How to Make a Good Last Impression

We put a lot of work into getting jobs–picking the right clothing, speaking politely with our potential employer, show off our best stuff in our portfolio. But what do we do when we leave a job?

Why are you leaving?

This is tricky, because there are any number of things that could result in your losing your job in the first place:

  • Layoff
  • Downsizing (job eliminated)
  • Firing
  • Finding a better position elsewhere
  • Leaving because you’re miserable where you are

Let’s assume, for the purpose of this blog post, that you have not died, that you have not been fired, and that you have some time between your absolute knowledge that your job is finished and actually leaving the organization.

What you can do about it

Leave your ego at the door

You might have some very hard feelings about your departure–toward your management, peers, or the job itself. Try to leave those feelings at the door. Coworkers are often well aware of your circumstances. Showing up at the office grumpy, angry, or depressed doesn’t make things easier. You still need to talk to people and get things done. Which leads me to my second point…

Finish your work

There will, in fact, be some things you can get done before you leave. You need to deliver those items on time with the same quality (or better) you have demonstrated when you got the job.

Ensure an orderly handoff of tasks you won’t complete

For the tasks you have on your plate, you need to take the time to hand them off to whoever is going to handle them. This includes your sharing your current progress, what remains to be done, who needs to receive it, when it’s due, and what is the priority level.

Train your replacement

It is entirely possible that your job is being eliminated and that you will have to educate the fresh-out-of-college trainee who is replacing you. You owe it to yourself (not the trainee, not the company) to pass on whatever useful knowledge others will need to do your job effectively. Legally, I’m not certain companies are even allowed to ask you to help after you leave a job. Assume that they don’t and that you need to pass on whatever useful, critical knowledge you have to the person or people following you.

Secure a reference or two

I’m guessing that you don’t work at Initech or a crime syndicate–there should be a couple of people you can count on to speak well of you when a future employer does a reference check. That could be a supervisor or a coworker–regardless, assuming you’re keeping things cordial as you leave, there’s no harm in seeking that support as you leave.

Don’t sabotage anything or anybody

This behavior can take many forms: training your replacement incorrectly, destroying company files or materials in your possession, badmouthing your employer to customers (or on social media) while still on the job, stealing the keys off of company computers, etc. I get it: you’re angry. The Very Large Corporation of America has just screwed you out of a job you loved. You’ll be tempted to take out that anger on the company or your managers. You might even have some just cause. Don’t do it.

Why bother? I’m the one getting screwed here

The short answer here is: it demonstrates class. You want (and you want others) to take yourself seriously as a professional. Of course you demonstrate that when you’re trying to make a first impression. The tougher part can be demonstrating that same level of professionalism on the way out the door.

You will have to find the next job after you leave the one you’re at now, and you want to make that transition as quick and painless as possible. Again, if you weren’t terminated for cause, your behavior on the way out the door can make a big difference as to whether you will be able to get a good reference from that employer once you’re gone.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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