Lately I have been having casual conversations with friends and contacts about situations we have all gone through when we’ve changed positions within our workplaces. I’ve heard stories of absolute chaos, confusion and many triumphs. The purpose of this article is to help prepare you for a smooth transition.

I have recently changed roles, from being an event planner to now being an executive director within our association management company and discovered, even though I’ve been with our organization for 13 years, that the transition to a completely different mandate can be challenging.

Here are some things I have learned during that transition.

1. Spend time shadowing the previous employee in their role. By shadowing I mean sharing their office, being included on all email messages, meetings, and phone conversations. Being directly involved in everything they do will allow you to feel more confident when you take over the role and get you more familiar with the day to day responsibilities. This will help you anticipate what to expect when the role is yours alone.

2. Take every opportunity to attend meetings with the former employee, meet key contacts and be included in the conversations. This will provide you with the history and context of discussions and agreements. It will also provide you with the opportunity to build new relationships early in your transition process. These key contacts can also be a resource for you if you are looking for history or guidance.

3. While electronic files are important, also request any written notes that the previous employee had taken from meetings, and phone calls etc. This will provide you with an additional source of historical information.

4. Work with the employee to create a key contacts list and write notes beside each name so you know who to call when you need to. Also ask that the former employee formally (in person or via email) introduce you to all of these people, and include your new contact information.

5. Understand how they file their documents and know where to find certain information. Work with them to see the paths they take to save files to enable you to quickly locate all necessary information. Have them also show you where all archived files are located and the system used (including any undocumented processes for working around the association’s file management protocols).

Spending time with the former employee and using the above recommendations will help you make an easier transition to your new role. Congratulations and good luck!