The Job Hunt: How to say goodbye in e-mail farewell

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Saying goodbye to your former co-workers with a mass e-mail is becoming a bit of an art form.

Sending off an e-mail while full of emotions after just losing your job, for instance, can lead to a nasty letter that could burn some bridges. A lighthearted, funny tone can offend some people. A short, workmanlike note can bore readers and make them hit the "delete" button fast.

It all starts with what your workplace environment is.

Jason Shugars started his farewell e-mail to 5,000 co-workers at Google with, "So long, suckers! I'm out!" That was fine at Google, with its off-center corporate culture that is more forgiving than other businesses, according to a Los Angeles Times story about e-mail goodbyes.

Shugars was a senior sales compliance specialist at Google who left to become director of ad operations for the music streaming Web site Imeem. He reminisced about workplace moments such as putting cake down his pants at a sales conference, stealing a boss' $8,000 leather couch and singing "Hit Me Baby One More Time" in a miniskirt and braids.

"It took me a long time to write it," Shugars, 34, told the Times. "I didn't want to send out a stale 'good working with you, please reach me here' e-mail. Who wants that?"

Reaching out to every contact you have after getting laid off is a smart idea, and one that should be made quickly if the pink slip is at hand. Passing along your contact information is a great way to let anyone with a job lead know how to reach you.

But it's something that should be done sooner than later after the boss has called you in for the layoff notice. I didn't have time to write a goodbye note after I was laid off last year, and took only a few minutes to take some photos and other things off my desk before leaving. By the time I got home, my work e-mail account was turned off and I was unable to send out a mass e-mail to my former co-workers.

What I did instead was write a short goodbye e-mail to a few people at work, whose e-mail addresses I knew, and asked them to forward it along to anyone else who might want to contact me. I also soon opened a Facebook account, which expanded my network and was a way to let people I knew, instead of everyone at the company, that I was available to work.

If you do get a chance to write a goodbye e-mail, I recommend either sending it to specific people, or if you blast it to the entire company, at least make it an interesting read. In the months before I was laid off at a newspaper, people were taking buyouts and the sappy goodbye emails were sent out daily to everyone. I had no idea who many of these people were, and the "I really enjoyed working with all of you" got to sound like a common note in a high school yearbook: "Have a great summer!"

Some companies prevent mass e-mails. Wescom Credit Union of Pasadena has about 1,000 employees and doesn't have all-encompassing e-mail lists, according to the Times story.

"We have very strict standards, safeguards that IT has put in place don't allow that to happen," Diane Norton Smith, Wescom's vice president for human resources, told the Times. "I have seen situations where somebody said goodbye and you get the reply all, replay all, reply all, 'We're gonna miss you,' and that clogs up the whole system."

E-mail has a long memory. Anything you write, whether funny, angry or simply boring, can be around for a long time and used against you in getting another job.

Or if you're lucky, it can lead to a job, as it did for Chris Kula, an aspiring comedy writer who wrote a long mock farewell e-mail on his blog while a receptionist at a New York engineering firm.

"For nearly as long as I've worked here," he wrote, according to the Times story, "I've hoped that I might one day leave this company. And now that this dream has become a reality, please know that I could not have reached this goal without your unending lack of support."

Kula used it as an example of his work and was hired by a Web site that specialized in office-based humor, which led to a gig with an improv troupe, leading to an agent and his current job, writing for "MADtv."

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net

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