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by Vault Education Editors | April 23, 2010


For the most part, by now admissions decisions are in the hands of applicants. With your acceptance letter(s) in hand, you're probably deciding what to do before you matriculate in the fall. Last week, we asked Vault visitors what they were going to do with their time off. Not too surprisingly, it was one of our most evenly split polls--with "traveling the world" in the lead with a whopping 27 percent.

Vault Time Off PollIf you're not one of the 25 percent staying with their current employer until August (or even if you are), you're probably wondering how to break it to your boss that you're leaving. Although you may have asked him/her for a letter of recommendation for your application only a few months ago, your resignation may not be at the top of his/her mind. To help you make the most of your time with your employer, here's a checklist of things to do to make sure you leave gracefully and secure a reference for your post-MBA/JD jobs.

1. Make a plan and get organized

Figure out exactly what you're going to do next. Whether it's traveling the world, taking a summer internship or just hanging at the beach, you need to have a set plan before you resign. Make sure you have the money you need, that you're covered for any unexpected expenses and that you won't be overwhelmed with uncertainty once you walk out the door. Also remember to read your employer's exit policies to make sure you don't make any mistakes. If the policy says you need to give them two week's notice but your plane to South Africa leaves in one week, you're in trouble.

2. Don't tell your co-workers until you're ready to bite the bullet

You won't do anyone any favors if you talk about how you're planning to resign and spend a month to Bali before you speak to your manager. Likelihood is he/she will get wind of it and all interesting projects will stop coming your way. If your manager wrote your letter of recommendation, he/she probably knows you're leaving, but it's still better to resign officially and not to gloat.

3. The resignation letter

Write a resignation letter describing why you're planning to leave your current employer. "The best advice I have," says one insider, "is keep it simple and positive." Your letter should be pretty straightforward since you're going to school in the fall (there's no need to say you're planning to sit on your parents' couch and watch Buffy reruns for three months). Do not email or phone in your resignation. Actually print out, date and sign your letter before delivering it. These days, you can do many, many things online--apply for a job, pay your bills, buy groceries--resigning just isn't one of them. However, you can find sample resignation letters online if you need some help.

4. When to go

Try to leave at least two weeks between when you hand in your resignation and when you're actually out the door. That said, it's best to check your employer's exit policy to see if they require more or less time (some companies escort their former employees (often in sales) out of the building when they resign). If you can offer more transition time to your employer and perhaps help hire and train your replacement, you'll ensure you have a very solid relationship with your managers when it comes time for references and recommendations. And don't "check out" once you give your two weeks: you wouldn't want your slacking off to detract from the stellar work you'd done until that point.

5. Schedule a meeting mano a mano

Once you submit your resignation letter, it's time to sit down and talk to your manager. Be ready to negotiate any unused vacation days and paychecks owed. If your manager wants you to stay at your job to help them transition, be prepared to state exactly how long you'll stay on. You can also offer to stay longer if you're up to it, but again, know exactly how long you want that to be. Stay up-beat throughout: keep smiling and remember to shake your manager's hand when it's over.

6. Stress the positive

Now is not the time to air all your grievances about your employer. You're moving on to bigger and better things, but you'll never know when you might see your soon-to-be former co-workers again. Some employers will invite you to do an exit interview and ask you some hard-hitting questions about the company and how it's run. While they may be looking for real feedback, it's best to spin your otherwise honest responses to the positive. Plus, after all, this job was one of the reasons you got into school, so why diminish its worth now.

Good luck and have fun at the beach!


Filed Under: Education|Grad School