How to leave your job better than you found it

How to leave your job better than you found it

Transitioning out of a job can be stressful – there’s a rush to complete open items and look ahead to the next stop in your career. However, for a variety of reasons, it’s important to ensure you make your exit as easy as possible on your manager and replacement. There are a lot of moving pieces with off-boarding and on-boarding new employees, so each step you take to facilitate a smooth process will be appreciated. Plus, you want to preserve the professional relationships you’ve fostered.

Here are three actions you can take when leaving a job to ease the transition and make it better for the new person who takes your previous role:

  1. Create a detailed training guide

    The ultimate parting gift to your manager and replacement is a detailed “how-to” guide that outlines your role and responsibilities. This guide should provide a big picture perspective, a day-to-day walk through, and key insights that only someone who’s held the position would know.

    By creating this guide before you leave your job, you’re departing with a lasting impression on your manager. It shows you are team-focused, detailed, and organized. It assembles all the pieces of the puzzle and puts the role in an easily defined scope, while providing a reusable guide for future new hires.

    This guide can be created in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint – or even both!  If your final days at your job aren’t too hectic, you could even organize the training guide into a binder for extra style points.

    If you’re an office manager, leaving an office manager role, check out this guide for the incoming office manager.

    Include the following items in your training guide:

    Introduction and big picture outline of responsibilities

    The first chapter of the training guide should cover the basics of your role: a brief summary of your position, who you report to, who you work with, and what you’re generally responsible for. Think of this as the first chapter of a book, which introduces the key characters and the setting.

    Day-to-day walk through for a typical work week

    Now that you’ve provided a high-level overview, it’s time to get more specific. Chapter two lets your replacement see the role’s daily routine from your point of view. For the people you mentioned in the first chapter, define how you collaborate with them and for what tasks. For example, how often do you directly interact with your manager? This section should answer these types of questions and cover typical work week information.

    Also, if you have certain tasks that aren’t intuitive, outline those processes here. The purpose of this section is to capture the quirks of your job, providing a go-to resource for your replacement when they have questions.

    Include any atypical work weeks you’ve had too. Does your job have a “busy season” in which you’re swamped with extra work? If so, include this information here so your replacement is prepared for atypical weeks or responsibilities.

    Lastly, this would be a good place to provide your common resources with brief overviews. Are there certain links on your company’s website that you use frequently? Are there specific programs or online platforms you work with – like Microsoft Office or Salesforce?  List them here.

    Best & poor practices

    The purpose of this section is to ensure your replacement hits the ground running and avoids creating any bad work habits.

    For the responsibilities you’ve outlined in chapters one and two, what are the best practices for completing the associated tasks? For example, if you prepare a monthly cost report or goal presentation, what’s worked best?  What topics should be covered or avoided?

    Conversely, in your time at your job, what have you determined doesn’t work as well? Is there a shortcut that seemed like it would make a task easier but actually made it harder? Did you implement an idea that would have been best for a different situation? List these here, as addressing poor practices is equally as important as best practices to ensure your replacement succeeds.

    The day one perspective

    Take a trip back in time and pretend it’s your first day on the job.

    What do you wish you would have known when you started this role? Did you pick up any shortcuts to knocking out tasks or staying organized? Do you have any tricks to cooperating or collaborating with coworkers?

    This section provides insight into the future from a veteran’s perspective.

  2. Provide a progress report

    It’s unlikely you’ll completely knockout your final to-do list when you’re transitioning out of a job. This could be due to longer-term projects with timelines beyond your exit date, or maybe you have a team project coming up that will need a substitute. Maybe you’re in charge of a monthly meeting or report.

    That’s why it’s important to compile a detailed progress report of all open items to ensure no task falls through the cracks.

    If you’re short on time, this can be provided to your manager in an email. But if you can, try putting this list together in Excel. Include the list of tasks, who you’re working with (if anyone), deadlines, where you’ve saved current progress, and what’s left to be done.

  3. Maintain relationships with your coworkers and superiors

    A good first step to maintaining your work relationships is to exchange personal phone numbers and emails with your coworkers – or at least add one another on LinkedIn. You never know where a connection will take you or what opportunities it could provide down the road.

By creating a training guide for your replacement and by providing a progress report, you’ve already boosted the chances of leaving on great terms with your manager. The training guide and progress report will be much appreciated gestures that will save your manager a lot of trouble. But it’s also essential to keep in touch with your coworkers to solidify these relationships as well.

Together, these actions will practically guarantee a smooth exit from your current role and maximize your professional relationships.