Does your cubicle at work look like it would take a U-haul to get everything out of there if you were suddenly terminated? If that’s the case, then it’s time to clean up your workspace. Perhaps you’ll uncover some achievement awards you forgot about, or a letter from a satisfied customer. You’re going to need these items when it’s time to update your resume. Sad but true, many of my clients have left important items behind when they were shown the door. That is THE worse time to have to start boxing up your stuff, or rent a moving van.

In all of my previous jobs I never got too comfortable leaving more than a “box-full” in my workspace. A box-full is pretty much all the time you get or want when the pink slip arrives — or when you finally get up the nerve to quit. The emotions can run high, especially while you’re piling the last 20 years of your life into cardboard boxes.

And that box-full should contain the least important of your stuff. In other words, if the building where you work burned down, could you live without the items in your cubicle? I’ve heard the horror stories of showing up to work and finding the doors locked. That’s why you don’t leave the most important things in your life at the office. A box of tissues, chapstick, and Excedrin can easily be replaced. Your Emmy Award can not.

The same goes for lockers, company vehicles, private emails and phone messages on your PDA, office computer, laptop, etc. Once you leave, your employer has complete access. And usually, you get no time to wipe out items on your computer because the company doesn’t want you to erase or copy what is rightfully theirs. Usually computer access is the first thing disconnected when you sever ties with your employer

Leaving a job after pouring so much of yourself into it is difficult. And it doesn’t matter whether you leave on your own accord or you’re terminated. Don’t make it any harder than it has to be. Clean out your desk and leave only a box-full of what you really need to do your job.

–Susan Geary, Certified Professional Résumé Writer / 1st Rate Resumes