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Bittersweet endings and new beginnings

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With the exception of a brief fellowship at an Indianapolis newspaper, my entire—albeit not too long—career has been as a professional Jew. That’s altogether different from being a Jewish person who is also a professional. In fact, as a professional Jew, I’ve been steeped in Jewish undertakings in both my work and home lives.

Recently, I switched between two Jewish organizations. I’m still getting used to my new position—and my new office, which has a beautiful, 29th-floor city view!

But as I’m adjusting, I can’t help but think about the transition. I’m also realizing that a few key steps helped me (I think) make it as comfortable for everyone involved as possible.

When I left the Jewish Federation to start working at the American Jewish Committee, I tried to make sure that I was leaving on good terms. This was the first time when I left not because I was moving to another city, but because I got a different job in the same city. I rehearsed my “I’m leaving in three weeks” speech several times before actually going into my supervisors’ offices to make the announcement. All four of the conversations were tough. But I had to think about what was best for my career ambitions—and I’ve got a whole slew of them.

Leaving my colleagues was bittersweet. Over the past 2 years and 8 months, I’ve shared more than early morning magazine proofing sessions and marketing strategy meetings with other professional Jews.

My new job involves building relationships with other communities—something I’ve been keen on for some time (see my old blog post about finding non-Jewish friends). But I want to think that the relationships I’ve built with my Federation colleagues, whom I respect tremendously, will endure this change. After all, we’re all in the same business of making this world a better place, as cliché as it might sound.

From my recent experience, here are some tips to make transitions sweet rather than wholly bitter:

1. Finish your work. I was in the middle of two big projects when I found out about and took the offer for my new position. It’s a given that they needed to be completed—or tasks handed off to appropriate people—before I left. And as much as finishing all tasks sounds like a given, I imagine it might be hard to concentrate on current projects when you’re already looking ahead to future ventures in the new job.

2. Be truthful about why you are leaving, but be diplomatic about it. I loved working for the Federation and with my colleagues. But I wasn’t using my graduate degree or many of my other skills and talents. My new job gives me more of a chance to do so.

3. Offer to help the new person when the position is filled. I have no reservations about fielding a call from whoever is my replacement about the job—whether it’s about who to contact for what or how to upload a document to the website.

4. Keep the connections with former colleagues going. I’m the first to admit that I can be lax in this area. Since my new office is just five blocks away from my previous one, I’ll be checking out all our old haunts to have lunch or a coffee date with former colleagues. And who can say that building relationships with other local Jewish organizations is bad for business? 

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