Quite possibly one of the most incredibly difficult things to do in all the world is staying motivated in your current job after you’ve been accepted to business school. If you applied in Round 1, you’ve probably already got an exit date set for yourself, and it may not even be that far in the future. Many soon-to-be-students use the summer before the MBA to go off on travel adventures, or go on an extended visit to family, or sometimes even do a pre-MBA internship. Plus, you need time to pack up your life and relocate to whatever fabulous new city you’ll be in for the coming two years. Many bschools have orientation and pre-term activities start up on campus in August, which means that lots of first-years end up doing the big move during July.
So that means, heck, you’d better put in your notice at work pretty soon!!! 😀
This can be a somewhat trickier thing to navigate depending on what your actual job is, and what you’ve shared with your manager. If you didn’t breathe a word about your MBA apps all the way through the admissions cycle and you didn’t use anyone from work as a recommender, then you may be blindsiding your boss when you go give her notice. There’s a better way and a not-so-good way to deliver such news.
Obviously (at least we hope it’s obvious) you’ll want to do this in person. This is not news to deliver via email or voicemail or text.
You should also do it at a time when she’s not otherwise stressed.
If she’s putting out fires and trying to make an irate client happy and there’s a major deadline on the horizon and her boss is breathing down her neck, then no, we don’t advise dumping the news of your departure on her at the same time.
You may also want to be sensitive to personality. Some managers are worriers and they want a plan, and they’ll freak out initially no matter how you present your news or with what courtesy you seek to deliver it. Others are more cavalier about things and don’t get fazed by big changes.
For someone who’s a worrier, then maybe you’ll want to give him the news on a Monday. Not necessarily first thing Monday morning, but sometime that day. That gives them the whole work week to absorb it and digest it and figure out what they will do. If you dump that news on him on a Friday then he’s just going to be worried all weekend, and how much does that suck? You don’t want to ruin his free time with this. Let him worry on work time. It’s the kinder approach.
Also, being sensitive to any seasonality that occurs in your business would be appropriate. If this is the less busy time in your industry or for your department, then it’ll be easier to deal with for your boss.
Given how much runway there is before your date of departure, we strongly suggest that you give more advance notice than normal. Most people feel that a two-week notice of quitting a job is reasonable and appropriate, but what if you gave your boss an earlier heads-up? What if you didn’t wait till the last minute, but you helped them to plan? You could even volunteer to help with the recruiting and interviewing for your replacement. This would give you added skills and, who knows, maybe even build a relationship that you can take into bschool. What’s more valuable than an MBA student with a strong connection to her prior employer, where she’s willing to make introductions and possibly set up fellow students for other opportunities?
In some cases, giving notice too early can backfire. You’ll need to navigate it based on how you see fit. If you know that your company is struggling financially, then you may not want to give notice months ahead of time because then they might decide to let you go even earlier. If you’re counting on the paycheck all the way up to a certain day, in order to build out your bank account before you go unemployed, then don’t sabotage that by spilling the beans too soon, if you think that it may put your job on the line.
Most employers who have lots of early career types leave on the regular will be expecting those departures in May or June. That’s often when those fun summer trips begin and it’s pretty standard as a timetable. If your company has not had many others head off to grad school before (MBA or otherwise), then even that early summer timetable may be a surprise. If you’ve already been communicating with them then great!! If not, then having that conversation earlier rather than later would be the most professional way to handle it.
There’s also the right way and wrong way to prepare your position for the next person who will come in and take over. Even though it can be really really hard to find the motivation to do it, when you already have one foot out the door for your upcoming MBA adventure, you should still make sure to be meticulous and thorough in how you handle the transition. Document all those processes that you have mastered. Write down the idiosyncrasies of how you do your job. Even better, find a way to automate some of the manual tasks that you’ve been managing for the past few years. Now is the time to make the place better than you found it. Be kind to the person who will be filling your shoes when you leave. Do what you can to make your boss’s job easier, and create an infrastructure to support the new guy or gal who will be joining. Set up meetings for debriefs with your existing teammates. Make sure they understand how your job is done, so that they can fill in, or even take over. Build redundancies into the process if they’re not always there. Be proactive, and thorough.
The very best compliment that a current boss can offer is a statement that they would hire you back again when you complete the MBA. You probably will not want to go back to what you have done in the past, but having someone so impressed with your performance that they’d want that is a fine goal to achieve today.
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