Transitioning from one job to the next is never an easy feat. Those final few weeks at a job typically involve bittersweet goodbyes to colleagues and emails to various contacts to notify them ahead of time. All of this, while preparing for your next opportunity.
I recently experienced the pangs of a transition myself, after accepting a new job at Fast Company. My final weeks at my previous role were a flurry of activity. Before jetting off on a relaxing break to Florida, I finished up some remaining projects and set up an auto-responder to notify contacts that I’d left. Disaster. Dozens of people emailed me during my break to ask where I’d be headed to next. On my first day at Fast Company, I spent several hours updating all of my digital signatures–LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter–and responding to dozens of messages of support, while delaying important tasks, like enrolling in benefits.
In the aftermath of this experience, I turned to career expert Ellen Leanse for some advice for others in a similar situation. Leanse, an advisor and coach to various startups and a former senior manager at Apple and Google, shared some of her cardinal rules to ensure a smooth and seamless career transition:
On your last day of work, Leanse recommends sharing a message on your various social networks that you’re leaving, but acknowledge that you learned a lot from the experience. If you’re got a new job lined up, share the news, and if you don’t, inform your network that you’ll update them in due course. And on your first day at your new job, try to keep this kind of social media activity to a minimum. “You’ll get an outpouring of support and a lot of follow-up,” says Leanse. “That’s the last thing you should be worrying about on your first day at a new job.”
Make a list of some 25 people that you interact with most regularly in your current role. And add 10 people that you’re hoping to build a stronger relationship with in the future. Leanse suggests sending this group an email informing them of your move a few days before you announce it to the broader community, and remind them that you’re keen to maintain the connection. Also, explain in a few sentences how this current job is a better fit in your broader career journey. “Above all, it’s better to let your most important connections know in a proactive letter, rather than a reactive bounce-back email,” she says.
When you announce your job move, you will likely get inundated with requests to get together for a coffee or a glass of wine. Leanse suggests putting a date on the calendar about six weeks from your start date, where you’ll invite a group to celebrate your new opportunity. You might even include a note in your initial email to say that you’ll be arranging a meet-up in the coming weeks, and that you apologize in advance for not having time to respond to everyone individually.
Once you’ve announced that you’re leaving, disgruntled colleagues might come out of the woodwork to share their grievances. Even if you harbor similar frustrations, it’s almost never worth it to indulge in a trash-talking session. “I’ve never seen a situation where talking badly about a past employer has served anyone well,” says Leanse. “I try to take a no-fault approach.” When employees are dissatisfied, Leanse says it’s often very complex and no one individual is to blame.
Some people fear that it will come off as a brag to announce their exciting new job on social media. But Leanse often advises clients to try to overcome these kinds of feelings. “Most people in your community will see your job change as good news,” she says. That doesn’t mean that everyone will respond with encouragement; some people might resent their own current work situation and react bitterly. “Accept that it’s not on you if you see any kind of backlash,” she says.