When it’s time to make your exit, the best thing you can do to further your career is exit gracefully without burning any bridges behind you. Whether you’re coming to the end of a contract, losing your job, or leaving for greener pastures, the people you’ve met along the way can be valuable resources in the future. Handling them with care and consideration is the key to building and maintaining professional relationships.
A week or two before the time comes to leave, start making preparations. Let your coworkers know that your last day is at hand, and offer to exchange contact information. A well-crafted farewell letter sent via email is a great way to exit gracefully. Your opening sentence should outline the purpose of the email – that you’re leaving the company. Keep it short and factual. “I wanted to take a moment to let you know (or remind you) that my last day here at ACME is coming up. I’ll be leaving (starting my new position) at the end of next week.
The middle paragraph should be positive and encouraging. “I have enjoyed working with you, and wanted to thank you personally for [help, guidance, making my time here more enjoyable, encouragement]. I will certainly miss the company and working with you, but I’m enthusiastic about moving forward [or looking forward to new challenges, if you’re being let go].
Close by asking for contact information and offering yours in return. In addition to traditional contact points like phone and email, include LinkedIn profile connections and social media information where you have established a presence, like Twitter or Facebook.
Make sure that each email contains a personal reference if you can; don’t just blanket the company with a mass mailing. Then – and this is crucial – follow up in a week or so. Send your contacts an update on your progress or an amusing story of transition. Check their profile status updates and comment on their last post, and respond to any contact they make with you. Maintaining an active database of professional contacts is often a determining factor in job searches, especially for an independent contractor. You may even wind up with an inside track to available future opportunities. So no matter how tempting it might be to trash the company, don’t give in. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. Take a page from Conan O’Brien’s book. He managed to make the classiest exit imaginable in an extremely difficult situation and in the process won more fans than his show might have ever produced.