5 Things To Do When You Leave Your Job

Last Updated Jan 19, 2011 1:57 PM EST

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to get a job, but little -- if any -- about how to leave one.

Even if the exit is not your idea, there is a right way and a wrong way to say goodbye. Doing it the right way is going to help your career in the future. Doing it the wrong way -- JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater comes to mind mind -- is to invite a dark cloud that follows you to each job interview.

Here is the right way, courtesy of Boston-based career coach Priscilla Claman, posting on HBR.org. Let's add some of our own ideas down below.

  • Thank people. With all sincerity, thank the people who helped you in your just-past job. In other words, maintain that network of people who can help you just as you can help them.
  • Take samples. Pack up samples of your best work before you leave for the last time. Once you leave your job, all physical manifestations of you will disappear faster than you can say, "What was her name, again?"
  • Smile file. If you don't have one, time to start a smile file. In goes nice notes from customers, great performance reviews, thank-yous from colleagues and anything else that makes you smile when you read it. You may not know when these will come in handy, but they will.
I'd add two things to Claman's list:

Contacts. If it's not considered company property, copy down your contact directory. Somebody in those pages could be key in directing you to your next stop. As you start your job search, leaf through all of these people you have had contact with over the years -- an opportunity is likely to jump out.

References. Assuming you are on good relations, it's wise to get a written letter of reference. Who knows if the person giving you a reference will still be at the company when you need them?

What do you do when you leave your job?

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(Photo by Flickr user Iain Farrell, CC 2.0)
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.