The Way You Leave A Job

The Way You Leave A Job Is As Important As The Way You Start One

The way we leave a job is as important as the way we begin one. Often there so much excitement about beginning a new position that you have mentally left your present job before beginning the new responsibilities with your new employer. While the excitement is understandable, it is not professional. It is essential to complete all tasks before leaving one job to begin another; the way you tie up loose ends often says more about your professionalism than anything else you may have done during your tenure with the non-profit organization.

Having received the offer for the new position is a very exciting time and anyone who has been through this process knows what it feels like to be excited not only about having been offered the job but also by the anticipation of beginning new responsibilities. During the interview process, and as negotiations become serious, we often feel the adrenaline running through our veins. We become excited about taking on the challenges, solving new problems, and supervising and or building a staff team at the new agency. We cannot wait to begin the new job, and we tend to feel more distant from the role we play in our present position.

As each day goes by we feel more and more like we wish the transition was over and we were already at the new organization. Occasionally it may be possible to take a break between jobs and to give ourselves the opportunity to wind down from one before beginning another. Either way, there are several key points we should remember and try to observe when making professional changes.

  1. Plan out how you will leave your present employer. In general it is appropriate to provide 30 days notice for professional positions and 15 days notice for an administrative support person. There are times when your employer will be willing to allow you to leave sooner and not stay the full 30 days. Your new employer should be sympathetic and understand this process because they could (and most likely have been) be in the same situation at any time. During this “wind-down” period the agenda for to-do items should be developed both by you and the agency. An agreed-upon timetable is a good guideline for what needs to be completed within the specific period.
  2. The quality of the work should be on the same level as you’re throughout your tenure with the organization. There may be a lessening of the motivation you want to invest in each of the tasks but this should be countered by a renewed spirit and in having an appreciation for what will be remembered about your performance at the agency.
  3. There should be a plan for the transition to take place and it should be clear who will have responsibility for taking over your work. It is not always known who will take over the tasks on a permanent basis and the agency may need to hire someone to take over in your place. In that situation the agency should appoint someone to respond to phone calls, e-mails and requests for service. It is the responsibility of the agency to put into place a temporary solution to the vacuum created when an employee leaves. The question should be raised as to who will cover for the employee during a period of transition. You are not responsible for solving this problem but it is certainly within the realm of your professional role to ask who you should train to deal with your tasks during the transition.
  4. It is often appropriate to summarize in writing, arrangements that have been made to deal with the interim period. The summary can be shared with appropriate staff members and volunteers who have been working with you. Once there is a written document it can be shared with other people by e-mail and appropriate messages can be placed on an automatic e-mail response and on a voice mail recording when you leave the organization. When you leave it is very important to have clear, concise, and helpful communication with others inside and outside the agency. This will alleviate the issue about people wondering what happened or who they should turn to for assistance once you are no longer working at the agency.

The staff person who plans for his transition in a thorough way is not only making things easier for the agency and its clients but also is demonstrating his professionalism until the last day on the job. In striving for the highest levels of professional practice we must think about the way we begin a job, the way we work and behave in the job, and the way we end our employment. The people we work with and those we serve will benefit as much as we will from the professionalism we demonstrate in completing our assignments in this manner and our actions and reputation will follow us throughout our professional lives.

Stephen G. Donshik, D.S.W., is a lecturer at Hebrew University’s International Leadership and Philanthropy Program and has a consulting firm focused on strengthening non-profit organizations and their leadership for tomorrow. Stephen is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.