10 Things: About the Art Of Saying Goodbye*

how-to-end-internship-on-great-terms*The Pat Benatar song is actually “About the Art of Letting Go,” not saying good bye, but so it goes.

As the summer dwindles for summer classes of future MBAs and JDs, we thought we’d give some advice on how to say goodbye (and hello).

While you’re still working there…

1. Give people a head’s up that your last day is approaching — do your best to set up lunch, coffee, whatever. Until you’ve accepted your offer there is still very much an air of “let’s make the summers happy,” so now would be a good time to approach that Big Wig and see if you can set something up. (Hint: If you’re trying to organize something with the CEO or Executive Partner you may want to try to get a few other summers on board — it’ll be less awkward for you and it’ll be seen as more time-efficient for the Big Wig.)

2. Assess if you’d like to offer any of your time during your final year in school — law firms in particular have been known to quietly use 3Ls if there is too much work. If you’d like to commit your time during your last full year of freedom, offer it up during lunch or coffee.

3. Make sure people in your summer class are organizing a thank-you present for your secretaries, as well as the recruiting office — flowers are nice, spa packages are better. If no one is, spearhead the effort yourself. If you had a very active summer, follow up with a hand-written thank-you note to the recruiting office. Why? It’s the gracious thing to do. (And no one likes working with an ingrate.)

4. On your last day, try to do a personal drop-by to say goodbye to the people you enjoyed working with the most. If anything comes up in the conversation, be sure to follow up on it. Exchange e-mail addresses if possible — if there was a mid-level at the company you especially liked you may want to make sure you get his or her personal e-mail address, on the off chance they leave before you return.

5. Be judicious about social networking sites. It’s fine to use Facebook or MySpace to connect with the other students you summered with. If you want to, it’s not inappropriate to use LinkedIn to connect, either. However, do not request to become “Linked In” with superiors at the company, unless you’d also ask them to recommend you to a future employer — it’s more serious than a casual link, and no one has really had time to assess the other person’s work. (See our updated LinkedIn tips here.) Requesting to become linked to an mid-level or senior person you had lunch once or twice with, or wrote a memo for, is really not acceptable. Similarly, be wise about your Facebook or MySpace page — if you’re going to connect with future work associates, take your cue from them. If they don’t have drunken bikini shots of themselves on there, you might want to think twice before putting those on your own page. (Although, really, we’re hoping you removed those pictures before you started the interview process.)

During the long absence…

6. Stay in touch with people you liked! Ask for advice, give them a general update on your life if you got to personally know someone well. This can pay off professionally: if you worked at a law firm this summer and got to know a first- or second-year associate very well, by the time you get back they’ll be a mid-level associate with (hopefully) good work to pass along.

7. Use Google Alerts to stay “up” on projects you worked on during the summer. Did the deal ever happen? Did the case ever settle? Did the product ever launch? Send an e-mail when you see an article on point to the bosses who supervised you. Also use the service to stay up on other company news and gossip. This way, if the firm wins a huge judgment, or the company posts huge profits you can congratulate the people you knew at the company (as well as being aware if layoffs happen or the stock price plummets). Finally, you may also want to use Google Alerts for any newsmakers in your firm — it never hurts to e-mail the BigWig and say, “Ah, saw your op-ed in last week’s WSJ. I learned a lot, and thought you’d be interested to read ____ as well.”

8. Don’t speak ill of your experience around campus. Remember, this is the company you’ll be working for; it will appear on your resume — you don’t want to contribute to a bad opinion of it, if one exists (and you certainly don’t want to create one).

As you prepare to come back for the start of work…

9. Send a personal e-mail to the people you worked with to let them know you’re coming back — even if everyone in your class is starting on the same date. The onus of getting back in touch falls to the person with the least seniority — which is you. Let them know you’ll be coming back soon; depending on the person you’re e-mailing you may want to ask if they have any good projects if they can hold them for your start date, or you may want to ask if there are any projects at the company you should avoid like the plague.

10. Whatever you do, during every part of this process, avoid e-mailing everyone at the company or law firm. You may have seen people who had worked at the company for years send around a mass e-mail saying good bye — THIS IS NOT YOU. DO NOT DO THIS. All you will do is make yourself seem self-important and lacking in discrimination.

Liked this story? You may also want to check out our Corporette 101 features (advice for women just starting out in the business world), The Hunt (where we review some options in the market for basics), our What to Wear To… advice, or maybe check out some of our polls. Oh, or also our 10 Things columns…

Pictured at top:  How do you say goodbye with a picture, originally uploaded to Flickr by 23am.com.


  1. Great post!! I’m a summer associate and have been very curious as to the protocol for a graceful exit. This is incredibly helpful. I love that I can find a great suit and practical business advice all from the same source!

  2. I agree 100%.

    — midlevel associate

  3. “And no one likes working with an ingrate.”

    Recruiting staff has zero input on whether you get an offer at any law life of any standing. Save your cash. They’re just doing their job. As for something for your secretary, that’s potentially reasonable.

  4. Actually, I agree with giving the secretaries some gift of appreciation. While they may not have input as to whether you get an offer, more likely than not, you will be assigned the same support staff when you come back. You want these people to like you because you’ll have to compete with people more senior than you to get your work done by the secretaries. If you can get on his/her good side, s/he may shuffle a few things around for you (i.e. find a way to a partner’s word processing off) to give you a hand. THAT’S worth $25.

  5. Re: secretaries and recruiting staff, there are actually two different lines of reasoning here.

    Secretaries have absolutely no input into your offer, and do not have the ear of anyone higher than them. It’s also highly unlikely that they actually did anything to be truly helpful to you over the summer. They WILL, however, gossip about you when you leave, and if everyone else got flowers and they did not, your name will be mud when you return (even if you get someone else). And one of the most important things you learn is thus: do not alienate the support staff. Furthermore, if everyone’s secretaries’ get flowers and yours does not, it will be a visual cue to the rest of the firm that all the summers who had that secretary were a) unorganized and/or b) cheap and/or c) so self-important they couldn’t spend $25 on support staff.

    With the recruiting staff, it’s much different. They don’t have direct input, either, but if you alienate them throughout the summer they can affect whether you get an offer by what sort of gossip they allow to be spread about you, as well as what kind of work you get and who you get to meet. But that’s all played out already by the end of the summer. The reason you get the recruiting staff a spa gift is because with 30-60 summers at a firm, just a few bucks ($10? $15?) goes a long way to showing your appreciation and everyone going in for a spa gift. And while you may not realize it now, the summer is the social life of the firm — the parties, the plays, the restaurants that you took for granted this summer are valued treats that are doled out to the deserving associates when you come back. Those deserving associates not only get to have fun with the summers and take roles of responsibilities, you get to mingle in a social way with partners and senior associates, when is a much more rare event when you’re actually working at the firm. So is THAT worth $10? Is that worth a five minute effort to write a thank-you note and do what you ought to be doing ANYWAY in life, being a gracious and polite person? You bet.

  6. Anonymous :

    WTF? Linked in is more serious than Myspace or Facebook? This is the first I hear of this. When did these protocols go into effect?

  7. Um…how about just giving the secretaries a parting gift because they were your secretaries? They likely did alot of your bitchwork. Its the right thing to do- who cares what input they have?

  8. “While they may not have input as to whether you get an offer, more likely than not, you will be assigned the same support staff when you come back.”

    Highly unlikely. But secretaries gossip, so a little hush gift may be reasonable.

    “They don’t have direct input, either, but if you alienate them throughout the summer they can affect whether you get an offer by what sort of gossip they allow to be spread about you,…”

    A law firm of any standing gives 100% offers. You don’t need to bribe recruiting for doing their job (esp. considering they will have 0% contact with you once you join).

  9. Bob, recruiting has a huge amount of contact with you once you join. You’re going to be asked to do nice things for them, like take Summers and Callbacks to lunch. You’re going to be put on the recruiting website, which entails getting your photo taken at an inconvenient or a convenient time; ditto for the interview hit-list. You might be sent to schools you’re not interested in to read resumes of kids you’re not interested in in order to satisfy the curiosity of the hiring partner. Recruiters have a lot of pull; not so much for whether you get the offer, but for what the non-billables look like when you do.

    The point of this is to ingratiate yourself. You write thank-you notes to your interviewers as a callback because it’s the right thing to do: not because they’re just doing their job, but because that’s what gentlemen do. Since when was etiquette all about social gain: it’s what you do because THAT’S WHAT POLITE PEOPLE DO.

    And you just made $3,000 / week. The “save your cash” attitude when thinking about a $25 gift-card makes you out to be an ass.

  10. Bob’s insistence that recruiting has no impact on hiring, and that “any firm of any standing gives 100% offers” (whatever the heck that means) is short-sighted.

    If all the attorneys like a SA, but the recruiting staff doesn’t, then correct, the recruiter’s opinion isn’t going to result in a no offer. But recruiting staff members have more day to day contact with summers than almost any attorney does. And at any firm with a halfway decent summer program, those recruiting staff members will be reporting to attorneys who head the summer program and the hiring committee. They’re a filter, and they can shape how the attorneys perceive that SA. In sum, be courteous and professional to everyone, not only because your job may depend upon it, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

    As for this sentiment that good firms give 100% offers… Nonsense. Some do, but most firms don’t give 100% offers, especially this year. Any many of the firms that say they gave 100% offers included some “soft/cold offers” in that tally to help their numbers.

  11. I think comment #5 is BS. Linked In is a way to make contacts with colleagues, superiors or not. Linked is professional with a brief resume… not facebook with frat party pics. It is perfectly acceptable to stay connected with superiors on linked in. It’s better than poking them on facebook.

  12. Great tip about Google alerts. Thank you.

  13. I find the comment about LinkedIn quite odd. Why wouldn’t it be appropriate to link with a coworker?

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