A goodbye letter can tell you a lot about an employee.
When Marissa Mayer left Yahoo in June, the infamous micro-manager sent her staff a 1,000 word, 24 bullet point diatribe. Sean Spicer commemorated his six months as Donald Trump’s press secretary with a glaring typo; a fitting endnote, some would say, for a guy who twice Tweeted out what appeared to be his own password.
For most of us, goodbye emails are the easiest way to let your company know you don’t curse the day you were hired, and how to keep in touch going forward. They’re generally not worth stressing over — but since you’re probably going to anyway, we asked some career experts how to go out on a high note.
Know Your Audience
For starters, they say, it’s important to be selective about who you’re sending your note to.
If you’re an executive, firing off an all-staff missive is par for the course. But for the rank and file, sending a mass email looping in all the people whose names you never cared to learn can make you seem a bit big for your britches. Whittle your “To:” field down to coworkers you actually work with — the people who could give you a solid character reference, if it came to that. If your tenure was short, that list should be as well.
“If you’ve been there for less than three years, I wouldn’t even contemplate sending an email to the whole company,” says Tom Gimbel, a careers expert and CEO of the staffing firm LaSalle Network. “I’ve had situations where someone who was with us for three months sent an email about how they made some of their best friends here. It comes across looking kind of goofy.”
Hone Your Voice
Tone-wise, you’ll want to be pretty chill about the whole thing.
Reddit’s chock-full of admirable attempts at sticking it to the man via goodbye email. But even if the job was a nightmare, using email to mic drop, or say anything negative for that matter, is a resoundingly bad idea.
“Your digital footprint is permanent,” says Katie Smith, EVP of the compliance software company Convercent. “Be wary of using it as an opportunity to broadcast complaints or regrets. You don’t know what your former colleagues will do with your words once you’re gone.”
Honesty is the Best Policy
So what does belong in a goodbye email?
It’s good to rattle off a few accomplishments you’re proud of — reminding people of the projects you helped bring to life will help keep your contributions top of mind for your growing career network. This isn’t a cover letter, though, so try not to sound like you’re selling yourself.
In most cases, experts agree, the shorter the note, the better. Thank your coworkers for the opportunities, support, and companionship they gave you. Wrap it up by throwing in your personal email address. And then call it a day.
“Be honest about what you loved about your time there, and leave it at that,” says Rachel Bitte, Jobvite’s Chief People Office.