Transitioning from “Employee” to “Alumni”: Making Former Employees Your Greatest Recruiting Tool

Last week, I called Emily with news I never anticipated I’d deliver: That I’d accepted a job as Chief Operations Officer with a pretty large nonprofit.

On top of this, last month we offboarded one of our long-time employees, the fabulous Cecily Hendricks, as she decided to take a step away from work altogether to reset and figure out “what’s next”.

For Cecily, her departure was a desire to hit the “pause” button to figure out what the next phase of her career holds; for me, it was a dream job opportunity that I’d be remiss to say no to.

As I facilitated Cecily’s departure, and now my own, I’ve had some serious insight on how to turn employees into alumni, and how those alumni can now be your biggest cheerleaders when they’re gone. Neither my or Cecily’s departure was because of terrible bosses or overbearing work culture, but the lessons VISIONALITY is learning as two employees become alumni are ones that we can all learn from.


For me, VISIONALITY truly has been one of the greatest places to work, and Cecily being part of this family for six years shows that she thought it was worth her time too. Telling a boss you’re leaving is hard, being a boss hearing an employee is leaving is harder. Your reaction to your employee sharing their departure will say a lot about you as a human: do you celebrate and support their decision, or do you immediately make the employee’s life hard? Take the news with grace, celebrate their decision, and make sure to make their remaining time on your team filled with love and gratitude.


If you’re concerned about turnover in general, your exit interview will be your greatest tool in helping to address recruiting and departures. Remember an exit interview is strictly for the employee to give you feedback, it is NOT a review where you get to give the employee feedback. Ask open ended questions, allow them to reflect on their successes because you want them to feel good when they leave, and also make sure you ask for feedback…then actually implement it when reasonable. My biggest piece of feedback was that I was doing too many totally different jobs (COO, Senior Project Manager, and de facto Head of Marketing), so we have since separated my job into three jobs with their own job descriptions. When Cecily left, the biggest piece of feedback was to never let up on the overall team management, and we have since put in place a plan that does that.


When my Boss-to-Be asked for references, I immediately contacted Cecily. As part of the VIS alumni network, we should be able to lean on each other for reference calls, networking, introductions, etc. One of our newer employees, Taryn, even offered to put me in touch with one of her contacts who might be a fit as I build out my next team, and Breanne has already sent me a bunch of information on California employer incentives that’s going to be immensely helpful as I hit the ground running in my new role. When Cecily is ready for her next job, you’d better believe she’s going to have a squad at her back to help her in any way she needs. Keep those employees on your newsletter list, and keep them on your holiday card list. The work you do to support them and keep them engaged will serve you in the long run.

The interesting part of this “The Great Resignation” is that yes, many employees are leaving jobs because they’re learning just how “not-in-touch” some employers were Pandemic and Post Pandemic; but, there’s also a lot of other things at play. There’s been 2-3 years of natural transitions that never happened because people hunkered down in jobs waiting out the proverbial shit storm before making their next career move, there are people who are now living differently than they did before and want to maintain or adjust their lives to that, and honestly, there are those who are just fried and need a step back. I think it’s important for us to look at “The Great Resignation” as a broad term that encapsulates a lot, rather than a term to only describe employees’ relationship with their employers.

When you are a good employer whose employees leave on good terms for good reasons, you NEED to consider how to engage with these new “alumni” for the long term, your alumni are more likely to refer their best of their professional network to you for job openings, share your successes on their LinkedIn profiles, and may even be your next dream candidate for a position you open later.

As I’m getting ready to depart from VISIONALITY (my last day will be July 29), I am excited to share with you the best part of my job – the Senior Project Manager, Fundraising and Communications – position is now open! If you are – or know someone who is – a badass fundraiser who believes in leaning into rethinking successful fundraising programs, and wants to mentor one of the kindest fundraising Project Managers ever (hi Nico!), then hit the link below. Maybe you’ll also make magic happen here with coffee and kindness for 5 years before moving onto your dream job….just know this squad will be your loudest cheerleader if/when you do.