This letter – asking how to professionally depart from an employer – came in from a career coaching client who is caught up in an organizational reorganization at his company.

 I have decided to no longer pursue opportunities within (company) and will be formally accepting their generous severance offer effective 12/31/13.

I will be fully engaged in pursuing a new opportunity in 2014.

Was wondering if you might have a few quick links or references on how to professionally depart from my current employer….tidbits on how to handle e-mail, voice mail, and other details with class would be appreciated.


In this situation, the departure is being managed with lots of lead time by the company. Sometimes you are asked to go quickly and in those situations you won’t have the time to leave professionally.

When reorganizations occur and there is a transfer of work to other people, you will probably find time on your hands. Here are some things you can do to transition successfully:

Establish transition dates. Sit down with your boss to discuss transition timing on the projects or clients you are working with.  If there is one person that is taking your work, include them in the meeting so that expectations are clearly understood. If your work is going to multiple sources, create a project plan and outline the key areas and ask your boss to communicate his expectations to each of them.

My rule of thumb – you should be handing off all your work in the last two weeks of your job at the latest.  People have to know who they should go to after you have left. 

Professionally depart from an employerOrganize and clean out your files. Ask the person who is taking over your job, account, clients etc. what they would like to receive and send the files to them. There will be some files that can be disposed of such as old accounts or projects. Take home your personal files – files you brought into the job or files that pertain only to your work performance.

Forward your computer files. Forward files to the people who will be handling the projects or clients that you are no longer going to be responsible for once you leave the company. Make a list of those files that you are uncertain about and ask your boss what you should do with them.

Don’t assume that because there is a long list of cc’s on the email that the new person has access to that information. Forward any personal communication to your personal email account and delete it from the system.

Note: companies can review what you are sending via the internet so make sure the files you send are appropriate. Leave all company confidential materials intact.

Complete performance or interim reviews for staff. Even though you may be leaving, your staff will value your feedback on their performance. Help them with how to transition to their new boss and let them know you are OK with the decision – in fact, you are looking forward to something new!

What to say on voice mail. You may or may not have an opportunity to have voice mail at the company after you leave because the number may be reassigned or shut down. If you the company is going to let you have your voice mail afterward, simple let the caller know – who to talk to in your absence and that you have left the organization and maybe reached at (personal number). If you tell people ahead of time, you probably won’t have calls coming in.

Get your own phone, computer and car. If you are using the company phone, computer and car, expect your access to be curtailed. Even if you brought the phone number with you to this company, you may not be able to leave with it if the company is paying the cell phone bill. Investigate the options so you know if it is time to get a new cell phone number.

Inform your customers/clients/vendors/colleagues/friends about your departure. Use your judgment about when to communicate to others about your departure, if you are unsure, discuss it with your boss. Sometimes your departure is well-known so the issue is how to deal with the customers, clients or vendors.

If you are no longer servicing clients or working on projects, then communicate who is taking it over to help with the transition to the new contact person.

Given that you have a couple of months before you are leaving, make a list of who you need to contact and call them personally. The first one may be tough but it will get easier and you never know, they may have a job lead for you.

Absent time to make personal phone calls, craft a note and send it to your contacts. Develop several templates to use for different situations. Make sure you cc yourself on those communications with your personal email address so you have a record of their information. Let them know who to reach you after your departure – email and phone number.

Use LinkedIn. Make sure you are LinkedIn with your contacts and if not, ask them if they would like to be a part of your network. LinkedIn is a good place to find up-to-date information – email addresses, phone numbers, job titles and company information.

Assess who might serve as positive recommenders of your work and ask if they would be willing to write a recommendation on your behalf. Follow up with a request from LinkedIn and offer some suggestions on what they may include in their recommendation – in other words – make it easy for them.

If you get everything done, it’s time to start your job search. Don’t go drumming up work that will confuse people if you are staying or going. If your boss asks you to do a quick project, by all means work on it. However, your boss has probably already moved on to working with the new person. Use this time to ramp up your job search efforts.

It might feel like you should not be starting your job search at work, but the fact is they have eliminated your position. You have done everything you can for a smooth transition and to professionally depart from an employer, now it is time to focus on what’s next for you.