Transitioning out of a job

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Thoughts | Posted on 01-26-2009


Alright, I’m going to need your help for this post. As I prepare to leave Butler, I really want to make a smooth transition for the next person to be the E-Comm Coordinator.

Too often it seems that in a period of transition, all is lost and the new person must start over.  If we are doing all of this research, data-collecting, forecasting, etc. shouldn’t it be utilized by the next person?   Truth is that I didn’t do the best job at transitioning at UIS [Sorry, Jeremy... :) ] and I want to leave more behind so the next person can hit the ground running with our web-based / social media efforts.

So here’s where you come in… give me your tips and advice in the comments on things you wish the person before you had done or you plan on doing for the person after you.

Here’s my current plan:

  • Back up all work files onto an external harddrive.
  • Include README file with my email address for any questions about the files.
  • Organize data in folders (Email Images, Data/Research, Campus Photos, Login Information, etc.)
  • Clean up computers under my username so that there is maximum space available on the hard drives
  • Make sure the Bloggers know who to contact in the interim
  • Get all Twitter/Google stuff that I did under my emails (stupid!) to new accounts and ready for next person

And a few little reminders for myself:

  • Deactivate my account on iTunes (only 5 computers, Apple? Seriously?)
  • Clear my saved information (passwords, etc.) from Firefox
  • Clean my old leftovers from the fridge and get tupperware
  • Tidy up a bit. Leave some artwork on the walls.

Alright, leave a comment/tip/worst transition ever story/suggestion/idea/thought below!

Comments posted (21)

Leave a note of what you were working on, before you leave. It’s important for the person to have a jumping off point. Maybe leave a few of the things on the radar or whatever. If that’s not something you can/want to do, perhaps just a note for the new person that gives them a heads up.

Or if that’s not what you want to do, then maybe give them your email and say, “get in touch with me when you arrive. I’ll give you the back brief on what to look for.”

It’s not like you’re leaving on bad terms, so no one would be worried about that and it’d be helpful for the person to maybe get a 30 min debrief from you that might save them days or weeks of frustration or to have a better mindset to thrive in their new role.

WOW What a thorough transition! Many, many people would just turn in their computer and blackberry and say “peace” …

My “new” computer still had questionable files from the prior user … an counselor who left abruptly before the fall travel season a few months prior. And when I mean questionable, I mean “show the boss on my own accord before I get fired in my first week” questionable.

Dude you have this blog that is more of a wealth of knowledge about what you did at Butler than anyone could hope to ask for. I mean .eduGuru started out as more specific information about Wofford and it’s the absolute best source of knowledge I could hope to send someone too. You have done the same… don’t sweat it.

Leave a contacts file and copy any business cards you may have of people you have worked with or had contact with in this position. Include some notes on who they are, what they do and why they are important or could be helpful. Include a “top ten” list of people the new person should contact and introduce themselves to.

You might even want to send emails to those people letting them know there will be a new contact for your organization and who is the interim contact person.

I would be sure to document processes and any projects that your successor would be expected to do.

E.g., you don’t just want to tell the bloggers their new contact, but a list of bloggers and your thoughts about how to recruit the next batch, and when.

Also think about any other routines you do (checking broken links, other Web analyses, reading a certain e-mail box, checking Facebook and Twitter, etc.) and be sure to leave your successor in a position to pick up where you left off. In the short term, don’t expect your interim replacement to be as clued in as you are with respect to these technologies, and consider leaving one-page guides on these processes to help right after your departure.

I know there are several annual or semesterly projects that I designed and continue to support, and I’ve tried to leave good documentation so that should I get hit by the proverbial beer truck, someone can take that document and still get the job done.

I don’t know how much you rely on campus relationships in your position, but for me, the ‘who to call for what’ list would be valuable. I am surprised to read that you and the above commenter don’t have the computer re-imaged when you leave. We do that as SOP for departures. Files are backed up to a network drive.

The one thing that I wish had been done by my predecessor would have been a folder on an encrypted jump drive with all the necessary password and server address information. Luckily, he still works at the school, but it takes forever whenever I run into something that I don’t have the password for.

Wow, these are really good thoughts. Kyle, great idea. I’ve basically chronicled my time here on SP, except for a few projects here and there.

@Mary – It’s going to be hard to pick just 10! I’ve met so many awesome people in the industry these past few years :)
Definitely going to do that though.

@Gil – Fortunately I don’t think it’s the questionable files I have to worry about. BUT those Half-Life and Portal installs are hard drive space killers :)

@Ron – Good idea on the 30 min debrief, especially since I’ll still be in town.

I’ve found the piece that took the longest to learn in my higher-ed jobs has been who to talk to for what. Universities/Colleges are complex institutions with complex politics, so it would have been cool to get a list of key contacts in the school (for this job) and why they were key. And also a reverse list of key issues and who to talk to from that list.

I’d also suggest a debrief like Ron and leave them with a few ways to reach you, just in case.

When I started at my college in 2002, the person who was in the position before me left me a CD with every piece of information I could ever need – even organized by office. It included templates, PSD files, font information, logins and passwords for various apps, even where certain things lived on the server. I referred to it often in my first 6 months and it really did make the transition very easy.

I’m with Steve Lewis and Billy Adams

Think about what people are going to want from the “New Brad” when they gets hired (reports, emails sent, etc..) and put the steps to do it in a .txt doc.

I think when you start a job (especially if its been vacant for a while) people have all this pent up demand for what the last person used to do.

The easier you make that happen. The better it is for your ex-co-workers and the new person. Plus, there is a way to do until there is a new hire.

Even if you leave a contact email, you begin to forget certain process you haven’t done in awhile or why you did something weird that was a workaround for something else.

Hope this helps!


Go “big picture” and generate some documents (graphics?) that illustrate the arc of your year, as well as the approximate percentage of your time you were dedicating to varying components of your work in different “seasons.”

How about a list of local lunch options, with a recommendation for some people for your successor to share a meal with in the first couple of months?

I like Ron’s debrief idea as well…

I think so many of the comments left for you are great. One thing I would add would be to not be disappointed if you aren’t contacted by “the new guy (or girl)”.

I did many of things you have on your to-do list and made sure I left contact info, etc. My old boss contacted me once before they were able to hire my replacement. The new guy really only emailed me once to ask what I’d named a file on the live server. (I actually remembered…go figure). Other than that, he wanted to do things his way, not mine. And I understand that.

I was also going to say what Kyle already has: your blog is a wealth of info. :-)

Best wishes on your new adventure!

Make sure to warn them about Web Services! ;-p

Tell him/her you’re just a tweet/DM away if they have questions.

Return that mascot costume you stole as part of the shameless YouTube publicity stunt. ;-)

Also, let University know that a small incident occurred during filming of the aforementioned YouTube clip, and Blue II is now actually Blue III.


Go all presidential and leave a note on the desk for your successor. Perhaps you can even set up a transition team to help her/him ease into the job :)

@Isaacson – LOVE IT!! Should I make a transition website too? ;)

@Colin – You weren’t supposed to tell anyone that.

@Todd – I’m partially scared to throw the new person in the ring with folks like you lingering around. (Seriously, great suggestion. Added a paragraph to the document.)

@Tim – Done and DONE.

@Susan – that’s a good thought too. And that’s what @jeremywilburn did. Took things his own way and didn’t rely on what I left (which wasn’t much, honestly.)

@Shelley – I love that. Because I get SLAMMED Sept. – Nov and was not prepared for that the first go around.

@Jamie – Anything in particular that you did when you left Marian College?
@Mike – I think the hard drive will be good for them, I’m trying to keep it organized.

@Stewart and @Hans – made the ‘who to call’ list today. What a great idea.

Keep them coming!

I thought you did a fine job of leaving things here. I think documenting the work you do is crucial for a smooth transition, or even for someone else that is helping with a project already underway.

I like the leaving artwork idea. Make sure to tell the cleaning crew not to throw it away though.

A list of projects you have done is helpful, assuming you keep something like a weekly to-do list. Likewise, a back-burner list can be useful.

Create a list of resources (blogs to follow, known links to Web sites that have Butler info, any rep monitoring you do via RSS feeds, accounts such as Flickr, YouTube, etc.) as a handy spreadsheet.

Even better, put info like this on an online collab site where a number of folks in Admissions, the college Webmaster, etc. (whoever is appropriate in the Butler culture) have access to it. Similarly, if you store info like this in Netvibes, share/send the page to a coworker.

Save files on a shared network drive, if possible, as opposed to (just) an external hard drive. This ensures more people can access it if needed, and their is usually redundancy/backup built in.

I remember when I started in Admissions, back in the three-ring binder days of organization. One of my boss’ first pieces of advice was to keep my binder organized so that if I got hit by a bus (or beer truck, as Steve said), someone could continue on without much trouble. Business continuity is important.

As you already realized, holding e-mail and password keys for so many sites turned out to not be a great approach. Keep that in mind in the next job.

I second Susan – don’t be disappointed if the new person doesn’t contact you. Leave your contact info and let that be up to them. The new person will likely take this position and make it their own, with their own thoughts and ideas as to what is effective and worthwhile.

Get someone else in the office into the Facebook group as an admin now. I seem to recall you mentioning some tension between you and other staff members (though I may be thinking of a different blog). Getting active social media buy-in via responsibility among staff in small ways like this will help out the next person.

Even though I’m not planning on leaving IUE for at LEAST 2 more years, I’ve already started preparations.

I set up MediaWiki on a secure intranet-only server, and I’ve been extensively documenting all the apps I write, the information architecture of the website, and some brief “how-tos” for some of the more inane / esoteric bits we do around here.

Hopefully, my successor, whomever it is, will find that helpful in their transition *INTO* my position; but in the meantime, it’s a very handy reference for me. :)

Write a comment