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3 Things to Do Before You Leave Your Job

3 Things to Do Before You Leave Your Job
Image credit: Steve Calcott | Flickr

In today's world, it's more common than ever for people to make fast career changes. You may not be looking to make any changes today, but at some point, you’re going to want to start a new venture. Whether you’re thinking about resigning or planning to sell your business, taking the first steps is the hardest part of your exit strategy.

Related: The 10 Telltale Signs It's Time to Quit Your Job

So, before making any rash decisions, you should have a plan in place for transitioning into a new role. Here are three things you can do before leaving a job.

1. Evaluate the risk and opportunities.

There are a variety of reasons for leaving a job or selling a business. You might have other opportunities waiting on the horizon that you're eager to pursue. Or possibly you're tired of your current role. Maybe you're looking for a change of pace.

As you begin to consider your options, make sure to evaluate both the risks and opportunities. Don't forget that work is work, no matter what role you're looking to move into. You will have both good days and bad days at your new job.

On the risk side of things, have you been saving up? Do you have a good amount of money stored away for a rainy day? A transition into a new role can be difficult and even costly. And in a world with no guarantees, that job you thought you had lined up may not pan out by the time you're ready to pursue it. If you're dependent on your employment income, then make sure you have a comfortable nest egg before putting in your notice.

As for opportunity, what exactly are you planning on doing next? Do you have a clear idea? Do you have a new job lined up, and do you have a backup plan in case it doesn't work out? Will you be getting an increase in salary at your new position? Will your new job be more enjoyable and fulfilling than your last? Do you have a long-term plan for your career progression? Will you be learning new skills that will help you expand your opportunities?

Don't get too caught up in the excitement of moving into a new position, as it can blind you to the potential risks and opportunities that exist.

Related: 9 Reasons to Quit Your Job As Soon As You Can

2. Tie up loose ends.

Many people tend to "check out" before they've even handed in their two weeks' notice.

As hard as it may be, try to stay engaged in your work as you are wrapping up your term. Check in with a manager on a daily basis if you need some motivation. Also make a list of everything that needs to get done before you leave.

There is the possibility that your projects and tasks will be taken over by coworkers before you officially leave, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take responsibility for what you've already started and agreed to do. If you have the opportunity, delegate smaller tasks so you can focus on your top priorities and see them to completion.

Keep a line of communication open with management and coworkers. There may be those who need to hear directly from you -- don't leave them in the dark about your decision to move on to new opportunities. Get in touch with clients if you need to, and share the news with coworkers or managers who need to be in the loop.

This should help you establish clarity around what you need to do before moving on. Your former employer will appreciate it if you leave your tasks in capable hands, instead of leaving a trail of incomplete assignments and appointments your co-workers need to chase down.

It's also best to leave on a good note. If you game-plan and communicate who is going to handle your tasks while your manager looks for your replacement, you’re likely to form a lasting, positive relationship with your former employer -- and you very well may need that for a good recommendation later on.

3. Clean, purge and organize.

Make an effort to leave your office, desk or working space in good shape before making your exit.

Start separating out your personal possessions -- family pictures, stationery, electronics -- into boxes. Don't forget about your personal files on your work computer. Back up whatever information you need: documents, music, pictures and so on -- and save it on an external hard drive or thumb drive. Don't touch sensitive company data or save it for personal purposes. Only keep contacts with whom you've personally built a relationship.

Get rid of old files or memos that no longer hold any relevance. Archive important documents that belong to the business. Pass on other relevant documents to your co-workers if they need them.

Throw away any trash and wipe away any dust and dirt. Discreetly remove T-shirts, mugs and other swag from your desk and put these items away.

There is the chance that you won't have much time to clean, purge and organize. Sometimes, when people quit their jobs (particularly sales positions), they are escorted out of the building in fairly short order. If you don't have much time, just prioritize what matters most to you so you can be on your way.

Even if your boss is away, he or she should be able to trust you to get your desk in order before you leave, so you can make a smooth exit. But "smooth" largely depends on the amount of trust you've built up with other people in the company while you were working with them.

Final thoughts

There may be other steps you need to take to make a smooth exit from your job. The exact nature of your work is a factor here, as is your relationship with coworkers, management and your boss.

Related: 5 Steps to Take Before Quitting Your Job to Become an Entrepreneur

Don't forget: It's best not to burn bridges unnecessarily. It is possible to leave a job in an honorable way. You can also give your employer feedback on any issues that may be at the root of your departure. Providing this information at an exit interview is often valuable in improving the company's operations, so long as it’s constructive and specific. After all, you never know when you might want to go back.