By Jamie Hergenrader
Just when you were starting to feel secure in your job, your boss gives drops a bombshell: She’s leaving. Now who will you report to? Is your job secure? Should you panic? In a word, No. “It’s terrifying when your boss resigns, but it often opens wonderful new doors,” says Kate White, the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and author of I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This.
First, pay attention to how you felt when you heard the news, says Casey Gueren, senior health editor at Buzzfeed, who was at Cosmo when White resigned back in 2012. Whether you’re jealous and wish you had an opportunity to leave too or surprised that anyone would leave your company, your boss packing her bags is a great opportunity to check in with where you are in your career, says Gueren. Once you’ve got a sense of what you’d like to happen, follow these other important steps from editors who’ve survived their bosses’ departures.
Before she leaves…
Take her out for lunch. Or at least coffee. “Hit her up for tons of advice,” says Gueren. Ask about other editors she’s worked with, projects she’s worked on, responsibilities she’s had, basically anything you should have a heads up on. That’s all especially important if you’re vying for her old job.
Leave her a handwritten note. Thank her and let her know that you learned a lot from her, says White. It also doesn’t hurt to include a nice bottle of wine. Just sayin’.
Think about your next steps—and act on them. If you’re hoping for a promotion, talk to your boss about it before she peaces out, says Jennifer Liu, an assistant editor at LearnVest, who was three months into her editorial assistant role at All You when her boss left. “Even though it didn’t happen for me right away, speaking with her helped me raise the discussion later with the other senior editors,” says Liu.
And if you are a good candidate for your old boss’s job, do not wait for management to approach you, says White. Arrange an appointment to speak to the person your boss reported to, and make a case for yourself based on real data. (Read: not that they owe you the job. They don’t, she says.)
And don’t hesitate if the job you want is a bit of a stretch, says White. “With promotions, it’s not about whether you can do the new job but whether you can learn it—and you can!”
When there’s a new boss…
Introduce yourself. Tell her you’re looking forward to being a part of her team and ask how you can help her transition, says White. “I know this sounds shocking, but some employees used my first weeks [at Cosmo] as a time to disappear from work early or take long lunches thinking that I had so many fish to fry, and that I wouldn’t notice. Wrong.”
Prove your worth. While there might be a chance for growth under new leadership, you first need to show that you’re valuable to the team. “I took over five different magazines and I was always surprised that so many on staff seemed to think that their jobs were secure and that I had something to prove as the new person,” says White. “In many companies, a new boss is given carte blanche to fire and hire whomever they want.”
Accept change. Whether that’s a new process or new people, embrace it. When Liu’s boss left All You when she was working at the Time Inc. title, the editor-in-chief used the transition as an opportunity to get more editors to think digitally, and contribute to our blog, she says. Since Liu was part of the web team, made up of four people, she quickly took on more responsibility. “I went from solely writing daily blog posts to assigning out content, editing, and scheduling posts for the site,” she says. “Processes might change for the better, and you can be part of it.”
Be upfront about your job shift. A staff shake up will likely alter your responsibilities, so keep in touch with your interim manager or HR, letting them know whether your new load is too much or too little, and shedding some light on any achievements you’ve had. “You’ll show your commitment to the organization in the face of change, which could potentially put you on a faster track to a raise or promotion once the department has stabilized,” says Liu.