So you’ve just landed a new job and given your notice. All you need to do now is coast through the next few weeks, clean out your office, and maybe do an exit interview. You’re a short-timer—nobody’s going to care what you do, right?
Especially if you have a lot of specialized expertise in your department, you need to take some extra care before you say your goodbyes. After all, there are going to be big changes once you leave, with other people on your team having to pick up your tasks and continue business as usual—without your knowledge and experience to refer to.
In order to make a graceful, productive, and professional exit, here are some ways you can make your last few weeks easier on your fellow employees, boss, and direct reports.
1. Focus on the Most Important Tasks First
Think about your day-to-day tasks and those things that are mission critical for the business. In other words, what are those things you need to fix immediately if something should go wrong?
As you’re planning your departure, make sure you tackle those things first. You’ll likely want to create documentation for them (more on that in a bit), but more importantly, set up time long before you leave to name and train someone else to handle these high-priority situations. Is it your star direct report? Your supervisor? Someone from another department—at least in the interim, until your replacement arrives?
Set up as much time as you need for training on these tasks. You may even want to have another person sit in on the trainings, which will take some pressure off the trainee knowing that another set of ears is there, just in case.
2. Document, Document, Document
Yes, it’s cumbersome and boring, and it can be particularly daunting if you haven’t kept up on your documentation for the last several years. (Lesson learned: Don’t get behind next time!) However, if you’ve ever been left in an emergency situation with absolutely no documentation from a former employee, you know how awful that feels. Don’t be that person who leaves everyone high and dry.
Instead, make sure your existing documentation—everything from contact sheets to instruction manuals—is up-to-date. Then, review all of your job tasks and make sure that everything else is documented, too—are there any new processes or procedures that you’ve been following, but that you haven’t put on paper yet?
Consider creating some quick reference guides or “cheat sheets” that are easy to read and understand. Place the documents in an easy-to-find repository (such as a SharePoint site) or in a common shared file for your staff. Then, tell your employees where they are—after all, the documents will be useless if no one can find them.
3. Don’t Forget About Important Emails
If you’re anything like me, much of your important day-to-day information is kept in the recesses of your email accounts, usually hidden deep in specialized folders. (Think—the messages you’ve kept to cover yourself, the long process-related emails that remind you of important information, the back-and-forths with your clients that detail the terms of their agreements.)
Go through these folders and forward the most important emails to your replacement or back-up, and perhaps even your supervisor. Again, you don’t want any vital information to be hidden from your co-workers, and sometimes those old emails can make a big difference.
4. Wrap Up Any Loose Ends
After all of the documentation and training is finished, chances are there are still a few more details that need to be ironed out. It might be a good idea to visit each of your fellow team members one more time to make sure they have everything they need. (Just make sure you’re not doing this 10 minutes before you walk out the door!) Your colleagues will be very grateful that you took the time to answer any last-minute questions, and it’s yet another way to make them feel a little more comfortable with the transition.
5. Stay Positive
When you’re a short-timer, it may be tempting to just slack off during your last few days or weeks on the job. However, think about the last impression you may be giving your supervisor, staff, and peers. Is this really how you want them to remember you? As difficult as it may be, continue to be professional, productive and courteous, even if you’ve always dreamed of shouting some choice parting words to your office enemy. After all, you never know when you will run into these people again—and I’ve seen plenty of folks leave a company and then come back again in a few years.
Leave on a good note, thank your employer for the opportunities you were given, and keep in touch with those people who were a positive influence on your career. You’ll feel better starting a new job knowing that you did your best during the transition time.
And then—celebrate! You’re about to embark on a whole new career opportunity.