Most people want to make a good impression when they start a new position. But when that job comes to an end, there is a tendency to brush off the importance of leaving their former supervisors and colleagues with the same good feelings. Whether or not you are happy about leaving your job to work somewhere else, you may want to think twice about using your remaining time at the firm as an opportunity to rebel or let off steam.

The truth is how you treat the last few weeks on the job is extremely critical to your future career development. The world of architecture and design can be very small indeed. Chances are that you will need to be in touch with at least some of your colleagues down the road, since your professional reputation and network are very big assets that you can tap for references, referrals, and a considerable amount of valuable “insider information.”

What To Do Leading Up to Your Departure

So, if you do not want to burn any bridges, especially if you were working under difficult conditions, then pay attention to how you approach those final 2 to 4 weeks before you leave. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Read the employee contract. Now is the time to dust off your employment contract and pour over it. This is the very first thing you should do- even before giving your notice of resignation. You want to go into the process understanding exactly what you are entitled to regarding benefits and compensation for any paid sick days or vacation time that you did not end up using. This will help you keep your expectations realistic.

Give the firm at least 4 weeks’ notice. Giving a 4 week notice of resignation is a pretty standard practice in the architecture and design industry. You want to make sure that your former employer has enough time to either find a suitable replacement for your position or at least re-arrange things so that other employees can temporarily pick up the slack. If you hand in your notice of resignation with the intention of leaving within a week, then chances are you are going to build up a lot of resentment.

Also, make an effort to inform either your immediate leader or the firm’s owner(s) before telling any of your colleagues. You don’t want this person to first hear about your impending departure from someone else.

Keep up with your responsibilities. This is a hard one because your head may already be focused on your new job. But, the fact is you are still responsible for your work until the day that you actually leave.

Prepare the firm for your departure. Leave all your work materials and files in some kind of orderly system, so your colleagues as well as the person who will replace you can easily pick up where you left off and find all the information they need. If you are involved in training or advising the new person, then don’t go into it halfheartedly. Give it your best.

Don’t talk too much about your new job. In a similar vein to the last two points above, try as much as possible to keep yourself focused on the work at hand. Be careful about bringing up the details of your new job- especially among peers. It can create feelings of resentment among your co-workers that can make your last few days on the job more difficult than it needs to be.

Aside from the tips mentioned above, you also should pay particular attention to the exit interview.