Photo of Renee Baker Arrington

Renee Arrington
President & COO

As America begins the return to “normalcy” amidst the current crisis, many people may be facing a departure from their employer—whether voluntarily or otherwise. This seems a good time to reflect on the importance of making graceful, smooth transitions from one career opportunity to the next. Though change can certainly be difficult, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure to preserve your reputation and relationships in the process.

Don’t burn bridges.

The way an executive handles a departure from an employer can have a significant impact on his or her reputation and future career. Whether or not the move is voluntary, the adage rings true: Don’t burn any bridges.

When exiting an organization, an objective and positive stance will help keep your business relationships intact. For example, if you are offered an exit interview, avoid any negative comments that could be construed as sour grapes. Choose your words carefully. Providing thoughtful, meaningful, honest input ensures that you will be remembered as professional, helpful and above-board, rather than angry and emotional.

Contribute positively and be remembered well.

Even if your company is the one severing ties, under some circumstances, you might be asked to participate in the process of finding and/or onboarding your replacement. While it may seem unthinkable, you’ll need to keep a cool head.

If you are asked to provide input on the strengths and weaknesses of those who reported to you, be honest. Resist the temptation to play up the skills of your “favorites” while playing down their weaknesses, and certainly refrain from blame or bad-mouthing anyone. Give your successor the helpful, honest assessment you would like to receive if you were in the same position.

In all interactions with the recruiting team or executive search firm, conduct yourself in a way that makes you an asset to that process rather than a hindrance. Making positive connections with people in the executive search industry can only help you in the long run and may even open the door to new opportunities.

Remember that you may encounter your employer in the future.

It’s a small world, especially in certain industries. You may think you are closing the door when you part from your employer, but you very well may encounter them in the future and your actions at the time of your departure will be remembered.

Recently, Pearson Partners successfully completed a search for a vice president of sales for a large manufacturer. The finalist candidate worked for our client’s fiercest competitor and before moving on to his new role, he navigated his exit from the previous company with skill and grace. Eighteen months later, his new company was acquired by his previous employer and he was selected to lead sales for the newly combined entity. While he clearly had the requisite skills for the role, his polished, diplomatic departure made his promotion an easy decision.

If a job transition may be in your future, wear your company hat until you are out the door. Smile, act gracefully and conduct yourself in a way that will make you—and your employer—proud.

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