So you have decided to leave your job. Spoiler alert: it’s never easy to leave a job.
The grass is not always greener but if you really must, read on ....
Whatever the circumstances of your departure, there is one thing you need to remember. The legal community is a relatively small one and the way you choose to leave your job may have an impact on your ability to get a new job.
If you leave a position impression behind, your employer will remember that. If you leave a negative impression, that’s what they’ll remember and that’s what will be passed on to your new, prospective employer. Not only that, but it may, in a small community, have a long-term effect on your employment opportunities.
How do you leave a positive impression? Follow these simple steps:
Share what you know with the people who are going to replace you. Make it easy for your replacement to step into your shoes. Begin writing a memo to your successor. Tell them all the tricks that you’ve learned over your years in the job. If you’re comfortable with it, leave them your email or phone number so they can contact you after you’ve left if they have any further questions. (Ask your principal for permission first.)
Share what you know with your employers as well. Let them know where you think things might be improved for your replacement and give them suggestions on how to do that. Do this in a positive way – “I’ve been thinking about what I could do to make this job more interesting and efficient and I’ve come up with,” rather than, “This is what you’ve done wrong.” Your employer will remember that you’ve been considerate and that you’ve done them a favour when they’re asked for references.
Give as much notice as required and, if possible, be flexible with your departure date. This isn’t always possible, but your employer will remember you with fondness if you give them time to find a replacement. Don’t leave without notice.
Thank your employer for the opportunities you enjoyed over the years you worked with them. Make sure they know that you enjoyed your time with them and that you learned from the experience. This is equally important whether you’re leaving on your own or they’re asking you to leave. Remember that often in termination situations, your employer doesn’t have a choice, either.
Explain why you’re leaving in a positive way. If you’re leaving for a better job, tell them that you’ve had an opportunity that you can’t say no to, but be prepared for them to ask you to stay and decide what you’re going to do when that happens. If you’re leaving because of problems in the office, you might be better off to write a short letter telling them what the problems were, but emphasize the good experience you had while you worked there.
Exit interviews are optional and are used by many firms. If you’re unhappy with the way you’ve been treated, you might want to opt out of the exit interview if you don’t think you can respond positively to the questions. Remember, you want to leave on a positive, rather than a negative, note. So if you’re angry and you want to tell them everything that’s wrong with the firm, an exit interview is probably not a good idea.
Stay calm and don’t speak ill of anyone no matter how much you want to. It doesn’t help the firm you’re leaving and it makes you look bad. It can affect your job search, not just now but in the future. Remember that you might need references from your employer and/or your co-workers and remember, too, that this is a small community and you may even want to return to this firm later in your career.
It’s not always easy to be positive when you’re leaving one job for another, especially if you’re leaving because you’ve had a bad experience or you’ve been terminated, but if you leave on a positive note, you look good. And that’s the impression you want all your employers to have of you – that you were professional and courteous even under the worst of circumstances.