Leaving Your Job Without Jeopardizing Project Outcomes

Switching from one career to another can be scary, but it also can be a thrilling experience. Look at it as an opportunity to really go after what you want to accomplish in life and make a difference in the world. The key is to take small, conscious steps and prepare yourself for a successful transition.   - Jack Canfield

Whether you are just starting out in your career, or you have been in the workforce for a while, you would probably agree that your career path is relatively unpredictable. You may have an idea of what you want to do and the milestones you would like to hit, but the specifics in terms of timing, roles, and achievements are yet to be determined.

As career-minded people – and excellent project managers – you will likely take on bigger roles with more responsibility as time passes. Whether these opportunities are within your own company or not, you should learn how to leave your current job with grace and respect for everyone on your team.

In essence, you need to learn how to leave you job without leaving any one hanging.

I have been in situations where key project team members have left in the middle of projects, and I have always wished them the best! And while some of them did a good job transitioning their work to others, some did little to transfer knowledge – and the projects suffered as a result.

When I recently left my job, I tried to be as organized as possible in terms of outlining the necessary information to transition all of my knowledge to the appropriate people. As project managers – and as good employees and teammates – you should always do the same.

Here are the components of a good transition plan that you can put into place as you move on to different roles within or outside your company.

  • Let your team know that you are leaving as early as possible – This first step might be easier when you are moving internally since you may only have two weeks if you plan to leave the company. Either way, give your team as much notice as you can so that they can take the necessary steps to plan for your absence.
  • Create a transition plan that outlines your current projects – Similar to a transition document you might create at the end of a project when you hand it back over to the business, a transition plan can help you outline key information about the projects you are managing. The recent transition document I put together was in Excel, and it included the title and description of each project, project status, list of key team members and project stakeholders (with contact information), immediate next steps, and a list of important documents.
  • Store important documents in a centralized location – Store all of the documents listed on your transition plan in a place where all team members can access them. If you do not have a shared drive, email them to the appropriate people. Documents I included were the project charter, project plan, legal documents, relevant correspondences, summary presentations, project dashboards, and current drafts of any in-process work.
  • Meet with key team members to transition work – Set up time with relevant team members to review your transition plan and the stored documents. You may need to meet with them more than once to be sure they understand current state and know what actions need to happen next.
  • Confirm everything is in place before you leave – Have a final sign off meeting with your manager and project sponsors to let them know what you did to transfer knowledge to your team members. That way they will know which team members are now responsible for different aspects of each project. Also send a simple, clear email to the appropriate people with your transition plan so that they have it on record.
  • Keep in touch – While you do not want to put yourself in a position where you will continuously be called on with questions, do leave the door open in case any major issues arise. And keep in touch with the people with whom you have built good relationships. You never know where your paths will cross in the future!

While it is important for you to keep these steps in mind for yourself, you may also find that some people on your team announce that they are leaving and do not have a transition plan in place. In that case, take it upon yourself as the project manager to sit down with them and share your expectation that they put an appropriate transition plan in place.

As new career opportunities arise, organizing your current work using the above tips will help your team keep the project going without jeopardizing the project outcomes. And you will leave a lasting, positive impression with your colleagues, which can only help you down the road – either when you eventually work with them again, or just in terms of good karma coming your way!