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5 Things You Should Do When You Leave a Job

In: Showing my Work

Awwwwww man, super nuts month. While starting a podcast and continuing all of my other projects, while the big reorganization was happening in my org, I was contacted by a large software company. I’d resisted advances from two or three other headhunters in the past eight months, but with all of the confusion going on at work, I figured, hey, I’d like to hear what they have to say. And I did, and I got super excited! The long and the tall of it ended up being that I accepted their offer for a new position. This is pretty outside of my comfort zone, both because this new position is in private industry (which is part of why I’m excited about it; it’s important to do what scares you) and because I’ll be leaving my old-new job after only eight months. My minimum is at least a year and I like to be around at least two years. But this was too much of an opportunity to pass up. So, I had to give my notice. And with that, I made it my job to make sure that my organization had everything they need. One of the great takeaways from that awesome conversation I told you guys about was this idea of make your current organization glad they hired you and I think that applies to leaving as well. You should do everything possible to be that regretted attrition and you should leave in such a way that they wouldn’t think twice about hiring you again. With that in mind, here are some things that I try to do, when I leave a position.

Wrap-Up Step 1

Make sure that all your projects are wrapped up or, at least, that the folks involve have everything they need to continue with someone else. This part is really essential. I’ve been in the privileged position to have a good relationship just about everywhere I’ve been. So I’ve always tried to give as much notice as I can: usually around 4 weeks. But I realize that not everyone can trust their organizations not to show them the door when they say they’re moving on. Still, however you have to do it, make sure that your resignation talk with your supervisor focuses on how you can use your last weeks to help make sure that the organization has everything they need. I think that this accomplishes a couple of things. Firstly, it may well help a normally less-than-gracious org to hold their horses a bit as you are offering to help them transition successfully and leaving them on a firm footing. It will also help your supervisor and colleagues so that they aren’t thrown into the thick of things with no warning and no documentation. You may make a connection or two! I spent my last couple of weeks meeting with collaborators on all of the projects I worked on and asking what more they needed from me.

Wrap-Up Step 2

Organize your files and put them somewhere that your boss and collaborators can find them. Naturally, the next step, once you’ve made any requested changes or updates, you should make triply sure that your supervisor and colleagues know where and how to find all the files they need. In my org, we happen to have Box so I organized all of my files there and shared the necessary links with all of my collaborators, including my supervisor. The folders were organized by project and then, within that, they were organized appropriately for the project. For example on one of my projects, the client wanted the assets organized in terms of the week they appeared in. In another project, I organized the projects around versions of the code that I had written. At my previous workplace, we didn’t have a box, but I still organized all of my files and put them on a flash drive and gave them to my supervisor. I also made sure I was available by email to answer any questions she had about certain assets a week or two later. Talk with stakeholders and collaborators. Ask them what would help them in organizing assets for a particular project. And then, do that!

Wrap-Up Step 3

Create ReadMe’s or some kind of documentation about the projects that you were working on so people have context about what you were doing and why. While you’re organizing your files, I think it’s important to try and tell the story of the project. What things were you able to accomplish? What did you make? What were your takeaways about the process? Are their any suggestions you might make for the future? For example, when I created folders and organized my files, I put a ReadMe in each folder that summed up the history of the project, what files were there, any work that might still need to be accomplished, and any lessons learned I could think of. Why do this? It’s another way you add value on your way out the door. Not only do the necessary people have access to your files but they also have the context, they have the history so that they can have a better understanding of the work that you did and the improvements you made. You are creating sustainability documentation. As an added bonus, thinking about this and writing it up for your projects, you can also take bits and pieces, sound bites that you can add to your resume and/or LinkedIn profile. It can be super tough remembering all that you did one or two or three months down the line. Take the time to review your work and lessons learned before you leave and save them somewhere for yourself to pull on in future conversations.

Wrap-Up Step 4

Get all your stuff off your computer (and ask for permission to list project credits in your portfolio). This may go without saying but it’s rather important to consider. Of course, the sane and safe thing is not to have any personal files on your work computer, but, between you and me that never happens. So be sure that you have a way to get your stuff of the computer. Having a big enough personal dropbox or some flash drives handy is all it takes. Be sure to follow any rules and not take anything that you aren’t supposed to. Some orgs may be rather finicky about you having copies of the work that you did. It makes sense from the org’s POV. I’ve heard some horror stories. Because you may never be able to access the work you did for an org, this wrap-up is also a good time to ask permission to take screenshots (or whatever) for your portfolio. Offer to scrub whatever necessary information from the screenshots. Let them know that you aren’t revealing any proprietary or secret information. They may say no. So far, all of my orgs have said yes. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Wrap-Up Step 5

Put out the call to connect with your colleagues before you move on. Do this step. Before you leave, in whatever way sanctioned by your employer (for us, we send out an email) tell your colleagues that you’re leaving, thank them for your time together, and let them know where they can connect with you. You don’t have to force that on anyone. Just put it out there. And you may be surprised with what you get back!

What about You?

Have any tips on how to leave an organization better than you found it? Let me know in the comments!