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How to leave your position gracefully

Being gracious is more than having manners: It’s about making the right choices

Change is in the air. 2014 kicked off with a large degree of movement, with a survey from BTI Consulting Group revealing that 10 percent of large companies started 2014 with new general counsels at the helm of their legal departments.

Generational shifts will only compound the trend towards greater employee turnover. For the next 18 years, AARP estimates that Baby Boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day, which means a greater rate of retirement, and the Millennials who are taking their place are likely to switch jobs every two years on average, according to a study conducted by PayScale Inc. and Millennial Branding.

With more employee turnover than ever among in-house counsel — and in the workplace at large — it’s especially timely to consider how to leave your position gracefully. Here are 5 tips for making that happen:

  • Preserve your references: Wise professionals avoid burning bridges with prior employers and colleagues, striving instead to keep living bridges that can only help them in the future. A 2010 survey by Office Team found employer references can be deal-makers or deal-breakers, with recruiting managers saying that they remove 21 percent of job candidates from consideration after speaking to their professional contacts. When it comes to preserving your references, the bottom line is to follow the “golden rule” and ask yourself if you are treating your former employer the way you would want to be treated. Stealing clients, customers or files from your prior employer, for instance, is never a good thing. Simply put, don’t take what’s not yours, including soliciting other employees away from the company or sharing client lists with competitors. Such actions are shortsighted and are likely to come back to haunt you.
  • Ensure a smooth transition: Part of leaving your position gracefully involves ensuring that your successor is prepared and set up for success. Provide a diligent level of transition, including providing all relevant files and any necessary training for your replacement. Make sure the transition is not rushed and half-baked, jammed into one day during your final two weeks. Instead, provide a diligent transition smoothly and continuously over the last few weeks of your employment.
  • Thank your employer: We are the sum of our experiences and each door that opens for us allows us to learn, grow and ultimately further our goals. Your previous employer and the people you’ve worked with in your former role played a key part in your professional development whether you realize it or not. A good faith acknowledgment of that — backed up with actions — shows you have the character to recognize this fact.
  • Be supportive in social media: In addition to the traditional thank you to your former employer, another great way to say “thank you” is to extend your thanks in social media. Writing a favorable comment about the organization and the team you worked with during your time there goes a long way. Also, continuing to “like,” “favorite” and share the company’s social media content shows you are the consummate team player. Doing less than that or nothing at all, suggests you may not be.
  • Be a good alumnus: Even after you have moved on, keep a friendly relationship with your former bosses and colleagues. At the very least, refrain from any bad-mouthing. Even better, make yourself available for occasional questions. The longer you’ve been at a company, the more institutional knowledge you’ve accumulated, and this kind of knowledge can’t be found in files. The colleagues you are leaving behind will be picking up the pieces. Ensuring that you are still supportive of your prior employer’s brand and reasonably available for an occasional as-needed question from your former colleagues will distinguish you as an exceptional alumnus.

Think long-term

Being gracious is more than having manners: It’s about making the right choices.

At the end of the day, law is a business built upon relationships. By ensuring you abide by “golden rule” ethics, make a smooth transition, thank your employer, and remain a supportive alumnus in social media, you can preserve any references you might have earned. In the process, you may also preserve valuable relationships and your reputation.

Contributing Author

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Monica Zent

Monica Zent is an experienced entrepreneur, investor, businesswoman and trusted legal advisor to the world’s largest brands. Zent has been a successful entrepreneur...

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