Whether you can't wait to tell your employer you're moving on or you're dreading the conversation, your behavior in your last days at a company can leave a lasting impression on your professional reputation.
"Acting graciously—despite what your instincts may tell you—is so important: You can demolish your investment in your career and work relationships if you're not careful," says LinkedIn Career Expert Nicole Williams. "Leaving can be hard, but you want to be as elegant and as refined in your departure as possible. Ultimately, it's to your best advantage," she says.
Here's a look at how you can ensure you're remembered fondly by your former employer, plus tips for maintaining your work relationships.
1. Keep It Short and Keep Your Cool
You may not like your boss, your colleagues or how the business is run, but resist the temptation to make your resentment know, Williams says. Instead, keep the conversation with your manager as short and as dignified as possible.
"While getting all your grievances off your chest may feel cathartic to you, I promise that weeks or months later when you see your colleagues at an industry event, or are sitting across from that former boss in an interview years later, you'll be wishing you reined it in," she says. "The world is a small one."
Keep your conversation to less than five minutes, too; anything longer and your risk stumbling and appearing less confident, Williams says.
2. Replace Yourself With Someone Better
Williams says that while replacing yourself with someone better than you may work against your instincts, your employer will be thankful for your efforts and the gesture will ultimately reflect well on you.
"This is something that psychologically may seem counterintuitive but is really important," she says. "You look better by virtue of bringing someone in of a high caliber, and they'll be thankful for that. Use LinkedIn's search capability to identify some candidates, and pass those along before you leave."
The easier your departure is on your boss, the more fondly you will be remembered, Williams says.
[Want more LinkedIn tips, tricks and analysis? Check out CIO.com's LinkedIn Bible.]
3. Say Nice Things
Once you're gone, continue to say positive things about your employer and former colleagues, Williams recommends.
Don't turn to Facebook to vent now that you're gone from the company, she says. "You may want to vent and feel the need to justify to others why this decision is a good one for you, but don't: Word gets out, and I can guarantee airing your grievances will come back like a game of telephone and probably much worse than what you originally said."
Speaking kindly of your former employer, instead, shows that you're a professional who's not shortsighted. "After all, you never know when you might find yourself back there someday—in a much higher position," Williams says.
4. Update Your LinkedIn Profile
Williams says that while there's no real rule about when to update your LinkedIn profile, she suggests waiting until your first day at your new job.
"While your former and new employer will have made announcements about you by then, your connections and friends may not know," she says. Update your LinkedIn information and post a status update announcing your new position, Williams recommends.
"In your update, say that while you've enjoyed working for X company, you're now with Y company and this is how they can contact you," Williams says.
And if there are individual LinkedIn contacts you want to make sure know about the change, don't hesitate to reach out and message them on LinkedIn individually.
"They'll feel complimented by the fact that you've taken the time to write to them," she says,
5. Recommend Your Former Colleagues
Williams says that a coworker's departure is what ends up being remembered most, and you want to maintain the relationships you've made over the years. One way to do this: Write your former colleagues a LinkedIn recommendation.
"Highlight what they excel at and how they've helped you when you worked with them," Williams says. "You'll be making new contacts that could be useful to them some day, and vice versa, so it's important to maintain the goodwill and comraderie."
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and social business for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com