Leave Your Career on a Positive Note

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Guest blogger LaTanya Johns, Director of Graduate Career Services, provides key insight for guiding students in that critical period between leaving their career and returning to school to pursue their MBA. Below she lends her expertise to allaying the anxieties of full-time students trading their paychecks for a degree.

Once a person decides to pursue a full-time MBA, there are a series of emotions he or she will experience: 

  • Doubt. “Can I measure up to my classmates? Will I be able to handle the academic rigor? Am I really going to be able to change careers in two years?” Having doubts is normal. It’s the fear of the unknown that breeds this response. Even the most confident students will doubt themselves at some point. 
  • Stress over finances. Leaving a job, even if it’s not a dream job, is stressful. The stability of having a paycheck coming in every month will soon be replaced with hopes and dreams. There are no guarantees when it comes to employment.  
  • Fear of abandoning professional networks. Whether someone is moving to another city or going to a local school, when you leave the workplace, you also leave colleagues and a sense of belonging to a particular network. As a new MBA student, you are now reliant on classmates to fill those network voids.  

Having these anxieties is to be expected, but being able to manage them is crucial. One way to handle these feelings is to prepare a temporary career exit strategy. 

As a new MBA student, you are voluntarily unemployed. You are absent from the day-to-day learning and information sharing that takes place both at the water cooler and in the boardroom. You’ve spent several years establishing and defining workplace relationships. Now that you’ve decided to go back to school, those relationships are over. 

Or are they? They don’t have to be. By creating an exit strategy, you will ensure you leave on a positive note, keeping your relationships, friendships and reputation intact and creating an opportunity for you to return either post-graduation or at some point later on in your career. Here are a few tips:

  1. Have a straightforward meeting with your supervisor. Inform him or her of your career goals and ambitions and how the MBA will help you reach those goals. Be sure to let them know that the experience you gained from your current position provided you with a strong candidacy to be considered for admission to the MBA program and that you appreciate the opportunities you were given while employed. This conversation is important. When you start searching for internships and full-time jobs, this person will be the last person to have been able to assess you as an employee. Also be sure to ask him or her if they’d be willing to write you a letter of recommendation or act as a reference. 
  2. Inform your peers and co-workers. As your colleagues, these are the people who can attest to your ability to work on a team. Be sure to give them the courtesy of an in-person conversation versus them finding out via a departmental email announcing your decision to leave.  
  3. Schedule a meeting with HR. Each company has certain policies and procedures regarding equipment, electronic mail, shared network documents and files as well as performance evaluations. Don’t assume anything. Just because you have created documents and reports doesn’t mean you “own” them. Get permission to download files that highlight your body of work. Most companies will have IT personnel copy files from your drives onto a flash drive. Several people have left companies and taken files only for the company to find out later that these files are missing. You wouldn’t want coworkers to talk about you in a negative way after you’ve left on what you thought was a positive note. This also applies to office supplies and other equipment that was purchased for you. Most companies buy equipment for you to use while you are employed there; not to take with you after you leave. Another suggestion is to ask HR about your leave classification. Because you are voluntarily resigning from your position, what will HR disclose when a potential employer calls for employment verification? Also, would you be considered for other positions at this company? You should also ask to have a copy of everything in your personnel file. Once you start school, your workplace milestones and accomplishments become distant memories; it’s good to have record of your performance so you can recall all that you’ve achieved when you’re in an interview situation. 
  4. Stay in touch. Once school begins, you will be consumed with team projects, case studies, networking events and your internship/job search. Set aside time to reach out to your former boss and co-workers to let them know how you’re progressing in your studies. Be sure you are connected to them via LinkedIn so you can also stay up to speed on their promotions and or job changes. Skilled networkers don’t have to remind people of who they are and how they know each other; the very best networkers maintain their relationships and get fast responses when they reach out or are in need. 

Hopefully these tips will help you create an exit strategy for your two-year hiatus from the workplace and leave on the best of terms.

Interested in making a change? Request more info about the Neeley School of Business graduate program or apply now.
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