I’d like to offer some helpful do’s and don’t’s for those of you who are planning to quit your job to return to graduate school. These may not all be applicable to everyone’s situation, but here’s my perspective.
1.) DON’T underestimate the amount of time that training your replacement will take.
At the Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named, I was the only person in my position, and, while I certainly never considered myself irreplaceable, I performed many tasks that none of the attorneys with whom I worked would ever in their right minds want to do (thinking cataloguing and filing electronic copies of contracts and filing annual reports with various states), as well as some that I’m perfectly sure they could do but which would not be a productive use of their time (think running relatively routine daily compliance/conflicts checks, answering tons of questions regarding the Firm’s ethics/professional standards policies, or sitting in on numerous meetings where some other administrative group or another needed a “legal perspective” but also wanted to cover plenty of information that really doesn’t matter from a “legal perspective”). So, despite a hiring freeze, my position was considered sufficiently “essential” to merit hiring a replacement. Apparently, I’m so essential that the Firm was willing to have my replacement, M, start 6 weeks before I left (July 31). Now, when I heard that I’d have 6 weeks to train my replacement, I thought, “This will be great! I’ll have plenty of time to finish some projects, train M, write a manual about how to do the job, say my good-byes, etc.” Wrong. M is extremely bright, but there are a ton of nuances to conflicts/compliance/ethics work, and I had apparently forgotten just how long it had taken me to get up to speed on everything, plus my job had gradually evolved into what it was by the time I left. M got stuck with everything all at once. By my last day, I was still scrambling to finish up projects, transition things to M, and salvage my personal effects from my computer. Word of advice: plan on “transition” taking much longer than you expect.
2.) DO start documenting your job responsibilities or compiling a how-to guide NOW.
I guess this may only apply if you are in a “new” role or a role for which your company does not already have a “manual” documenting your responsibilities. If you are going to compile such a guide, do not do what I did and wait until your last few weeks at the company. You will invariably forget things that you do and how exactly you do them. Someone new walking into your job will not necessarily have the institutional knowledge that you have and will benefit from a detailed how-to guide. I had originally planned to do this early on, but I was busy, so I kept putting it off. Then, I was scrambling to try to remember everything. If you start now, you’ll be able to capture 9-10 months of work activities. I recommend looking at time sheets, emails, etc. every couple weeks, identifying major responsibilities or projects, and writing down how you did them, names of essential contacts, etc. This documentation may also be helpful to you when it comes to be review/feedback time.
3.) DON’T, under any circumstances, work up until the day before you plan to move.
You will be stressed about moving, you’ll want to see friends before you leave town, and you will benefit from at least a few days “off” before dealing with the hassles of moving, getting settled in a new place, and orientation. I worked until 14 hours before the movers were supposed to show up. Bad, bad idea.
4.) DO network at least a little before you depart.
I wish I’d had more time to do this, but (if you haven’t sensed a theme from this post yet) this is another area in which I feel like time snuck up on me. Ostensibly, if you’ve been at a company for some period of time, you’ll have formed connections with at least some of your co-workers. Take the time to go out to lunch, grab drinks, etc. before you leave. Thank your mentors. If they were particularly influential, you may want to keep in touch with them later, and this will be much easier if you’ve cultivated the relationship before your departure. Also, you may want to return to the company after school, and I would imagine this is easier if you do some work before you leave.