The two most important days on the job are your first and your last. Your first day is all about making a positive first impression and starting off on the right foot. Your last day is all about the lasting impression you leave behind. Both days require a solid and strategic game plan, and then you need to execute on that plan. If you’re a tennis fan, you may have seen or heard about the unprofessional exit Novak Djokovic made after losing to Rafael Nadal at the French Open on Tuesday. Contrary to proper protocol, there was a lightning fast handshake at the net, minimal words of congratulations exchanged, and then Djokovic hastily left the court without acknowledging or thanking the crowd. The reaction was swift and severe in the press and in the court of public opinion. Djokovic displayed poor sportsmanship and his behavior tarnished his reputation even though he’s currently ranked #1 in the world. Key takeaway – even if you are a top-performer, how you leave an organization or a tennis court, matters.
Gone are the days when the only way you left an organization was on the day you retired. Today the average person will hold 12 different jobs throughout his or her career. That’s a lot of jobs and that’s a lot of goodbyes. It’s not a fun experience and it’s rarely easy. At ON Point, we have coached countless people through this period to ensure a smooth transition and to prevent the “dramatic exit” fantasy from becoming a reality. We all know the fantasy…tossing papers in the air while telling your manager what you really think about him/her, sabotaging your computer files, stealing a stapler and some post-it notes, and essentially burning every possible bridge. Think of Tom Cruise’s exit in Jerry Maguire on steroids – that’s what we want to avoid.
An impulse-driven last day will haunt you for many, many days afterwards. Even on a less dramatic note, it’s still critical to remember that you have the power to shape, influence, and control the perception by how you say farewell. Your brand and reputation are priceless and take years to build, but only take moments to ruin. Regardless of whether you’re moving onto greener pastures for an exciting new position or were fired from your current position, those final moments still matter.
Follow the ON Point Action Plan to help you say goodbye with grace.
- Be professional and always take the high road
- Co-create the narrative and terms with HR
- Refrain from gossip and negative comments about your manager or the company
- Set your team up for success with a smooth transition plan
- Introduce clients to the new point person
- Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn and references if possible
- Reflect on the wins, successes, and accomplishments you achieved
- Make sure you are connected online with your internal network
- Take with you everything that is yours being mindful of IP
- Get to a place where you can be grateful and thankful for the experience