Leaving your job

3 Things to Do Before You Leave Your Job (Or Even If You Stay)

Are you thinking about leaving your job? Or maybe you sense layoffs coming your way? Either way, it’s a good idea to be prepared for your next move.

But how, exactly, do you prepare to leave your job? Here are three tasks you should accomplish before leaving your job so you can position yourself for success in the future. If you’ve already left your job without taking these steps, don’t worry, we’ll help you recover, too.

1. Make a List of Quantified Accomplishments

Your resume should focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities. But it’s easy to forget what you’ve accomplished once you leave one job for another, and even easier to forget the details, like how many hits your campaign drove to your organization’s website or how much money you saved your company.

So while you’re still working, take the time to write down a complete list of all the things you’ve done (even the not-so-impressive things) and quantify every last one as best you can. It’s much easier to access (and ask for) this data while you’re still employed.

To go above and beyond (because you’re aiming for rock-star status, right?), schedule half an hour each month to record and review your accomplishments. This can be a great time to celebrate your wins, consider your challenges and keep yourself in tip-top, super-ready-to-hire shape.

But what if I’ve already left and I don’t have the list?

Don’t panic. Make the list of accomplishments and quantify them as best you can. If you need to, reach out to your references and team members from each experience and see if they can refresh your memory.

Keep in mind that when you’re in doubt, round down. You don’t want a potential employer to find out that you exaggerated or even lied – especially if it was unintentional!

2. Pack Up Your Portfolio

We often think portfolios are only for creative types. Not true! In fact, I know of a boss who helped his financial analysts amend their models in a way that demonstrated their Excel prowess (without compromising any information about the company, of course). This kind of tangible item is a great value-add for interviews and follow up, with the added bonus that they show rather than tell your skills.

What have you (or your team) done that shows off your skills? Try to keep your portfolio as diverse as your experience, as you never know where the road could lead in a couple of years.

But what if you have already left and don’t have access to the files?

Never fear, this is where your network saves the day. Email old co-workers to ask for assets you’d like to use. Being as specific as possible while still flexible will make this an easy task. If you’re in doubt about whether you can share certain assets, don’t forget to check with your boss.

3. Meet with Potential References

This will help you get in the habit of maintaining relationships and keeping them positive. Having a great lunch or after-work drink with your favorite references can go a long way. You don’t have to talk about work or plans; instead, your goal should be to transition the relationship from work to beyond work (occasionally called life).

Bonus tip: If they’re as busy as the rest of us, offer to chat over breakfast, and you can bring the bagels and coffee.

And one final piece of advice: when you do give your notice, ask your boss for a few hours or even a day of discretion, so that you can have one-on-one conversations about your departure with the key stakeholders in your career, including anyone you might consider for a reference. They’ll appreciate hearing about your next move from you rather than the office gossip.

And if you’ve already left…

It’s never too late on this one. Seriously, stop reading and give them a call right now.

What was the most important thing you did before leaving your last job?

Rebecca Rapple helps good people get great jobs by teaching them how to standing out effectively. Join The Fast Track, her free newsletter for practical tips & jolts of inspiration!

30 comments

  1. John Mason

    This is a very good topic. I have been considering leaving my existing employer. When I first started 12 months ago I was doing a great deal of tasks. In that time three people have left. The manager had employed two new people. I considered that I was overlooked. Two weeks ago. these two new employees were given hands on instructions from and administrator from our head office.
    When I returned back to work the following week I noticed when I logged into our intranet things had changed. I was asked by one of the new employees would you like to clean up a certain file and make it current. As their was information dated back to 2000 that was not longer current. I asked the three employees concerned about this file for their input to get it current.
    Yesterday the office administrator along with the regional manager had a talk with me over what I was doing. I showed them my start up copy. She agreed with what I came up with. Her answer was continue with the project. I have forgot about the question of leaving for the time being.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment. It does seem like things are changing at your current employment.

      Whenever things feel a bit unstable, your best bet is always to put yourself in the best position possible! It sounds like you are on the right track for that!

      Glad you enjoyed!

      Rebecca

  2. Anonymous

    Great points! And if you can establish a baseline when you first start working at a new job, you’ll be in even better shape (i.e. lead conversions when you started vs. lead conversions by the time you were getting ready to leave).

    • I totally agree. Especially today, its up to YOU, the employee, to lead their own job. This means that you have to set expectations, for yourself, your team and your boss. Its actually surprising how much power you can have!

    • Mental preparation certainly goes a long way. And, getting your ducks in a row in terms of your next source of employment can be a key component to being able to leave feeling confident.

  3. My job was outsourced and I had to quit a few months back..
    One more thing, if you have personal emails coming to your email at work, make sure to get all your contacts.

    Get the email addresses of your close friends at work as well

    Now they are asking if I like to work as contractor.. Not sure if that is a good idea.

    • Great additional step! Organizing your contacts is a must.

      Career decisions can be hard to make — between balancing money, health, happiness and, oh yeah, money.

      The good thing about contract work is that you have a lot more flexibility and freedom, but it doesn’t sound like something you’re excited about.

  4. Some jobs just don’t lend themselves well to “accomplishments.” My boss always tells me that I’m “doing a great job.” But all that means is that I am doing my job.

    What about if you didn’t get contact information before you left and the company is now out of business (and the people aren’t on LinkedIn, I’ve looked)?

    • Edward,

      I think you may need to be creative about figuring out what your “accomplishments” are. If you complete something, that is an accomplishment. So, if you work in a call center, you can come up with numbers “called X number of people with y% needing escalation to management.” Or, if you are an entry level coder, you could detail some of the features you contributed to a product, etc. What do you do? That is an accomplishment!

      And, as far as getting people’s contact information, I’d recommend three things:
      1) Google their names — can you find them on social media or do they have a personal website?
      2) Reach out to your network. Who do you know that also might know them? Can you connect that way?
      3) If you are really motivated, put it out there on social media “I’m looking for such and such who lives in this place. Anyone have any ideas?”

      Hopefully that helps!
      Rebecca

      • Right now, I am a flagger in road construction. I’m doing a “great job” because I pay attention and stop traffic when contractors need me to, and because I always volunteer to help with the morning setup and evening tear-down of signs.

        For the three years previous to that, I worked at two small companies if greenhouse floriculture that did not measure any kind of employee metrics and couldn’t offer anything more than hazy recommendations such as being fast, proactive, or knowledgeable. Good for recommendation, not really great for the resume.

        As far as contact information, these are people I worked with 5-7 years ago. For two of the three people, I don’t even remember the last names. Entering “Tommy” or “Mr. John” isn’t going to help me. And they are for the company that is out of business. I didn’t really connect socially with anyone at that job and haven’t spoken to anyone in that industry since leaving it.

        Basically, I’ve got to realize that the people who could give me the best references are out of my reach.

  5. Jennifer O.

    A very nicely written practical article, thank you. As in-house counsel for a large corporation, though, I wanted to emphasize hat an employee should be careful about not taking or disclosing confidential and proprietary information that belongs to his or her employer. Sometimes it’s not obvious what a company considers “confidential,” but it can include items like customer contracts, non-published pricing, and future business plans. If you share that information with a prospective employer, *both* of you could be sued by your original employer for claims like misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of confidentiality obligations, violation of intellectual property rights, etc. There are many cases where the new employer has had to pay out millions of dollars for using the employee’s info from his/her prior job, and the employee ends up fired and possibly personally liable for paying some of the damages. Asking your former colleagues to give you material that you left behind (or to keep you current on their company’s upcoming plans) could also land them in hot water. Just a reminder to be careful!

  6. Hi Rebecca,

    nice article. I would say the most important thing that I did before leaving my job is to take all the files on my computer with me. As an interior designer, past projects are important reference and an updated portfolio can make or break an interview. I use a pretty neat application to transfer everything online so I can access them everywhere. Check out dropbox.com, it’s free and so easy to use.

  7. Pingback: My Last Day of Work - Caviar and Quarters | Caviar and Quarters

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