CareerLeadershipStudent Affairs

Leaving an Organization: What Will Be Your Legacy?

For many of us, the academic year has wound down and our students have departed for the summer.  After closing the facilities and completing end of the year reports, staff members all across the country will be leaving their current position in pursuit of new opportunities.  Starting a new position brings much excitement, as well as trepidation.  As a profession, we spend a lot of time talking about searching for and finding a new job as we work to sustain our field.  We often fail, however, in discussing how to leave an organization.  This is a vital aspect of completing one’s work within an organization.  Here are a few tips to consider as you move on from your current position.

  1. Your legacy is only as good as your last act.  All of the great things you have accomplished at and done for your current department will be remembered if you leave in a professional, respectful manner.  However, if you harbor any anger or negativity to your current employer, and you let that emotion show and control your remaining days, you might be surprised to learn that it is that negativity for which you might be most remembered.  The saying is that you never get another chance to make a first impression.  Well, the same is true for the last impression.
  2. Be respectful.  The organization you are leaving has provided you with a foundation upon which to build.  Hopefully, for many of you, it is a positive foundation from which you will frequently draw as you develop in the field.  For others, the experience may have left a sour taste in your mouth.  The key is to remember that even that sour taste has taught you something.  Perhaps you learned how you would do things differently or how you would make decisions.  Remember that even within that sour taste is a lesson that can help your career.
  3. Be professional.  Work until the last day.  “Senioritis,” as it is often referred to in college, is only valid while a student (well, actually, not even then).  But, work hard through your entire employment contract, striving to make your position, organization, institution better.
  4. Be ethical.  Don’t take anything.  I know this sounds petty or cliche, but, seriously, don’t steal supplies from your organization.  They do not owe you a ream of paper any more than you owe them a ream for all of the personal items you probably printed there.  Don’t sabotage anything.  You may not like a particular person or process, but don’t do anything that would harm someone or the organization from completing its work after you leave.
  5. Acknowledge that you don’t know everything.  While you were employed in your current department, decisions were made with which you may have disagreed.  Remember that you are still a new professional and are in the process of developing yourself professionally.  Your next position may be more of the same.  Take some time to reflect on the fact that while you believe in your ideas, they are not always the best ideas — either the best ideas period, the best ideas at the time, or the best ideas for your particular organization.  The time will come when you are a decision maker, and, you may be surprised to find that when faced with a similar situation, you may make the same decisions you now criticize for being wrong.
  6. Build and repair bridges.  Your current place of employment is likely your most secure set of professional references.  Spend time now rebuilding and repairing relationships, in an honest manner.  These relationships will either help you or hurt you in the future.  Do all you can to mend relationships so that they more likely than not help to advance your career.
  7. Find a mentor.  If you have not taken the time to find a mentor, take some time to think about if there is anyone at your current institution that you trust and respect.  Is there someone you believe will be able to help guide you on the next chapter of your professional journey?  If so, consider asking that person to be a mentor to you.
  8. When is doubt, refer to #1.

These are only a few thoughts to help you think about your exit strategy as you leave your current institution or department for a new one.  Before you depart, spend some time reflecting on your experience.  Write down how you would describe your experience and how you think others might describe you.  Then, spend you last remaining days focusing on the 8 tips listed above.  You are the only one in control of your legacy.

Best of luck to you as you move on to your next position!

 

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