How Do I Survive Without a Handover Period?

It’s question time! I’ve had another submission so I will endeavor to answer it well.


“I’ve just started a new job, and the person who did the job before me left a long time ago, leaving no handover notes. I have experience in this field, but in a new company things are a little different and I want to make sure I get it right. What do I do to make sure I don’t fall flat on my face?”


This is a tricky one. I’ve actually been in this position myself, and in my case it was not a job I had done before – the first time I was a personal assistant it was for a big Japanese company. They’d struggled to hire someone who was fluent in both Japanese and English, and who could do the job so the woman before me was long gone by the time I got to her desk.

The first thing to do is speak with your boss or line manager and set down what reoccurring things need to be done each week. Do you need to send a report by a certain time every week? Does a certain task need to be completed so the next person can make their deadlines? Work out the rhythm of the office and the process chains.

The next thing would be to ask about any programs you need to use for your job. A couple of weeks ago, a woman joined my team and the first thing I did was sit her down and teach her how to use the CRM and Basecamp, the two most important things we use at work. I then showed her where all the progress excel reports are, and how she should use them. You should be shown the same.

Having a clear idea from your boss of what is expected from you in your first few weeks, your first month, your first 6 months, is very important. If you feel that after a week or so you’ve not got the hang of how things are in the office then you need to speak up, as it might mean that you’re falling behind expectations, and require extra assistance.

On that note, asking for help and pulling people away from tasks to answer your questions is not something you should be embarrassed about. Don’t apologise each and every time; just ask the question. If you don’t know how to do your job, the whole team will be pulled back and so it’s in their best interests as well that you get it right. Be brave.

On a final note, when leaving a company you need to pay it forward by writing out a handover document. Even if the company has been a terrible experience for you, the person replacing you is not the one who caused you pain, so you shouldn’t spite them just for taking the place you don’t want anymore. Don’t be a dick.

If you have any questions for me, then please email them over at


  1. Oh Gosh that’s such a tricky one and a bit situation to be involved! I was once given a research project and the person who left it had taken notes in his mother language and we could not translate a single thing. Absolute nightmare!!!


  2. Haley Bell says:

    Great advice on asking for recurring tasks information! I wish I had of asked sooner, it took me 2 months to workout what they were and I have since put together a regular communications schedule and work plan doc for the team.

    • Charlotte says:

      It’s so hard because it’s part of their week so they don’t even think about it, but it’s so important for newbies!

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