you will make the announcement—which will require you to take stock of every single social media profile you have ever owned. Your core social profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are no-brainers. But remember that time you signed up for SlideShare and AngelList? Yep, you need to update your information there and there, too.
Announce Your Departure, Then Pause, Then Announce Your New Role
I recommend first creating a stand-alone announcement about your departure that pays homage to your team and now former employer—then a separate announcement detailing your new role. There are no hard or fast rules about duration between announcing you’ve left and what you are doing next, but do try to give it a little bit of breathing room. It is not only respectful to both companies, but it also builds some suspense and interest about what’s coming next.
I went seven weeks in between thanking and saluting the JESS3 team and announcing at Guide. A similar approach, but shorter timeframe, was executed by my good friend Joe Chernov, who thanked and saluted Eloqua on a Friday and then announced his new role at Kinvey that following Monday.
Here are a few things to consider when drafting your first post:
- Show reverence and gratitude: Think about what you are going to miss the most and what you enjoyed the most, and make this the focus. It’s the classy thing to do and will make everyone involved feel good.
- Keep it positive: No matter what terms you’re leaving on, never go negative. If you find that you cannot show reverence and gratitude, then keep it short and neutral (“I am leaving X today and am excited to share what is next!”).
- Include timing: If you are going to have a space between your departure and your new gig, make sure to share this so that you can build suspense, while also ensuring people won’t be checking in with you on an hourly basis.
The sequence for your departure post should look like this:
- Anchor the information on your blog or a Tumblr post.
- At the same time, share it out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Point back to the post as you email friends, family, and colleagues.
Then, put together your “new gig” post. Along similar lines, you should be positive and show your excitement about what’s next. You’ll also want to link back to the “departure” post for context.
Update Your Title on All Your Social Profiles (At the Same Time)
Once you’ve made both announcements, get ready to update your profiles across the web. Open a tab in your browser for every social profile you own, then, one right after another, paste all the new information in the correct fields, triple check it is correct, and then fire away. I highly recommend listening to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture Finale while you are doing this—the build and the cymbals really make you feel like you are doing something monumental. Because for you and your career, you are!
Note: If you are like me and are planning on taking some time off, you should put a placeholder on your social profiles. For me, it was saying that I was going to be the COO for a startup in stealth mode—for you it might be that you are going to be a Director at a technology company or that you’re an entrepreneur.
Consider a Media Outreach Plan
Depending on your role, industry, and seniority, engaging the media around the news of your move might make sense. How do you go about reaching out to reporters? Unless you are entering the C-Suite at a Fortune 500 company, I recommend doing all of your own outreach. Who better to talk about what’s next for you than, well, you?
Target blogs and news sites in your industry and outlets that cover “people on the move” type news, making sure to align your pitch to the right reporter in your region and area of expertise. Although there are no real rules regarding what qualifies you for being “coverage-worthy,” having 8-10 years of experience or having been recognized for a significant contribution to your industry would be a good benchmark.
This is also a good time to go after a guest post or two to talk about your move and share insights (just like I am doing here! #meta). Don’t be discouraged if there aren’t a lot of “bites” on your pitch, as reporters are incredibly busy and your news might not yet be big enough for them to cover. But don’t worry, someday it will be.
Brace Yourself for When the Updates Hit Your Social Graph
In my experience, not only are you spreading the news, but your network will be, too, as your updates are liked, retweeted, and shared. As the news spreads like wildfire, be ready for an inbound wave of interest, questions and, perhaps the best part: a bunch of congrats. In all the planning I did, I never planned for the outpouring of positivity—and it was the greatest feeling in the world.