Monday, March 25, 2013

Lulu's Mailbag: How to leave a job on good terms

J sends us a great question regarding leaving an intern position:

My husband is a physician finishing residency this June. He has taken a job out of state, and we will be moving. I am currently about a year and a half into an intern architect job that I found about 3 months out of grad school, and I love my job. I feel very loyal to the company, enjoy the work that I'm doing, and I am sad that I will have to leave. My husband and I weighed our options and decided that as great as my job is, his new job opportunity and the possible opportunities for our family in the new city were too good to pass up. 
The only reason I've ever had to leave a position before was to return to school. Any suggestions on the best way to part on good terms with my firm? I already feel guilty that I know that I'm leaving and that I haven't told them.  I am unsure about the timing - I don't want to leave them in a lurch on short notice, but I would like to keep working and gaining experience there as long as I can. 

First of all, J, it's great (and a relief) that you're able to leave this job under circumstances that are neither desperate nor disgruntled. You're actually in a great position to leave your firm. Your approach with your firm and your manager is straightforward and polite: 

"I wanted to let you know that my husband has accepted a position out of state. We're both really excited about this for him, but unfortunately it means I have to leave this firm. I've really enjoyed working here with such great, talented people and have learned so much. I'd like to work here as long as I can before we move in June, and I'm glad to train anyone new that you bring on board before I leave. I'd also like to make sure that I can rely on you for a good reference--if you're comfortable doing so--when I apply to other firms in our new location."

Interns and architects leave firms because of a spouse's job all the time. It's a reason to leave a firm that generally makes for no hard feelings, so I see little to no reason to worry about a graceful exit from this firm.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Family emergencies: If you have to go, go.

My husband's mother just died a few days ago, and it's been a tough few days. We'll miss a few days of work next week attending her funeral out of town, and we're not missing a moment of sleep about that. I've blogged a lot lately about needing to help your team and firm out by working extra, but the other side of that coin is know that work will always be there, and sometimes you really need to be with your family.

A new coworker of mine had a family emergency on her second day of work at my firm. She got a call from her mother that her father had been taken to the emergency room with chest pains, and she began to wonder: well crap, it's my second day of a new job and I'm about to leave all of a sudden? Well, maybe it's not that serious....  She mentioned it to her project manager, who immediately said "OMFG go to your dad right now! We'll be here when you're able to come back!" My coworker went to be by her dad's side (he ended up being fine eventually), and she returned to work the next day. 

My husband's mother called him early in the morning from the hospital to say that she didn't think she had long, and she needed him to come that very day. He bought a $500 plane ticket and flew to her side that day--the deadlines and emails and meeting notes cold wait. He spent the evening with her in the hospital, talking and eventually saying goodbye.  The next morning, she had become unresponsive, and by the end of the day she was gone.  When he returned, he said he was glad he'd left when he did: "Best $500 I've ever spent."

When real life or tragedy intervenes and things get scary or tough, it's okay to leave the office and tend to those matters.  The work will be there when you're ready and able.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Further thoughts on recent posts: getting licensed and having a life

As I head out of a big deadline into a week-long business trip, I've been mulling over comments and emails I've received regarding two recent posts. The first was the post about possibly being penalized for having a life outside of work and not always putting work first.  Comments and emails I've received seemed to push back on unreasonable bosses and firms, but they also seemed to advocate for a sensible balance of life and work.  Will a few extra hours here and there leave your children and spouse in an angst-filled place for which they'll need years of therapy in the future? Probably not.  Will missing big events (little league games, ballet recitals, birthday parties) affect them deeply and rob you of valuable time with your family?  Probably so.  Again, it's about balance.  Being able to pitch in when needed at the last minute is a sign you can be counted on, but when your job seems to be more about being a firefighter (that is, you're having to pitch in at the last minute several times a month), then it's time to draw the line.

I'd like to hear from more people about whether or not to get licensed.  So far I've heard from someone who had a decent list of reasons not to get licensed and from someone who sounds like they're really burned out from too many years and too many bad projects.  Are there any interns out there who have several years' experience but decided not to get licensed, or can share why they haven't yet gotten licensed?