It’s your last day on the job—just one final 8-hour stint, and then you’re off to start your fab new position, go back to grad school, or venture into a gig of your own.
So how should you spend this glorious day? Moonwalking down the hallways? Telling everyone who’s ever pissed you off what you really think? Sipping Baileys in your coffee cup and muttering “suckers” anytime your cube-mates walk by?
Tempting—but no. While counting down those final hours might seem tortuous, there’s actually a lot you need to accomplish to make a graceful exit before you leave your cubicle for good. Check out our hour-by-hour guide to your last day in the office.
Wrap Up Your Work
Ideally, you’ll wrap up all of your actual work to-dos before your final day, but you still should plan to spend a couple of hours in the morning tying up any loose ends (and there will be loose ends). Most importantly, if you’re transitioning projects or duties to your other team members, check in with each of them, make sure they’re completely up to speed on their assignments, and answer any final questions they have.
This will not only help your department to continue running smoothly in your absence, it will prevent people from calling you in a panic next week (yes, it happens).
Collect Your Contacts
Your co-workers, clients, vendors, anyone you’ve done business with—they're all part of your professional network, and people you’ll likely want to stay in touch with in the future. So, if you aren’t already connected outside of work, spend time going through your contacts and reaching out to them on LinkedIn. You can also export your Outlook contacts to Excel so you’ll have them saved for the future.
Wipe Your Computer
Once you’ve transitioned your projects, it’s time to clean house on your computer. First, put all of your work documents that would be useful to your team on a shared drive, and let your co-workers know where to find them. Then, make sure you save to a USB drive or email yourself any files that could be even remotely useful for your future—either to help you do your next job, or as work samples. (I know you don’t want to think about that 90-page annual report ever again, but trust me—when you’re interviewing again, you will.) Also save any important emails—like great feedback from your boss or colleagues—that you may want to reference again in the future.
Once you have what you need, do a clean sweep of everything else. Trash your personal documents (and then empty the Trash), clear your browsing history, and otherwise make sure your digital slate is wiped clean.
After a long morning, go to lunch with your office mates. Hey, you’re probably not going to see these guys for a while!
Do an Exit Interview
Exit interviews are par for the course at many companies, but if you don’t get one, ask for it. This is usually the time that HR will give you any final paperwork, share information on continued health insurance, and solicit your feedback on what it was like to work for the organization.
The key here is to be honest, but also to be as positive as possible. If the place resembled Office Space, no, you don’t have to pretend it was all rainbows and butterflies, but do position anything you say as constructive feedback that you wouldn’t mind getting back to your boss. (Because it probably will.)
Prepare for Takeoff
If you want to keep your professional reputation in tact, you’ll want to make sure that none of your co-workers or clients are ever left hanging. So, change your voice mail to let any callers know that you’re no longer with the company, and who to contact in your absence. Also set up an auto-response on your email that does the same.
Then, send your good-bye emails. If you haven’t already, send a mass email to everyone you work (BCC, of course) announcing your departure and letting them know the best point of contact moving forward. Follow that up with more personal emails to your immediate team, to your work friends, and to each of your supervisors or subordinates, thanking them for the opportunity and letting them know that you enjoyed working with them.
Pack Your Bags
It’s best to wait to start packing your literal bags until the end of the day (unless you have a large office full of belongings). Grab your work samples, picture frames, and personal belongings, and get them ready to go. Then return your keys, ID card, computer, and any other company-provided items you still have to your boss. (I know giving back your brand new BlackBerry is painful. Do it anyway.)
Yes, you should stay until closing time (they are paying you for a full day, after all). But once you’ve wrapped everything up, said your good-byes, and finalized your transition, you’re done! If you’re leaving a job or co-workers you love, this can definitely be an emotional time, but your last day is also cause for celebration—it’s the beginning of your next step. Congrats!
Photo courtesy of Richard Moross.
Adrian was The Muse’s very first employee (ask her about the early days!) who built the Muse editorial team from the ground up. Then, as Editor-at-Large, she launched new content products and shared expert career advice with Muse audiences online and off. When she’s not Musing, you’ll find her planning her next dinner party or international vacation. Say hi on Twitter and Instagram.More from this Author