How You Leave a Job Matters

Whatever reason brings you to leave a job, the process brings a mix of emotions.  There is likely excitement about the next opportunity and a sadness to be leaving people you enjoyed working with over the years.  There could be disappointment that things didn’t work out as you hoped and regret that you didn’t well as well as you hoped.  Maybe you are grateful for what you have learned and ready to move forward.  Whatever the circumstances, how you leave the job matters and becomes part of your legacy.

Work with your manager to define a plan of how the work will be covered.  This gives you an opportunity to transition files and documentation and to answer questions from the individual who will pick up these responsibilities.  You may be able to offer some solutions and some insights on what skills are critical to each job, how you would prioritize the outstanding work.  Demonstrate that you still feel responsible for your work and for the success of your colleagues, clients and company.  Show that you put some thought into the transition to ease the burden on those left behind.

If you work directly with clients, ask your manager if you may communicate with the clients directly.  Do so professionally.  Let them know you enjoyed working with them and explain the transition coverage to them so they will feel supported.

Book a meeting with HR to ensure that you don’t leave the paperwork and details until the last moment.  Be sure to understand the impact and dates of changes in insurance etc.

If an exit interview is offered, book one.  If not, at least do one with your manager.  Provide constructive feedback and focus on what you learned from the experience.  You have the opportunity to directly influence your legacy once you walk out the door.  If you are willing to be available for questions that arise, be clear when and how you wish to be contacted.

The world is indeed getting smaller every day.  Do not burn any bridges on your way out the door.  Exit well and you will be remembered well.

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Getting Your Resume To One Page

With increasing frequency, employers are asking for one page resumes.  In reality, even if they don’t ask, many will only read the first page.  You have great experience you want to share, short of using a ridiculously small font, how do you condense it to one page without losing all the value?

You can easily gain some usable space by trimming your margins.  There is no need to use the default one inch margins all the way around.  Do not reduce your margins to less than one-half inch.  It is important to have white space for readability.

Don’t go crazy adding new sections.  Each section requires a header which uses a line.  It can be ok to combine relevant sections into one such as Volunteer Experience and Community Involvement or Skills and Interests.

Not everything has to be on a separate line.  Think about where information can be reasonably combined on the same line.

Be careful of using the default spacing between lines.  This can cost you several lines per page.  Set the spacing for single spaced and add lines only where needed.

Monitor your bullets.  It should not take three lines of text to summarize your accomplishment.  Bullets should never exceed two lines and try to eliminate as many unnecessary words as possible.  Do not let one word carry over to a new line.  Rework it to fit to a single line.

Your resume is not intended to be detailed summary of your work history.  While you need to list each position you do not have to provide significant detail on older or less relevant positions.  Focus on what is clearly most relevant to the position you are considering.  Focus on the few key things that are most relevant and will make you stand out.

If you think this only applies for recent graduates or employees with minimal experience, think again.  Employers are expecting one page resumes for all but executive level hires.  Time to start editing for success.

Working Smarter Not Harder

Everyone in the workforce would benefit from working smarter not harder.  What are the things we could do to have a significant impact on our productivity in the work day?

Prepare for Tomorrow, Today

Before leaving at the end of the day, review your calendar for tomorrow and identify your top priority.  Leave nothing on your desk but your file for that top priority project.  Rather than getting distracted in the morning, you are ready to jump right in to the project that matters most.  It takes far less time to do this the night before when it is all fresh in your mind that to start your day by sorting and organizing your desk files trying to determine where you start.  This small investment of time can significantly impact productivity the next day.

Eat Your Vegetables First

As a child I did not like eating my vegetables.  I’d leave them until last and would push them around my plate.  Some nights it took forever to be excused from the table because I had to finish those vegetables.  Once I realized that if I ate them first and did it quickly, the rest of the meal was much more enjoyable.  Apply the same principal to your work.  We all have tasks we consider vegetables.  Whatever task if is you are dreading most, do that first thing in the morning and cross it off your list.  Don’t let it loom over everything else you have to do that day.  Just do it and get it done.

Don’t Fall Prey to the Urgent

Do not let someone else’s emergency become your priority.  Just because someone needs something now or sooner, does not mean it is your priority.  If your boss or a senior executive needs something quickly there may well be a good reason and you should probably do it quickly and accurately.  What you need to resist is the implied urgency from emails or other requests that re not a priority.  Spend the bulk of your time each day on what is most important (instead of what is perceived as urgent) and your productivity will soar.

Thinking Time vs Doing Time

When what you need is truly time to think before you jump into the next project, block your time.  Have your calendar show that you are unavailable.  If you can’t close your door and eliminate interruptions, book a conference room on the other side of the building.  If you can, plan a work from home day so you can focus.  It is hard to think when interruptions abound.  To ensure quality thinking time you need to give yourself time and space away from the normal interruptions.

Using your day to focus on the most important work helps you work smarter not harder.

What If the Fit is Truly Wrong?

You do your homework on the company in advance.  You ask probing questions in the interview.  You network with current and former employees of the company.  You believe you have a good read on the company culture and you accept the position.  Now you have been there a few months and you realize you read it completely wrong.  What can you do?  Is it ok to leave after just a short period of time?

First priority is to learn from the experience.  What signs did you miss?  What questions should you have asked?  Figure out what bothers you most about the culture and think about to avoid it in the future.  If you don’t know how you landed in such a poor fit for you, there is a chance you could repeat the error.  Be very honest with yourself and seek to truly learn from this experience.

While job hopping is not the taboo if once was, you want to have a clear sense of what the best next step is for you.  Don’t be so eager to get out of the situation that you jump at the first job that comes along.  Have a priority list of what is important to you in your next position.  Do your homework.

Be prepared to tell your story.  With a short stint on your resume, you are bound to be asked about it in an interview.  Be prepared to address the change.  Own the mistake and show that you are doing something about it.  Try not to bash the other company or your manager in the process.  Just not the best fit for you.

Try to tough it out while you look for another position.  Unless you are in a hostile work environment or are being asked to do something unethical, it is much easier to look for work while you are still employed.  Make a commitment to doing some networking every week.  Build your target list of companies and aggressively work the process.

Early in my career I accepted the wrong job at one point.  It was very quickly clear that there was not enough work to keep me busy.  That is something that makes me crazy.  While I reached out to colleagues and offered to help, there was just not enough work.  I was also concerned about how some of the work was being done.  My biggest concerns were that if I stayed, I’d develop bad work habits, negatively impact my work ethic and could potentially damage my credibility.  I started networking immediately, built a target list of companies and soon landed a new position.  I learned a lot about what is important to me in an employer from that experience and it served me well in the long run.

If you are truly in the wrong job at the wrong company, ramp up your networking and focus on finding a job that is right for you.

It’s Ok if it Feels Like Work

I’ve been hearing more and more job seekers explain that it is time to make a change because their current position feels too much like work.  They want to be more excited and have fun on the job.  Unfortunately, it is called work for a reason.

While it is great to be passionate about the mission, to enjoy the people you work with and to be motivated and challenged by many aspects of your job, it is still a job.  I have been Director of the Graduate Career Center here at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business for more than eleven years.  I can honestly say that I love my job.  I enjoy working with the students and our employers.  I have a great team of professionals who make a difference for our students every day.  I don’t dread coming to the office but it is still work.  I work hard and sometimes there a very long days.  There are parts of the job that can be tedious or frustrating.  I do not always have the resources I would like to do everything I want to do but overall it is a great job.

There is an unrealistic expectation that work should be fun and that your colleagues should be your best friends.  Having been through a couple difficult mergers in my career which resulted in many people losing their jobs, the ones who had the most difficult time dealing with the changes were those who had no other interests or priorities in their lives.  It is important to enjoy time with families and friends.  It helps if you have hobbies, volunteer experiences or physical activities in your life.  That balance outside the job helps you keep perspective.

While it is ideal to believe in the mission of your company and to know that your work makes a difference, it is still work.   If it is not fulfilling all your needs, think about whether the job is truly the issue or whether it is a symptom of having the rest of your life a bit out of balance.

Can You Work in a Start-up?

The idea of working for a start-up tends to be glamorized in the media.  Candidates need to carefully consider if they have what it takes to survive and thrive in this unique environment.

 Changing Priorities

You may be working on a mission-critical project when something changes and you are asked to stop and take on a completely different project.  If you are energized by that you could do well in the start-up environment but if that causes you significant frustration you may want to steer clear.  Priorities change frequently in the early stages.  An investor may have an urgent need that trumps whatever you were working on.  Based on focus group feedback your presentation to the board tomorrow may have to be completely revamped.  Change is a given in a start-up operation.  Candidates need to honestly assess their comfort level with constant change.

Limited Resources

In a start-up employees often have to wear multiple hats.  There are not unlimited resources or highly specialized roles, you may be asked to do whatever is most needed at the moment.  Some candidates thrive on that variety but others need a more predictable and focused work plan.  Think about how you do your best work to determine if the variety is a positive or a negative for you.

Comfort with Risk

A start- up come with inherent risk.   Not all start-ups succeed.  Brilliant ideas for new products or services don’t always predict a successful new business venture.  Can you live with the risk of the company going out of business?  On a more daily basis can you tolerate the risk of trying something that may not work?  If you try and fail, do you learn something and eagerly explore the next option to see if that will work?  Sometimes the risk is that you have to make a significant decision on your own, in the moment and then have to live with the consequences.

Believe in the Mission

Working to make a start-up successful is hard work which can be both rewarding and frustrating.  To commit to working this hard to make it a success, it is important to believe in the mission.  If you are not aligned with the mission it is likely not going to be a good fit for you.  You can’t convince others of the value of your product or service if you don’t truly believe it yourself.

See the Impact of Your Work

In a start-up you are able to see the direct impact of your work on the success of each initiative and on the company as a whole.  If you want a clear sense of how you are impacting the outcome, this could be the perfect opportunity for you.

Mind the Gap

If you have ever been to London you hear repeated announcements reminding you to “mind the gap” as you navigate The Tube.  While it is helpful advice, minding the gaps of your resume can significantly impact your job search.

Life happens.  Candidates end up with gaps on their resumes for a variety of reasons – some under their control and others completely out of their control.  What is a job seeker to do?

Be Prepared – Many interviewers will be drawn to the gaps on a resume and are likely to ask you directly about it.  If you are prepared to address the gap, it will likely not be perceived as an issue.  However if you fumble through a weak explanation, it tends to raise more questions than it addresses.  Have your story ready.  Focus on any positives that came out of this experience.

Be Honest – Do not list starting your own consulting company in the gap unless you actually did that.  If you never had a client, you never had a consulting firm.  Be honest and own the gap.  Employers do employment verification and background checks.  If you own the gap it is often not an issue.  If you misrepresent it, your integrity is then questioned and you could easily lose the job.

Do Not Bash A Former Company or Manager – Positively explain your gap without maligning a former company or manager.  Sure it stinks that they laid you off after two years of positive reviews.  It likely had nothing to do with your performance but more the cost structure of the company.  If you talk about what a jerk your manager was to eliminate your job, it raises a red flag about how you interacted with your manager.  Be honest but frame it as positively as possible.  Things happen.  Differentiate yourself by how your respond to those things you can’t control