what should a farewell email to external colleagues say?

A reader writes:

I have accepted a new position and am in the process of transitioning from one job to another. I know it is fairly customary to send “farewell” emails to coworkers, but I would also like to let colleagues outside of my organization that I am departing. I am, however, struggling with what to say to these external colleagues.

I work for a nonprofit on an issue within a fairly tight-knit, collaborative professional community, and although I’m sure word of my departure has already traveled quickly through the grapevine, I would like to let those who I’ve worked with most closely know personally. How much information (where I am going, personal contact information, etc.) is it appropriate to divulge in a situation like this?

Generally speaking, you want to say something like this:

“I want to let you know that after four years with Chocolate Teapots Inc., I’ve made the difficult decision to move on to a new role outside the company. After May 1, Skyler White will be your contact for anything related to teapot manufacture; she’s fantastic, and you’ll be in good hands.

After May 1, if you’d ever like to get in touch, you can reach me at (personal email address).”

Obviously, modify as appropriate — making it more or less formal, etc. And you don’t need to say they’ll be in good hands if you don’t actually believe it, but it’s nice to include if you do. Same thing goes for calling the decision “difficult” — you can remove that if it’s not true and you can’t stomach saying it.

Now, what’s not included in the message above is where you’re going — and that’s because whether or not to include that depends on the practices (and maybe policies) of your current workplace. Some places really, really don’t like you promoting your next employer to their clients, particularly if it’s a competitor. (Of course, they can’t stop you from sharing that information after you leave, but if you’re sending the email while you’re still working there, you should take that into account.) Others don’t care at all, and in some fields it would be really odd not to include that info — so you just need to know how it’s typically done in your field and in your office.

And if you’re not sure, it’s fine to ask your manager. Speaking of which, ideally part of the discussion with your manager when you’re planning your transition should be a communications plan — who needs to be told you’re leaving, what additional information do they need to be given (such as “please see Skyler for X after I leave”), and are there any additional considerations to take into account (like whether you should wait to tell Jesse until you talk to Walter, because Walter would want to hear it first). And this fits perfectly into that discussion.

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