A survey last year by Manpower indicated 84% of those currently employed (at the time) were interested in pursuing opportunities with a new employer. This showed a few things: a climb in confidence among the general public, a clear interest in personal improvement, and a desire to make a move even if only for the sake of some motion.
It also showed a lot of us are either on the move or wanting to be. Where it comes to IT professionals, there are some positions where that kind of motion is difficult to do without causing a lot of interruption and consternation with one’s former employer. Many companies are tied around a handful or even one IT resource who “knows where everything is” and whose knowledge are so unique that nobody can really take it over.
Here are a few tips for IT professionals who know they are in a unique position but want to leave without leaving the old business hanging.
Do an assessment meeting. Get your boss and a few people who make sense in the company or department into a room and get honest. Enumerate all the areas that will need to be handled on a daily, weekly, monthly and ad hoc basis. For that list, indicate what sort of skills, knowledge and tools are necessary and give an idea of how much time investment to expect for doing said tasks by someone of average knowledge. Start the conversation that needs to happen, the one where the company starts making decisions on who will take over what, how that will happen, and when.
This does a few great things for you. First, it covers your rear end by showing you are up front. Second, it lets you get everything out in the open so everyone learns and understands all the moving pieces involved; people like that and it will reflect positively on you. Third, in doing this you are being proactive about making a graceful handoff. This is something that will NOT go unnoticed by your current employer and will also enhance your image.
Document what you know. After the meeting, write everything down and email it out to everyone after the meeting. Following on that, spend some time thinking about each of the major points and start documenting what you know. What should you write down? Exactly what you wish you could be told or handed if you just arrived and were responsible for handling that piece. Don’t try to write technical documentation or else you’ll get bogged down in devilish details that serve nobody. Allow yourself some creative license. If it really is important to say “That server needs to be rebooted every once in a while until we replace it,” then write it down. That 4-second sentence could save your company tons of time and money.
When you are finished documenting, make sure it is all in an orderly fashion. Form it as a report that can be handed from to the new person or persons. Give it to your boss in hardcopy and put a soft copy on your primary machine and the company network as well. Then it can be easily found.
Brush up what you need to. Through the course of having that assessment meeting and then documenting all sorts of things, you will come up with a short list of things that you basically should take care of before you leave. Open ends, loose strings and other things that needed addressing but didn’t have the time for during the normal course of things. This is the time to do those things. You don’t have to tell anyone what those things are if you are worried about looking less than fastidious, but just get them done and when someone asks what you’re working on just tell them you’re getting everything in shape for the next person to take over. That’s all they need to know and they will like hearing it.
Leave your info and be available. Leave it with your boss and also that person you sit next to or speak with the most that you know will need to ask you questions after you’re gone. Be sure to answer those questions, even if it costs you lunch hours at your new job and dinner time at home. The questions will only last for a week or two then tail off. If they don’t, after a few weeks tell your old employer perhaps it would be better to hire a contractor (or offer your own services at a reasonable rate if your schedule will allow it). Either way, making yourself available during this time is critical in preserving all the good will you’ve built up during your time with the old employer. That kind of thing can be obliterated by a few unanswered phone calls and emails after you leave even if you were an outstanding employee for five or more years before you left.
Transitioning from one job to another is difficult enough for people in non-technical jobs. As an IT professional, you hold keys to kingdoms that are critical to the company and your very reputation and job reference from them will depend on how gracefully you bow out.
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