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Changing workplaces: Heading out the door with grace

By Beth Braccio Hering,
Keep a positive position with your employer. You might want to return to that workplace when a new opportunity arises.
Keep a positive position with your employer. You might want to return to that workplace when a new opportunity arises.
  • Leave a positive impression long after your cubicle is empty
  • Ask your boss how the organization would prefer to communicate your departure
  • Offer to help train a replacement and wrap up as many loose ends as possible
  • Thank those at the company who were particularly supportive or helpful
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( -- You've just received an offer from a new employer and can't wait to announce your good fortune, pack up your desk and get out the door ASAP.

Yet while your excitement is understandable, don't let it get in the way of making a proper exit -- one that will leave a positive impression long after your cubicle is empty.

Tell the boss first

First, avoid a possible reputation disaster by holding your tongue until your job change is absolutely a sure thing. According to Lizandra Vega, author of "The Image of Success: Make a Great Impression and Land the Job You Want," this is after your offer has been confirmed with a salary (compensation package) and start date.

Then, go to your boss as soon as possible.

"You don't want to take the chance that he will unexpectedly find out about your planned change from someone else either within or outside your company. It's best to have this news come directly from you," states John C. Robak, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Greeley and Hansen, a leading national niche firm headquartered in Chicago that specializes in innovative engineering solutions.

"The appropriate thing to do is to submit a formal notice in writing to your supervisor or manager informing him that you are resigning from your current position."

As a courtesy before spreading the news yourself, Robak suggests asking your employer how the organization would prefer to communicate your departure to co-workers. Also inquire as to what should be said to clients or customers.

This can help avoid embarrassing situations, such as introducing a co-worker as the new contact person and later finding out that the boss had someone else in mind. The perils of badmouthing your boss

Use your last two weeks wisely

In most industries, it remains standard to give an employer a two-week notice before leaving.

Use this time to make your departure as smooth as possible by:

• Offering to help train a replacement.

• Getting co-workers up-to-speed on your current projects or accounts.

• Wrapping up as many loose ends as possible.

• Leaving detailed notes about specifics such as passwords or the location of information. (Bonus: You won't have to field calls at your new workplace from a former co-worker frantic to find the key to the filing cabinet.)

• Cleaning out your work space. Jobs before they were president

Prepare for the exit interview

Many employers will tap an employee who is leaving for an exit interview. While it may be tempting to see this meeting as the opportunity to voice all your gripes about the company, experts suggest preparing for the exchange beforehand and handling it tactfully.

"You may be tempted to unload, pour your heart out or simply vent about what a witch your boss was. Don't do this," cautions Elizabeth Freedman, author of "Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself" and "The MBA Student's Job-Seeking Bible."

"Even if the HR rep seems sympathetic, this is risky for you and your reputation. Bite your lip if you must, but don't, repeat, don't turn your exit interview into drama or a work-bashing session."

Adds Robak, "I would certainly encourage an employee to be honest, keeping in mind that the exit interview is an opportunity to provide constructive criticism that could be beneficial to the company. However, it's important to remain professional throughout the interview and to provide responses that will help the company understand your motivations for leaving. You should also provide feedback about what you feel the company has done well. Remember that this final interview with a boss or human resources professional may become their lasting impression of you." Help! My boss is flirting with me

Offer thanks and exchange contact info

Heading out in a favorable light should be high on your departure "to do" list. "It is very important to keep a positive position with your old employer. You may need their reference in years ahead, so you want to stay in their good graces," Vega states.

Likewise, it isn't unusual to leave one employer for another -- only to want to return to that workplace later on when a new opportunity arises. Bridges burned now could be disastrous down the line.

Take a moment before leaving to thank those at the company who mentored you or were particularly supportive or helpful. Exchange contact information to facilitate keeping in touch.

You never know who you might want to turn to for help or advice down the line. And if you've secured a positive place in their memory through your actions before heading out the door, you'll be able to approach them again with confidence.

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