Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

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As I addressed previously in The Lost Art of the Thank You Note, I strongly believe saying thank you is important. It seems that in the rush to get help and information some young professionals may be forgetting this common courtesy.

If a professional offers you advice, a resume critique or job search assistance, at minimum say thank you. I’m not suggesting you buy them flowers or send chocolates, but I am suggesting you write them a note thanking them for their help and promising to keep them updated on your progress.

While you might view not sending a note as no big deal, the professional person might see it as a slight, which could hurt you in the long run. Besides, don’t you want to be known as that up-and-coming, thoughtful and polite young professional? A thank you note can help you establish that reputation.

And let’s face it, in the ever shrinking professional world, your reputation is what you make it and then how you maintain it.

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Cleaning Out Your Desk

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If you’ve been thinking ahead, you have probably been taking non-essential items home with you since you put in your official two-week notice (more details here). If you haven’t, there is still time to catch up.

The most important thing to do first is see if you can get your hands on one of the most coveted items in the office: a copy paper box. If you can get the lid too, take it. You won’t regret it, especially if it is raining.

Non-essential desk items should be going home with you every night. This includes any knickknacks or personal items you don’t use daily. For me, this includes the snowman coffee mug (with top hat lid!) and the birthday hat from Chevy’s. Use your judgment here. It is easier to take a few little things home every night than it will be to pack everything up on the last day.

Make a list of every place in the office you have items. Don’t forget the refrigerator and any common areas. I still miss the lunch box I left behind a few years ago. Please, don’t repeat my mistake.

On the last day, pack stuff into the copy paper box as you use them for the last time. If you are able to, try and do a majority of this while everyone else is at lunch so as not to cause too much of a distraction.

Your desk was (hopefully!) clean and empty when you arrived. Try to at least leave it in the same condition. 

Fair warning: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT take office items that are not yours. Do you really need another stapler or tape dispenser? I think not. This theft reflects poorly on you and may leave your past employer with a bad memory. After all the hard work you’ve done to leave on a good note, don’t ruin it all by taking something you don’t really need.

Answering the Why Are You Leaving Questions

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As word spreads around the office, there are going to be the inevitable questions. I suggest being positive and honest, again without being cruel. 

The most common questions I’ve encountered recently are: 

Why are you leaving?
Where are you going?
When is your last day?
Why didn’t you tell me you were looking elsewhere? 

Make sure you can answer at least this in a professional, encouraging way. 

If you have followed the previous advice (here) for how to best give your two weeks notice, then the core people who need to know already know. If you haven’t and they’ve heard it through the office gossip mill, try and pull them aside and have a one on one conversation with them. 

Now is the chance to say, I am so sorry you didn’t hear it from me. I was waiting to tell you until everything became concrete. I am sad to be leaving you, but I’m excited for this opportunity to take my career in a different direction. 

You will likely have lots of these one-on-one conversations and if you are lucky. This is a chance for you to tactfully explain your reasons for leaving, but I urge you to remain positive. Don’t complain and don’t air dirty laundry. 

You may be asked questions about who will be taking over your responsibilities and projects. If you don’t know, find out as soon as possible. Reassure our co-workers that you aren’t abandoning them and value them even though you won’t be working side by side anymore.

I’m leaving! Now what?

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You’ve given your two weeks and might be thinking, now what? Treating the last two weeks just as you treated the first two will leave you and your company in good positions. Be positive. Be friendly. Work hard.

Some people tend to slack off during the last two weeks. I suggest taking the opposite approach. Put forth extra effort. Make sure all of your projects are completed and as close to perfect possible. Assist in rewriting your job description and make sure to include the additional tasks you do daily (such as filling the printer with paper). Check in with the people you work with internally and externally and ask them what information they need to help transition someone else into your position.

Make your contact information available to only those who will need it or work directly with you (I’ll address the goodbye e-mail in a post next week). While you have left a detailed description of how to post a piece to the company website, the next person might not understand exactly what you meant. The option to contact you can relieve some of the stress. Make sure if they do contact you that you respond appropriately.

Leaving the company on a positive note doesn’t just solidify your reputation within the company you are leaving, but it helps leave a good impression should you need to contact the company again for references or any other reason.

While some people would suggest asking for a letter of reference from your boss as you are leaving, I disagree. Find a way to keep in touch and ask for a reference only when you need it.

Change is stressful for everyone. Doing what you can to relieve as much stress as possible for your co-workers and supervisor is the least you should do.