Preparing for a Graceful Exit to Begin Life at a New Firm
“When is your last day again?”
This is a question that you will hear when you are preparing to leave your current employer and transition to a new employer. It probably feels a little weird to be asked that question because it makes you feel as if they want you to leave.
I’ve seen this creep up on candidates that I work with. Often, they are caught up in the excitement of their new role, and do not spend time planning their exit. And once they are on their way out, they’re facing immediate and personal uncertainties that result in them not paying attention to transitioning their clients and matters.
So hopefully, when you are planning to join a new employer, you are also asking yourself: “What is going to happen to my clients and matters?”—and not waiting until you are on your way out. This is the best way to exit gracefully, and on good professional terms.
The exit process consists of a mix of clearing conflicts, moving out of the office, notifying colleagues and employers, and peacefully transferring your responsibilities. A whole new set of “exit stress” that you probably did not anticipate.
Your current employer and colleagues have to plan their futures without you—on top of their current responsibilities. To maintain a positive relationship through this transition (and well after it), it is important that you communicate clearly with clients, your team, and firm to avoid client concerns, miscommunication, and workload.
Clients and staff care when you leave—particularly if you developed a reputation as a reliable member of the team. The factors pushing you to leave aside, understand that this industry is built upon relationships, and the time you invest in ensuring a peaceful transition will support your professional reputation after you leave.
Here are the tips that I share to ensure a graceful exit:
The time to plan a graceful exit begins when you are looking for another position. This includes setting a target date (even if hypothetical) that will be your last day, and at what pace you will transfer your current responsibilities. From there, you can decide whom to delegate tasks to.
Connect your contacts.
Consider the client matters that you work the most on, and list the external contacts you engage with the most. Make sure that someone on your team knows of the matter, and that you properly introduce your “successor” to the external contact. Clients want reassurance that this change does not affect their business. Determine what you need to convey to reinforce your confidence in your team.
Look at matters on your calendar, especially those with sensitive deadlines. Thoughtfully explain your reasoning and whatever practical resources you have that underly those matters. Communicate the status of your tasks, and the relationship between the task with the project (or client matter). Be sure that your team fully understands and can articulate these plans to others. The clearer you can delegate your deadlines, the less internal stress and bitterness will remain.
Stay in touch with your colleagues.
You never know where they will move on to next and when you might need to lean on them—again, social networks are vital to our success. Nurturing the social network from your former employer strengthens your overall professional network. More importantly—it’s the right thing to do.