How to Change Careers Gracefully
You’ve finally decided to change your career. It takes all your energy to stay focused until you leave your current position.
While you’re excited with the prospect of moving forward, there’s a good chance you’re also feeling anxious, and a little bad to be leaving (think loyalty) – unless the decision to move on wasn’t yours.
Either way, taking your leave gracefully is paramount. Why? – For many reasons.
Making a clean break with as little emotional baggage as possible is top of the list.
Leaving with the lingering feeling you’ve angered or frustrated a co-worker or employer never feels good. You’re going to need as much positive and focused energy to be successful in your new career.
Whether you’re leaving of your own volition or not, your self-respect deserves to stay intact. Either way, reflecting on what you gave to the position and company will shed light on the value you’ve brought to the company. It’ll also give you the chance to understand what’s best left behind and what’s most important to take with you (hint: a negative outlook should be left and confidence should go with you).
Trust is the second (and as important) reason to be graceful. Your current employer relied on you to bring your professional skills and effort to the company. A graceful exit is your final commitment.
How exactly do you change careers gracefully? The following do’s and don’ts list seems so obvious! Unfortunately, too few career changers get this right:
- Prepare a story to explain your career change. Making your leave about you and your future prevents others from creating assumptions.
- Give the company your all – no “checking out” in the months preceding your departure. Your current employer is paying you to give 100% so keep your end of the bargain.
- Ask for a reference letter from your supervisor at least a week before you leave the company.
- Don’t commit to staying in touch if you have no plans to follow through. While it’s true that once we leave a company we may be quickly forgotten, it’s still a commitment you’ll be expected to live up to.
- Be thoughtful in your exit interview with your supervisor or HR representative. Giving constructive feedback on the work and company culture is far more productive and gracious than giving negative comments on individuals.
- Leave with your work handed off to your successor or team and your desk/office tidy.
- Don’t take any documents or company owned materials.
- No badmouthing your employer or other staff during and after your exit. Period.
- Thank those who’ve most supported you in your current career – managers, colleagues or direct reports.
- Wait until you’ve left your job to update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
A graceful leave shows others you live by your values. You’ll be able to close this chapter feeling confident, inspired and ready to start anew.
Next stop. Check out Charlotte Seager’s great post, 6 Tips on How to Make a Successful Career Change.
In the meantime, gracefully exiting from where you are now will likely pay off in spades as you embark on your new career.
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