The two week notice is such a well-known business custom that Hollywood even attempted to make a dreadful romantic comedy quite a few years ago (sorry Sandy, but we’ll always have Miss Congeniality and not the god awful second one either!). But in today’s business world, is the idea of a two week notice outdated?
Absolutely not! Today the workforce is more mobile than ever before. The manager you’re leaving, you could well see again. The co-worker in the cube right next to you could be your cube mate again. Stop and think about others that have left and how they exited. Was going through their desk like opening Pandora’s Box? It is important to preserve those business relationships with your manager and peers to protect the business reputation you made for yourself while you were there.
So when you reach the point that you’ve decided to move on from your current employer, it would be wise to follow these simple steps to make sure you exit as professionally as you entered.
First give a two week notice or longer, depending on the nature of your role and the projects you have outstanding. While two weeks is customary, use your judgment on how long you think you should give. Also do plan on the professional courtesy of a face-to-face notice. Do prepare a written notice. It doesn’t have to be done with a quill and parchment, but avoid sending just a text to your boss (I wish I were exaggerating, but I have seen one!).
Next develop a transition plan to ensure that your knowledge is transferred. This transition plan should have a time line. It should include recommendations on what information is critical to pass along and an itemized listing of any projects or deliverables outstanding. Making an actual checklist will keep you focused and productive during your final weeks, and serve as a record of your activity that can be referred back to after your departure.
If you have been with the company awhile, also take a look at your original job description. Review it. Make sure you suggest the appropriate changes to your manager, so he or she can have an updated description of what your role has become.
And last, you should let your manager make the formal announcement of your departure to the group. No doubt you will have already shared your decision with some of your closer colleagues, but resist the urge to send a company-wide email.
Now with those boxes of your exit checked, it is time to think about you. This is where the business networking tool LinkedIn can be incredibly useful. Make sure you take the time to extend invitations to those co-workers you want to stay connected with after you move. And since you’re there, find time to swing by in person and let them know you would like to stay in touch. Unlike signing everyone’s yearbook from your high school days with the acronym “K I T”, do plan to really keep in touch. This is the start of your networking habit.
When you leave, it is easy for both sides – you and the co-workers you leave behind – to fall victim to the old saying “out of sight, out of mind.” To avoid that, develop a systematic way of keeping in regular touch. Experiment and find a way that you know you will be able to do consistently and then do it. I use holidays, specific events in the news, or local happenings as triggers to reach out to my network.
No that does not mean I send a flood of emails just at Christmas. Rather throughout the year I will find different triggers to latch on to and then send a quick email. I will either do it through LinkedIn or just through email. Some of the triggers I used this year have ranged from the first day of spring to the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Regardless of the system you create, the point is you need to be the one to stay in touch. And the emails or phone calls you make should be about them, not you. Ask them how they are. Ask them what’s new? Invite them to have a conversation with you. If they reply, then engage.
The key to networking is reaching out even when you don’t need something.
Let’s face it, we all have former co-workers where the only time you hear from them is when they need you. And while I think many of us will help if we can, at some point, future requests for help will fall on deaf ears.
Okay so you’ve connected with the people you want to stay in touch with, take a moment and look at your offer letter and any of your original employment documents you signed. Many companies will have language that prohibits you from recruiting employees if you should leave.
By and large poaching or inducement will be frowned upon by your former employer. Poaching is where you actively solicit your former coworkers to come to your new company. And inducement is more passive in nature. For example during the course of keeping in touch, you share with a coworker that your new place is really great. And if that prompts them to send you their resume, then congratulations you’ve successfully induced!
Now enforceability of that will vary from state to state, but your former company could pursue legal action against you. And depending on how risk-averse your new employer is, they may not encourage or even want referrals from your last company anyway.
So take the time to review your offer letter, any other employment documents you’ve signed, and don’t forget any exit paperwork you signed as well. More importantly, understand what you’ve signed and ask questions if you don’t.
Every company is different and as mentioned earlier, laws in each state will vary, but ultimately you need to make the determination on what you’re comfortable with. After all, it is hard to not to help a former coworker. However, it does not mean that you have to actively solicit them. If you have questions about employee referrals, seek the counsel of your new manager or an HR person.
While no one is indispensable, demonstrate to your soon to be former employer that you have looked at your departure through their eyes. And while it may seem that the tone has been for the benefit of your former employer, it underscores the paradigm shift in employment today.
We are all are own brand. In my case, I am Wayne Inc. And I have a business reputation that is mine to manage. How well I manage it can open doors or close doors to other future opportunities. They say you can never change a bad first impression. In my mind, that’s not true. It takes work, but you can change it. However I think you can never change a bad last impression.
So tell me, what impression do you want to leave when you give your two week’s notice?