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The last six years have been pretty rough for the job market, so if you’re among the few movers and shakers who are actually heading up the ladder instead of falling off it, then you probably have a good handle on professionalism and what it can mean to your future. You know that even if you’re leaving a job, it’s good practice not to burn any bridges, even if you have no plans or desire to utilize those bridges again. In fact, we suggest that if you’re leaving your job, it’s best to leave it better than you found it. Here are six tips for how you can do just that.

One: Finish The Projects You Can

You’ve put in your two weeks’ notice. Now you can either sit around all day, drink coffee, and surf the Internet, or you can get a head start on your next job — at least in mindset — by working diligently to tie up any loose ends at your existing place of employment. This can bring with it a sense of accomplishment and stability that will serve you well as you head in to your next chapter of life.

Two: Take The Lead On Succession Planning

If you’ve got a lot to do, you may not be able to get to everything in two weeks’ time. Therefore, we suggest you take an active part in succession planning. In other words, make sure that people who take your job know what to expect from the daily duties and from any outstanding matters. Even if management has not filled your position, you should take steps to ensure someone knows how to do your job as well as what’s been done and what needs to be done.

Three: Let Go Of Grudges

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to leave a position with the most upbeat attitude. Maybe a manager or a co-worker rubbed you the wrong way. They may even deserve the animosity. But we live in a world where punching someone’s teeth in has consequences. Even an angry word or two (because you feel there’s nothing to lose) can come back to get you if your boss and your new boss travel in the same professional circles. Don’t allow negativity to have power over your life. Instead look forward, not back.

Four: Be Gracious

Being gracious may not always be easy, but the alternative can always have you looking over your shoulder as you advance your career. If leaving your job, consider writing a resignation letter that really lets your bosses and the company as a whole have it. Be as negative as possible; then, toss it in the trashcan. After doing so, your mind will be clear enough to write the “real” resignation letter — preferably one that is gracious and appreciative of the experience you gained from working in your position.

Five: Give Clients A Heads-Up

Co-workers and successors aren’t the only ones who may feel lost when you leave your job. Clients do as well, especially if they work fairly close with you on a daily or weekly basis, and suddenly you’re no longer there. About a week in advance, give your clients a call and let them know you’ve taken another position.

Six: Don’t Badmouth Superiors Or Co-Workers

You’d be surprised at how often a boss you hated at the time can later become an ally, just because you left the company like a professional (as opposed to a bitter college student). Why does that matter? Because in time, you may need a reference or a good word from your boss if you’re ever up for a new job or a promotion. Don’t screw it up.

What would you guys suggest for leaving your job better than you found it? Sound off in the comments section below.

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