If you’ve made the decision to quit your current job, it is important to ensure a smooth transition for the team you are leaving behind. It’s also essential to consider your next step: are you going straight into a new job? Or are you taking some time off before you begin the job search? Set yourself up for success and plan ahead. Here’s how.

Why is a smooth transition important?

For the colleagues you are leaving behind, your projects will not stop with your departure. Doing all that you can to prevent your exit from being a disruption is not just the respectful and considerate thing to do, it is also beneficial for your career.

After all, it is very possible that you will work with your colleagues again in the future, and maintaining these relationships - or at least, leaving on a positive note - can go a long way in securing positive reviews, a good reputation, and even perhaps recommendations that can boost your career.

Of course, what your work colleagues need from you is not always the same as what your boss will require of you, so it can be helpful to plan in advance the steps you can take to ensure your departure is a happy one.

A smooth transition for… your boss

The very first thing to consider when thinking of your boss is to provide as much time in advance of your departure as you can. It is customary to give at least a month’s notice to your boss, though in many cases, you are only required to notify management two weeks before your intended last day.

Set a private meeting between yourself and your direct supervisor as soon as you can in order to announce your intention. Be considerate of this conversation: are you about to enter, or are in the middle of, a particularly busy, stressful period? If so, it may be better to time your conversation during a less stressful time if you can.

By providing as much notice to your boss as possible, you not only ensure they have time to find a replacement, you also give yourself time to wrap up any projects that you are responsible for without needing to rush. Your duties will continue to be yours until the end of your last day at work. You may also consider offering to help:

  • Find and train your replacement;
  • Remaining until they are hired and on the job;
  • Offering to assist even once you depart.

Should your boss be interested in conducting an exit interview, be honest, but positive. If you have had some real issues during your time at work, it’s up to you whether you choose to share them; you will need to consider how best to frame them in a constructive (rather than a negative) way, but it may not always be appropriate or beneficial for you to do so. Use your best judgement.

There may be specific steps you need to complete in order to finalise your resignation. For example, there may be documents you need to complete, or meetings you will need to attend. These are normal, but can differ depending on your company’s policies. Use this private meeting to confirm these details.

A smooth transition for… your colleagues

Once you’ve made your departure official, you will need to consider your colleagues. For your replacement, well written, well organised handover documents are essential for them to take over your work.

The more details, the better. Think about the projects you are responsible for, and lay out as much information as you can: a timetable of everyday tasks and projects, and a guide to each; any issues or challenges you’ve had, and how you have managed to resolve them; key contacts; and a calendar of deadlines and any relevant events. Other helpful items to include might be administrative information and contacts; building or office information (stationery cabinet, coffee supplies, etc.); and how to contact IT in case of any technology issues.

Remember to wrap up any responsibilities you share with your colleagues. Should you find yourself with any free time, don’t be afraid to reach out and offer to help while you’re still around.

And of course, don’t forget to show your appreciation of all their hand work on your final day. It’s customary to prepare a small leaving gift - nothing expensive, just something small - and many offices in Japan organise a small gathering to wish you well. You may wish to prepare a few words just in case they ask you to make a small speech!

A smooth transition for… you

In the lead up to your final day, take some time to confirm what administrative procedures you will need to complete, depending on whether you are going to a new job, or taking a break to look for a new job. Make sure you also confirm what your legal requirements are for your visa situation.

You should also use this time to collect any documents that would be helpful for your CV. If you’re in a creative pursuit, are there any pieces you’d like to include in your portfolio? Are there any particularly impressive results you achieved while on the job? If you can, and with permission where necessary, take down details and any copies of your work documents for use in the future, and make note of the steps you took to achieve your goals.

You should also consider whether or not it would be helpful and appropriate to ask your direct report, clients, and colleagues for reference letters. This can be as simple as a short LinkedIn recommendation, or as long as a handwritten letter, but it’s best to ask now while your work is still fresh in their minds.

Of course, each workplace is different, and there may be things that you will need to do in order to ensure a smooth transition that others will not. Use good judgment, continue to be conscientious, and be open to requests from the people around you. With these in mind, you’ll be well on your way to a successful, positive resignation, enabling you to begin your next challenge with a clean slate.

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