Leave a lasting legacy

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Monica, a junior manager, has finally done it: she has been promoted to the position she has wanted and worked toward since she was hired. She knows that the position is radically different from her current one, but she is up for the challenge. However, she knows that leaving behind her current duties will make for an interesting transition. 

Like Monica, you, or someone you know, might be relocating or advancing your career. No matter what your reason for transitioning, you should know that leaving your current position is harder work than most people realize. Remember: the reason for leaving is not as important as the legacy you leave behind.

The benefits of bridge-building are enormous for both you and your employer. Though leaving some coworkers behind can be a relief; they are the exception and not the rule. You will want to make your former associates’ lives smoother by cleaning out those files, updating documentation and sharing information. You will want that glowing recommendation, a future consulting job, or, that change you are making may not end up working out, and you might want to return. 

The following are ways to ensure that you leave a lasting legacy: 

  1. Follow up on all current projects. Following up should be the first step in your transition. If projects are active, make sure that the new manager understands the status, the goals and the team. Ensure that all project documentation is appropriately stored according to company policy, file all emails and make certain that all roles are clearly defined. Monica found that following up on her active projects allowed her the time to focus on time sensitive items for her transition. 
  2. Volunteer to train your successors. Monica’s former position was one that had very specific responsibilities that no one else in her group performed. She volunteered to train her replacement for those responsibilities. Training can be cathartic. For instance, client preferences will be remembered, project files will be notated and stored in the proper manner, and you can leave knowing everything is complete and those you worked with are in good hands. Providing your tip and “tricks of the trade” will provide a great benefit for everyone, including yourself.
  3. Thank your mentors, sponsors, and coaches. A simple thank-you is always deeply appreciated by those who have guided you through your career. Before you leave, take the time to verbally express your appreciation for what the person has done you: their help, guidance and their occasional push into areas you did not feel comfortable going. Remind them, and yourself, that their support is very much valued. Monica’s mentors were pleased by her gratitude and happy that she is moving on to a more challenging role.  
  4. Continue focusing on your job until the second you leave. Nothing is more frustrating for an office staff than working with someone who has “short-timers disease.” For the time that you have committed to facilitating your transition, you should to focus on your current job. On Monica’s last day, she a previously scheduled conference call kept her in the office and on the (old) job until the last few minutes of her day. Dedication and striving for excellence does not end when you move on; in fact, your drive should be stronger. 
  5. Exercise the power of “No.” Monica’s new position had a specific start date. As Monica began the transition, she was asked to stay longer than expected. In some situations, her new manager allowed her to finish up the work, but in others, she had to say no. If asked to stay longer to facilitate the transition, do what is best for the company, your family and yourself. Set limits for yourself and your supervisor. Occasionally, you will be asked to perform tasks that are not part of your job responsibility. Agree to only accept additional work if it can be done in the timeframe you expect to stay.   
  6. Keep valued contacts. Share your new email address with your valued business contacts and let them know your new role. If you use a work address for your professional networks, be sure to change them. Update professional profiles; Monica found that LinkedIn was an excellent means to stay in contact with associates and sent an update to her to her LinkedIn professional profile to let them know about her promotion. . If you have professional organization dues paid for by your company, make sure you either renew them yourself or speak to your new supervisor about continuance. Since Monica’s former manager paid some of her professional organization dues, she made certain that they would continue to be paid without interruption.

Taking the steps listed above will help smooth the transition to your new position. Leaving a position on your own terms often allows you to have closure when you move to your next endeavor. For some people, the typical two weeks’ notice allows closure, for others the transition can take months, often while completing one set of projects in the former position while beginning the new one. Do what you can to leave a legacy that helps the next person to succeed with theirs.

Kim Myers, distinguished Toastmaster, is a certified World Class Speaking Coach with more than 40 years of experience. As a former architecture analyst, responsible for setting the strategic software direction for one of the industry leaders in retirement plan processing, she specialized in leading projects, facilitating meetings, providing industry and technical training, and building solid teams. For more information, visit www.yourlegacyspeaks.org.

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