I know how exciting that last day at work before leaving for grad school is: Trust me, there is literally nothing better than deleting your office email account from your phone.
Of course, your last few weeks and months can be anything but amazing—it feels like there’s not enough time to get everything done, and I was sure that I would forget to do something really important before I had to turn in my work laptop.
There are definitely some things you can do, however, to help ensure that you have a smooth work transition and a calm(ish) exit from the office. I’ve put together a list of six things to do that will help you wrap things up efficiently so that you can spend less time worrying about work and more time getting excited for school in the fall.
1. Write a Transition Plan
I know that planning doesn’t always sound that exciting, but putting together a transition plan is crucial for making sure that you’re able to get everything done before you leave. It doesn’t have to be fancy, especially if you’re not the planning type—but I would recommend including at least this basic information:
- Who will own each of your projects and tasks moving forward. Don’t leave anything out, no matter how small it may seem!
- The dates each of your projects and tasks will transition to their new owners. Ideally all of these transitions will happen at least a week before you leave so that you have a bit of a buffer.
- What specific tasks you will complete before exiting your organization and how long you think each action will take. Make sure not to forget administrative steps like exiting paperwork—I found admin items to take at least 1.5 times longer than I expected.
Your manager will definitely thank you for putting this together, and it will also help you ensure that you have enough time to get everything done. I had all sorts of lofty ideas for what I was going to accomplish before leaving my job, but when I put everything down on paper, I realized that I had signed myself up for almost an extra week’s worth of tasks! The transition plan helped me set realistic goals and make sure all of my work was accounted for.
2. Archive, Archive, Archive
When most people leave their companies, they lose access to everything work-related: email, documents, servers, professional development materials, and more. So make sure that you set aside enough time to archive everything that’s important to you. I created a Dropbox account and saved everything I thought I might need access to on it, such as deliverables I might want to use as examples for my work or project plans I could use again in a future role, even if I couldn’t decide how it might be relevant. I also dedicated half a day just to going through my emails so that I could make sure I wouldn’t lose anything important. I copied over entire folders that seemed important (e.g., my “Performance Reviews” folder) and then forwarded other useful emails to my Gmail account. It took while, but it was definitely worth it.
This step also includes taking a look at your passwords—you need to update all accounts that are linked to your work email address, such as your 401(k), paystubs, and health insurance to ensure that you don’t get locked out of any important systems after leaving.
3. Figure Out Your Health Insurance
It sounds boring, and it definitely is, but I would really recommend sorting our your health insurance options before your official exit date. Different companies have different policies about coverage—for example, my company only covered me through my final pay period, while others will cover employees through their final month—so make sure you really understand what your policy looks like before leaving. Usually a quick call with your human resources team will give you all of the information you need.
You will also need to look into the health insurance plan at your school. Universities often offer at least basic coverage for full-time students, and some actually have pretty good benefits. Many schools will even start providing insurance the summer before you start, so hopefully you’ll be able to sort out a situation where you don’t have any coverage gaps. If you do, check out sites like www.healthcare.gov and Macori for more information.
4. Have an Exit Interview
Regardless of whether your company requires one or not, I think it’s always a great idea to have an exit interview with your manager. This isn’t because I would recommend spending an hour venting about everything you’ve always hated about your office—quite the opposite, actually.
While an exit interview is a good opportunity for you to share some (hopefully constructive) feedback, it’s also a great opportunity to hear any feedback your boss has for you as you leave the workplace. For example, you can ask him or her to tell you about the top three strengths and areas for development you should focus on as you consider how to optimize your professional development during grad school. Your manager may also be able to give you an idea about aspects of your previous role that you hit out of the park and should try to replicate in future jobs. If you want to leave the door open to coming back after school, you can also use the interview to highlight roles you could be interested in so that you’ll be on management’s radar.
5. Keep in Touch!
Don’t forget to keep in touch with people after you leave the office. I worked at the same organization for five years, and many of my co-workers were also really good friends, so I made a big effort to make sure that everyone had my contact information and knew what I was going to be up to. I also set up future times to meet with a couple people so I knew when I would be able to talk with them and hear about life back on the ranch.
6. Plan a Vacation
Let’s be honest, you deserve some time off! Applying to grad school while working full time is no easy feat, and you should definitely set aside some time to put your feet up before you have to dive into school.
You may not be able to take a trip for financial or logistical reasons, but I would really encourage you to think about taking at least a few days off even if to do nothing but relax and gather your thoughts before getting ready for your new phase in life. My last day at work was about three weeks before I moved to school, which I thought that would be tons of time—but it turned out that I spent pretty much all of it moving and running going-back-to-school errands. I was worried about money, which is why I worked so late, but I wish I had taken another week off so that I could have relaxed a little bit before getting back into gear.
I hope these steps will help you close things out—I know a lot of them aren’t fun, but I found them to be incredibly useful during my last eight weeks on the job. Good luck!