When some people are in “job search” mode the last thing on their minds is what they’re leaving behind. The natural human inclination is to concentrate on the next job and aiming for better pay, a better company or boss, a shorter commute, a step up the career ladder – all important aspects that dominate the process. But how you depart from an employer is just as important as how you arrived and can have long-lasting effects on your career. It’s been said that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. That’s also true for last impressions – they might even remain longer. I’m living proof, as I’ve been re-hired by three previous employers, one of them twice. The first time I called my old boss, and he eagerly asked me to come in to talk. That night I had an offer. In the other two companies, I was invited back by a co-worker who had been promoted. And in one of the latter, years later, I was again re-hired, but in a different division.

The secret to being welcomed back is based on three simple departure rules: (1) leave your desk in the condition you wish it was in on your first day; (2) treat everyone you deal with on your way out as if you’ll need their recommendation to return; and (3) make sure your boss is satisfied with the state of affairs you leave behind. The second and third rules are the easiest, because you should always be: treating co-workers, bosses, internal customers, external customers, carriers, suppliers, and everyone else with respect; acting with integrity; and doing your job well. This common business sense is often ignored by employees too full of themselves to consider the value of those they interact with, especially on the way out. But if you leave with grace, with no bad words about anyone or the company itself, with a frank but not brutal final interview with HR, you can leave a valuable, good final impression.

The first rule is related to the third, is just as critical to success, and doesn’t require that you leave a clean desk but instead leave a functioning desk. This means agreeing up front with your boss what assignments you will complete – and then completing them thoroughly, correctly, and on time to the same standards required as if you were sticking around for the aftermath. For the many items you probably won’t be able to finish, you should leave a detailed roadmap with milestones, resources, key people, etc., all clearly identified. And here’s the special ingredient for this recipe: When hired by your new boss, negotiate that you will be allowed to return to your old company and meet for a day with your replacement, guiding him or her through everything you left behind. I’ve always done this where possible, and it accomplishes a couple of things. First, your new boss is reassured that when the time comes for you to move on, you will execute a professional, complete, and smooth transition. Second, your last impression at the old job will be of the returning professional who made sure things were right before moving on for good. That can be priceless. And you should also be available by phone for a short while, to answer questions not covered in your transition.

This approach obviously can’t apply to every departure. If someone is fired for cause, for example, he or she will be marched out by security on immediate notice with no possible transition. I once had to fire someone who was stealing from the company and had him marched out. This was far from a graceful exit and was accomplished within minutes, but it took a lot of time and painful effort to recover and continue. But if you’re leaving of your own accord, or even (perhaps especially) if you’re being laid off for business reasons and have some time to set your successor up for success, take the high road, the graceful route. You’ll never regret it. It’s worked for me.

This article is part of the monthly series authored by ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group Board Members, who are current practitioners, consultants, and educators. In future columns, they will be sharing their views on a number of Supply Chain topics.

George Yarusavage, CTL, C.P.M., is a principal in Fortress Consulting, specializing in Transportation and Sourcing issues. He is also the Second Vice Chair of ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group and can be reached at gyarusavage@yahoo.com, or (203) 984-4957. Membership in the Group is open to all ISM members who are responsible for or have an interest in the Logistics & Transportation fields.