Can I delete my emails when leaving a job?
I just got an email from someone who was asking me about what they can do with their company laptop after they leave. They're moving on, and want to make sure that they don't have any lingering information or files on their hard drive that could potentially impact them later down the road.
My first thought is that deleting your personal emails while at work isn't something that we would typically recommend doing (or even ask), but as a new employee, this question came up more than once during orientation week. What are some things you need to take care of before you go back home? Let us help answer these questions so you can get started!
What should I do before leaving my current job?
Depending on where you’re headed next, there may be certain policies that will apply to your departure from your current position. For example, if you recently graduated college, then you probably won’t have much paperwork left over from school. However, graduating students still need to check and verify their student loans online, which means that you should log into MyLoanCare.gov and request a direct transfer of your loan balance to another lender. You also need to call the Department of Education directly to report graduation within three days of getting your diploma. If you were laid off, you'll likely receive severance pay. Then again, depending on your contract length, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits until your six weeks are up.
If you aren’t currently employed, but plan to start looking for employment soon, then you definitely need to begin updating your resume now. It never hurts to keep your skills fresh in mind even though you may think that everyone has access to Google Docs today. Even if you haven’t heard anything yet, always create a LinkedIn profile and send out resumes to potential employers through both services. And if you already had one created, then update it by adding relevant experience, education, contact information, etc. Also, remember to include dates/periods of employment whenever possible. A little extra effort goes a long way here.
In addition, please consider taking time to review your social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and Pinterest. This is especially true if you use those platforms to display photos of yourself or others. In most cases, you shouldn't post inappropriate content because that will reflect poorly upon you in every sense of the word. As far as privacy settings go, you probably want to limit who sees each individual photo or upload, unless you intend to share them publicly. Remember, there are people behind each screen name that you follow. So, choose wisely.
Lastly, if you find yourself thinking “what am I going to do without this job?,” then try writing down everything that comes to mind right now. Think of it like a bucket list — just write whatever pops into your head no matter how silly or insignificant it seems at the moment. That exercise alone will give you peace of mind throughout the transition process.
Should I wipe work computer before returning?
This depends on the policy of your previous employer. Some companies require their employees to sign non-disclosure agreements prior to receiving their computers, laptops or phones. If this applies to you, then yes, wiping your system clean will ensure that none of your confidential data remains on it. Otherwise, assuming that your workplace doesn’t have a NDA requirement, you can return your device however you wish. Just make sure that you erase all sensitive data and remove any downloaded software.
However, if you’re concerned that your former colleagues may attempt to steal trade secrets or other intellectual property, then you should consult your IT department before making any changes. The same holds true if you believe that your old co-workers might target you for identity theft.
As mentioned earlier, you should also avoid posting suggestive pictures or videos of yourself on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and Pinterest. These types of posts often attract unwanted attention from cybercriminals since many individuals search for public photos and videos using key terms such as “celebrity X pics” or “celebrity Y video.” Don’t become a victim twice!
Can my employer see my deleted emails?
Yes and No. Yes if there are paper trails leading back to your account. But no if you erased messages completely via the Trash folder. Your IT administrator should be able to tell you what type of records are kept regarding your activity history. If your organization does maintain copies of previously sent messages, then you’ll need to reach out to whoever handles your user privileges to determine whether or not they’d prefer that you hand over your password.
It’s important to note that even if you delete your messages, they still exist in digital form. Most systems store emails indefinitely, so there could be a copy sitting somewhere in a backup file. Plus, it takes less time to recover deleted files than it does to archive older emails. Therefore, the best thing to do is simply to practice good internet hygiene and conduct regular security scans. Make sure that you regularly change your passwords, enable two factor authentication, and monitor suspicious activities on your bank statements and credit cards.
Another option is to set up automatic forwarding notifications. Whenever you open up Gmail, for instance, you’ll see a prompt saying that there’s been an unexpected error preventing your message from being delivered. Clicking on View Details reveals the reason why. This is useful if you want to temporarily hide sensitive information until you feel safe enough to view it directly.
You can also download apps for smartphones and tablets specifically designed to track text messages and phone calls. Meanwhile, free antivirus programs like Avast Free Antivirus offer remote monitoring capabilities that allow users to scan devices remotely.
There’s no denying that technology creates its own challenges and problems. Sometimes it makes our lives easier, sometimes harder. We hope that our tips above provide you with helpful guidance to navigate whichever path you decide to travel.
You've been working at your desk job for months, and now that you're finally ready to leave, you can't help but wonder what happens next. Will your company try to contact you about future positions or will they just assume you'll go elsewhere?
If so, you probably have an email account full of messages from coworkers discussing upcoming projects or sending congratulations after promotions. If this sounds like something you'd want to keep, then by all means, don't delete them! But what else do you need to worry about once you walk out the door? Should you erase everything in order to make sure no one knows who you are or how much information you had access to while employed? Or does it not matter as long as your exit interview goes well?
Let's take a look at some things you may want to consider deleting before quitting your job — and whether doing so could affect your former employer later down the line.
Can my employer access my deleted emails?
The short answer here is yes, unless you took steps to encrypt those files (which we discuss below). According to The Guardian, you actually have more rights than you think over any data stored on computers owned by a business. In general, employers aren't allowed to search through private accounts without permission, even if you use encryption software such as TrueCrypt. However, there are exceptions to these rules. For example, if someone asks you to hand over passwords during your exit interview, you must comply with their request. We also discussed earlier why your privacy settings may not matter as much as you think.
So, let’s say you were using encrypted storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive instead of having your own personal email account. Does that mean your boss couldn't read anything you store online? Not necessarily. As long as the service doesn't log IP addresses, companies can still see which device was used to upload each file — meaning your boss could easily figure out where exactly you accessed certain folders. They wouldn't be able to get into specific documents, though. And since most cloud services offer two-factor authentication, even if anyone gained access to your account, they would only view basic profile details.
In other words, if you didn't tell anyone at work about the existence of your hidden folder containing sensitive documents or important emails, your boss shouldn't find it anytime soon. On top of that, many employees often share devices due to BYOD policies, which makes it easier for people to sneakily transfer confidential files onto home computers without being noticed. So, it's always best to err on the side of caution and ensure that nothing incriminating exists on your hard drive. Otherwise, you risk giving up valuable intel to your new employer.
What should I delete before leaving a job?
We already mentioned items you should definitely avoid creating on your workstation — such as non-work related photos, videos, and music tracks — but what else should you remove from your system before walking away? Well, depending on where you worked, there may be different types of content that could potentially jeopardize you professionally. Here are a few common examples:
Emails between yourself and clients: You likely received lots of communication from prospective customers via email throughout the course of your employment. Before departing, however, it's smart to purge those messages to reduce the chance of accidentally leaking trade secrets or intellectual property. While it's unlikely anyone outside of your organization has ever seen these communications, you never know when an employee taking notes on her phone could forward them along to another person. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Personal contacts' numbers: Like we said above, sometimes employees receive calls from potential clients regarding jobs that require passing along client information. This could include names, addresses, and phone numbers. Although it's easy enough to change up your outgoing caller ID to hide your identity, this approach won't fool everyone. A savvy IT team could easily trace incoming calls back to your old number if they wanted to. Even worse, if someone within your department forwarded a message to a colleague with your previous number attached, there's a good chance that individual could recognize your voice. Keeping a list of customer numbers off corporate servers isn't ideal for obvious reasons. Instead, experts recommend transferring your contacts to your mobile phone rather than keeping them saved locally.
Documents relating to ongoing legal matters: When you started at your current gig, your manager probably gave you explicit instructions to stay out of certain issues. At times, however, circumstances arise that require special attention. Maybe there's a lawsuit involving a product you helped launch that went south because of shoddy manufacturing processes. Perhaps a vendor got slapped with a hefty fine for violating federal regulations. Whatever happened, legally speaking, your company wants to protect itself. That's why they set guidelines forbidding workers from getting involved in certain situations. If you violated those rules, it's possible your superiors could dig deeper into your background to determine what role you played in whatever situation arose. To prevent this from happening, simply ask HR to review all pending litigation against your business prior to resigning. Then, you can safely wipe down every piece of paper on your desktop.
What should I delete on my computer when I quit my job?
Depending on where you work, your laptop may contain various types of proprietary code or files that hold crucial information pertaining to your position. Some businesses maintain entire systems specifically designed to collect user data. Others rely heavily upon analytics tools that measure performance metrics based on usage patterns. Regardless, you should make sure to delete any relevant files immediately following resignation.
While it's tempting to keep copies of spreadsheets and presentations you created, it's usually safer to eliminate them entirely. After all, it's highly unlikely your replacement has downloaded the same document as you did previously. Furthermore, if you left behind a USB stick on accident, whoever finds it could connect it to a Windows PC running PortableApps or similar programs to recover your lost data.
But perhaps the biggest reason to clean house is to minimize your digital footprint. Once you turn in your badge and stop showing up for shifts anymore, you'll no longer have direct access to critical networks. This means it's theoretically impossible for others to remotely hack into your machine and steal your login credentials. Of course, you should still follow standard practices to secure your computer as a whole. Don't download sketchy apps, update outdated operating systems, or click suspicious links sent to you via text message.
Lastly, remember to regularly scan your local drives for malicious software. Often times hackers disguise dangerous malware as essential updates needed to install antivirus software. Bypassing security measures installed by legitimate vendors is difficult, but scammers know how to trick users into downloading infected files. Luckily, modern versions of popular browsers automatically detect known threats and quarantine them until cleared by a professional. Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera all feature built-in virus scanners that check newly uploaded webpages for harmful elements.
Should you delete all your emails when leaving a job?
Yes! Deleting your emails is an absolute necessity. Your inbox contains tons of correspondence from colleagues, vendors, and prospects interested in knowing more about your skillset. Unfortunately, many of these messages may pertain to projects you no longer participate in, which puts your new employer in danger. Aside from making sure your password management solution keeps track of your passwords across multiple sites, you should also disable two-factor authentication whenever possible. Doing so gives your company fewer opportunities to verify your identity.
This way, if someone really targets you specifically, they won't gain access to your accounts unless they physically swipe your smartphone. Also, if you happen to forget your password, you shouldn't fret too much. Most reputable providers allow you to reset your password directly from the app. Just send an SMS message confirming your name and birthdate, and you'll regain control of your accounts again.
When you're looking for another job, sometimes one of the first things that comes up on an interviewer's mind is whether they should ask you about any old thing from your previous employment.
For example, you may have sent or received some interesting photos during working hours and those may not be appropriate for the new workplace. Or maybe someone leaked information about your salary negotiations to their coworkers. Sometimes people are concerned these types of communications could come back and bite them later down the road. If this has ever been a concern of yours, now would be as good time as any to start practicing better internet hygiene. It's also worth considering how well-protected your personal data really is.
So what do you do with your existing work email account once you've left? Is it even safe to use it anymore? And does the fact that you used it mean you still owe that particular organization something? Let's take a look.
What happens to your work email when you leave?
If you were employed full-time by a company like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, etc., then chances are good that your work e-mail account was tied directly into your employee records (or HR database). In most cases, this means that when you resign, you'll probably need to change your login credentials before you can fully sever ties with the company. This usually involves changing your password but it can vary depending upon which service you worked for.
It's important to note that many employers will require proof of identity before allowing anyone access to internal networks. They do so because hackers often gain unauthorized entry through unsecured public Wi-Fi connections. So while you won't want to give out your current password to anyone who asks, having two factor authentication enabled on your account is wise. You can read more about this here.
Now let's say you only had part-time status, meaning your work email wasn't associated with specific documents or files within your employee record. The next step depends largely upon how much control your former employer exercises over its network security. For instance, if they don't allow outside devices to connect to certain parts of the system then you shouldn't use your own phone to get around blocked web pages.
In other words, if your employer isn't interested in doing business via text message or using third party apps to check messages, they'll likely find ways to block such communication methods. As far as deleting individual accounts goes, this varies based on local laws and policies. Some states explicitly ban employees from taking home electronic equipment belonging to their place of employment without permission. Other places just frown on it. Check your state policy here.
That being said, if your employer allows external devices to function within their internal systems, you should feel comfortable logging off of whatever device you normally use to access your work mail. Just make sure you aren't downloading anything sensitive onto your computer.
Should you delete all your emails when you leave a company?
The short answer is yes. When you sign away from a company, legally speaking, everything inside your mailbox becomes property of your replacement employer. That includes both hard copies and digital media (including pictures, videos, audio recordings, etc.). Your ex-employer doesn't actually retain ownership of any of the items that remain inside your office until you receive notice otherwise.
However, we recommend keeping a copy of every file you download from your company server. Keeping a backup of every picture or video you took during working hours (even if those images weren't related to your actual duties) could prove useful down the line. It's always possible your boss or colleagues might try to contact you years later via social media, LinkedIn, or similar platforms to discuss an issue involving those files.
By preserving copies of everything you downloaded, you'll avoid getting caught in a legal grey area where you accidentally violate copyright law. Plus, you'll have a handy list of every document you accessed while at work that contains personally identifiable information.
Of course, if your company uses cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. then you'll want to consider backing up your entire drive. There's no telling what could happen between now and whenever your successor shows up, especially if your department hasn't already migrated to newer versions. What seems fine today could become problematic tomorrow.
And remember, if you think your company is trying to track you via your work laptop, see our guide below.
But wait! Before you go ahead and erase every trace of yourself from the company servers, consider consulting an attorney first. Local privacy laws differ across regions and jurisdictions, making it difficult to predict exactly what your rights are. Even if you didn't plan on storing confidential data on your temporary machine, the wrong move could end up costing you dearly later.
Even though you technically owned everything inside your mailbox, your employer theoretically retains some rights to review content prior to deletion. Depending upon where you live, your employer could request that you temporarily return your stuff while they sort out their plans moving forward. This is why it's smart to print out copies of every photo, article, or document you upload to the company intranet — including ones containing proprietary software.
This way, you can simply hand the physical item(s) over to whoever takes possession of your old workspace. Don't forget to follow proper protocol to ensure paper jams don't occur when handing over keys or badges.
Can my employer keep my email after I quit?
Let's assume your employer allowed you to bring your mobile device along with you to work. Chances are pretty high that your smartphone came preloaded with either iOS or Android operating systems. Both of these platforms include built-in tools designed specifically for remote workers who need easy access to corporate resources. These programs essentially act as virtual gateways that link smartphones to larger online portals.
As far as bringing your personal device with you to work, there's nothing illegal about doing so. However, if you were issued a company-issued tablet, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Chromebook, Windows PC, Mac, gaming console, smart TV, etc. then you absolutely must comply with your employer's BYOD guidelines. This basically refers to letting management remotely manage whatever gadget you regularly use to perform tasks throughout the day.
Most companies offer a number of different options regarding how frequently they'd like to sync your mobile device with the company's IT infrastructure. Either way, you should expect that your employer will send you instructions on how to properly shut down your device. Afterward, you should log out of your admin privileges and remove all relevant applications. Make sure you remove your SIM card too since you may eventually need it again for emergencies.
Once you finish erasing your personal data, it's best to wipe your device entirely. Doing so prevents others from accessing potentially sensitive information stored on your device. And if you lose your phone, you should immediately report it stolen.
Finally, make sure you securely destroy your device before turning it over to your employer. Otherwise, you risk exposing private details that could lead to future identity theft.
How long can a company keep your email address?
We spoke with multiple attorneys who shared differing opinions on this topic. While some suggested retaining your work email indefinitely, others felt strongly that you should discontinue use ASAP. To protect yourself against potential liabilities, it's recommended that you permanently deactivate your work e-mail as soon as you physically walk out of the building.
You should never share your work e-mail address with friends, family members, or acquaintances unless you trust them completely. Never add strangers to groups on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Also, refrain from posting anything to your profile that reveals private details about your life beyond work. Anything you post could easily fall under the category of defamation.
If you believe someone else obtained your username and password, head over to ChangeMyPassword.com right away. Then, notify your bank or credit union that your account has been compromised. Next, create a strong password for your account and set up two-factor authentication so that nobody can view your personal information without knowing the code.