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It's official: You're leaving your current place of work and moving on. Whether you're resigning or just finishing a contract, there's an art to walking out the door with class - and with all of your ducks in a row.

Touch base with your employer

Have a sit-down with your superiors to talk about your performance, says Anne Charette Tyler, president of the Burke Group, a human resources consulting and staffing firm in St. Catharines, Ont. "It's all about the face-to-face."

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If you're leaving because you're no longer happy, there's a good chance the employer isn't happy, either. No reason to avoid each other, Ms. Charette Tyler says: It's best to lay out the issues so you can both move on. "It's sitting down and treating the employer in a courteous way."

Employees are not legally obliged to give two weeks notice, but it's a common courtesy. You might want to give more notice if it's going to be hard to find someone to replace you.

Check out your personnel file - record of job performance - before you go. There could be erroneous information in there (for example, the file says you were written up three times for being late, but it was really only twice). "You can dispute that," Ms. Charette Tyler says.

Know what you can and can't take with you

"Anything you do for that employer belongs to that employer," she says. That means keeping your hands off anything client-related or confidential. Don't go running off with company contacts or important files that will be needed when you're gone.

And don't think your employer won't notice if you're scurrying away with confidential information, Ms. Charette Tyler says. One of her clients could tell that their departing employees were copying company files: "In the month or so before they left, photocopy charges went through the roof."

Things you can take: copies of your performance review, personal contacts, training manuals from courses the company paid you to take. "If it's not client-related, necessarily, take a copy of it, but leave the original there," she says. Copies of intellectual property can often be taken to show off in a portfolio.

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Get references now

It'll save the awkward task of chasing down old managers or supervisors later. And remember: There's a whole invisible and informal business network out there - and it can have a big impact on your career. Your next job could come from a former colleague's recommendation, Ms. Charette Tyler says.

On the flip side, a former colleague might hear your name and wince, warning a contact to stay away from you. "That's why you have to leave positions in a courteous manner."

Send out a thank-you note to the people who've helped you along the way; tell them what you liked about the job and what you plan to do next. Leaving a job is also a good time to stock up on social-networking contacts, such as those made on LinkedIn.

Stay classy

Sure, first impressions are lasting. But how you interact with people in the weeks before leaving a job will definitely be remembered, Ms. Charette Tyler says.

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Tell your boss that you intend to leave on a high note. "Say: 'Anything and everything I can do to make that transition as seamless as possible, I'll do,' " she says.

And follow through on that promise - help train your successor, if need be, and leave your workspace looking clean and ready for the next person.

Try to do some of your best work in the last few days and weeks of your gig. While many people are inclined to slack off (a kind of "why should I stick my neck out for you?" mentality), remember you're still being paid by that company.

And don't do this: Pull pranks and dole out home truths to colleagues and managers. One final flip-out is a bridge burner.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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