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Five rules for changing jobs

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This is the first blog I've written for BtoB since I changed jobs. Many of you who have read my previous blogs know that I was at AutoTrader.com for the past five years. I had a great run at AutoTrader, and I personally feel a lot of pride in the b-to-b team I helped build and the impact we made across the organization. But, after five years in the same role I was getting antsy. I was looking for the next big challenge.

I'm sure many of you can relate to what I'm saying. Studies have shown that about 30% of people leave their jobs because they are ready for new challenges and opportunities. Sometimes, to get what you want, you have to leave. And it's not an easy thing to do, especially when you work for a good company and you're in a good situation.

I did feel a lot of guilt. I was leaving a team that I had a big hand in building from the ground up. I had just hired several new people, so I kind of felt like that college coach who recruits a bunch of top notch high school prospects and then leaves before the season starts. The company had also invested in me, putting me through several leadership training programs. In a nutshell, I felt like I was letting everyone down.

But, at the same time, this is my career and I'm the only person who can manage it. So, I found an opportunity that offered an exciting new challenge. And I resigned.

A former boss once told me that in any job you should always try to leave it better than you found it. That's great advice. But too often I've seen people resign and then just check out for two weeks. You can tell that they're counting the days until they start the new gig. Then after they're gone you find they've left a complete mess.

The fact is, how you act during those last two weeks could have a big impact on how people view your overall contribution to the company during your tenure.

For me, I wanted to leave AutoTrader on a high note. I didn't want the last impression of me to be of a guy coasting through his last few days. I wanted to finish strong.

So, here are five rules I followed to maximize the end of my time at AutoTrader.

  • Do a detailed transition document. If you leave a job and your former coworkers are constantly calling you with questions, you have not done a good job transitioning your work. A transition document is probably the most important thing that you can do before leaving a job. Do a thorough list of all current projects and issues for your manager. Make sure it has all the information your boss needs to pick up the ball on your projects. Then spend time reviewing the document with your manager to ensure he or she completely understands everything in it.
  • Finish performance evaluations. No one likes doing performance evaluations, but it's an important part of being a good manager. I see so many people who don't take the time to do proper evaluations for their direct reports before they depart. This is really unfair to the employees who will have to get evaluated by someone who may not have insight into their skills and contributions to the company. Make sure to carve out time in your last two weeks to write and deliver evaluations to your direct reports. Your employees, your manager and the HR department will really appreciate it.
  • Avoid last minute heroics. In the last two weeks you might get a call asking you to take on a new project. You might see it as an opportunity to go out as a hero. Resist the urge. In the last two weeks you need to focus on transition. Taking on new work will just be a distraction. You should pass the project to your manager or direct reports. You can consult, but don't try to own the project.
  • Be a cheerleader for the company. Whenever someone leaves a job it does raise a lot of questions among employees: Why would he leave? Is there something wrong with this company? Should I start looking for a new job too? As a manager, it's important that you talk to your team and reinforce that the company is a good place to work and there's a lot of opportunity in the future. Chances are, you would not have gotten your new job if it wasn't for the experience you gained with your current employer. Make sure that your team recognizes that.
  • Don't give anyone the finger. It would be great if we were best friends with everyone we work with, but that's just never the case. We all have our “frenemies” at work. Human nature might dictate that you tell off some person right before you leave the company. That's not a good idea. Actually it's much better to resolve any issues before you depart. The marketing world is too small a place. You're much better off trying to leave on good terms rather than giving your nemesis the finger as you walk out the door. Always try to be the bigger person.

So those are my five rules. What are some things that you do when leaving a job?

Jeff Perkins is VP-global online marketing with conferencing and collaboration solutions company Premiere Global Services (PGi) (www.pgi.com). He can be reached at jeff.perkins@pgi.com, or on Twitter: @jperks74.

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