You’ve gritted your teeth and worked hard at the job you dislike, but now you finally found that great new position. You want to torch your bridges, so you never cross them again. Don’t. Your last act should be a class act especially in today’s evolving job market where old bridges can mysteriously beckon again. Instead, put down your torch and leave your employer wondering why they didn't do more to keep you.
Here’s your last day checklist:
Your last day really started the day you wrote that resignation letter — and hopefully, yours was a good one. You gave your employer as much notice as you could — or at least as much as what’s laid out in your company’s handbook. And before you signed your name, you thanked your boss for what you learned, because you always learn something on the job — whether you liked the company or not. A tinge of regret wouldn’t hurt either.
Do a sweep of your computer files to make sure you aren’t leaving anything personal behind. Email home any documents you want to keep. Delete personal pictures and any lists of passwords, especially those to banks, credit cards and anything else you wouldn't want other people to see. Disable cookies, and clear your internet browsing history, too. You’ll look like a superstar if you also share any spreadsheets you think your colleagues might need. In fact, share any items that might be helpful, especially if you had direct reports.
Schedule final half-hour meetings with your boss and colleagues to hand off any unfinished projects. Prepare recommendations for closing out your work. Your boss will love that you've done this legwork, and it serves an even bigger purpose: It makes you look good and nearly irreplaceable. She may not take your recommendations, but she'll remember that you cared. And be sure to hand off any confidential files, too.
Hopefully, you've checked the balance of your 401K and know how to pull the trigger on a rollover to your new firm. Ditto health insurance. You may need to latch onto Cobra before your new plan kicks in. Find out if your life insurance coverage continues, too. You may be surprised to know that some plans do as long as you pay the premiums. You may also be able to convert it with less benefit but no proof of insurability. Visit your HR office for all the details, so when you do begin that new job, you can do so with confidence, knowing that your practical business is buttoned up.
Pack up a box of items you know you want to bring home and take them out to your car before your final farewell. Target some things to give away — that paperweight your first boss gave you may make a touching gift for the new girl on the block. In this crazy business climate, she may just be your boss one day. Throw away any foodstuff; you don’t need to take a pantry with you to your new job. Leave whatever is left behind neat and tidy. A tray of paper clips, a few pens and some other small office supplies will leave a good impression. Be sure to take your sneakers (but leave the scissors).
If you’re asked to attend an exit interview, be gracious. This is not the time to bare all or name names. The raises you didn’t get, the meetings you were left out of and so on are best left at the door. Try to keep your answers on the sunny side of the street. Most likely, it’s going to be put on the record, so you’ll want your responses to be pretty neutral. This is your final exam, so do your best.
A nice trend comes in the form of the farewell email. But again, this is not the time to settle the score. Think short and sweet. And if you can muster praise and thanks with a little humor, you’ll be remembered well. It doesn’t have to go to everyone, just your boss, team and anyone who lent you a hand.
Be sure to offer your email address, phone numbers and other credentials to your coworkers. Send LinkedIn invites too. And offer your help to anyone who asks for it — whether it’s a future lunch date or a simple endorsement or reference.
Try not to slack too much. Remember that it's still a workday for your colleagues. It's tempting to sit around, but keep busy tying up loose ends and putting this job to bed.
Just like a wedding, make the rounds in the office. Personally shake the hands of as many people as you can. Wish them well and tell them to keep in touch if they want. If you have business cards made up, leave one on every desk. Be sure to say goodbye to the security guard and the receptionist, too. Thank them for any assistance they gave you during your tenure. The last touchstone should be your team and your personal boss. Unless you really feel it, try to control the tears. Exit smiling if you can.
You can see that on the last day, you still need to perform. It's your final act, so do it right, and you can take your bow graciously. Do it wrong, and they'll let the door slam behind you.