Written by Alyssa Walker

Ready for that big career move where you quit your job and start your MBA? Not so fast. Make sure you ease out of that job with some finesse and grace. Why? In the business world, it does not pay to burn bridges. Start by not burning any with your current employer, however you may feel about them.

Let us take a closer look at five strategies to use before you leave your job to start your MBA.

1. Do not be overconfident

Timing is crucial, even if your employer knows you have been planning to get your MBA for years. Never assume that your MBA is a sure thing -- or your job. 

Why? You want to keep the door open, not have it knock you flat on your way out.

Make sure you have a great reason that explains why you want to go to business school, make sure it is what your employers remember, and make sure that the reason includes more than just your career. 

A recent article in Financial Times on the subject of leaving your job for an MBA highlighted Chioma Isiadinso, co-founder of business school admissions consultancy Expartus, who explained, "You have to stay absolutely humble. Assume that nothing is ever in the bag."

2. Develop a transition plan

You can't just up and leave without consequences. You need to have a clear plan to transition from your current role. Your boss will appreciate it.

You should prioritize projects before you go, and determine what you can and should absolutely finish. Make a plan for finishing those projects in the time you have left.

If you have a client base, propose a plan for transitioning your clients to someone else in the company. If the company needs to hire someone to replace you, make some suggestions on what the company might look for, based on the type of work you've been doing. 

Even better? Offer to train your replacement for a few weeks or participate in the search process.

Give this plan time and thought, keeping in mind the vision of the company and the day-to-day responsibilities of the job you are leaving.

3. Give your boss plenty of notice

It is no secret that telling your boss that you are leaving can be a hard conversation to have. It can be awkward and even bitter. But if you are professional about it, it can go smoothly.

Here's the thing: business is about relationships. Start by nurturing the relationship you already have with your employer, even if you do not plan to return. While your contract may stipulate that you give two weeks notice, plan on a few months so that you and your boss can make appropriate plans.

Be upfront, professional, and approach your boss well in advance of when you plan to leave. Even if it goes badly, it will not be because of anything you did, and you can add a feather to your cap for taking the high road.

Another benefit of giving plenty of notice: you can also work with your boss to figure out when and how to tell other employees, if necessary. 

4. Get professional feedback

Celebrating what you have done well and learning from your mistakes is key to your professional and personal growth. 

Ask your boss for a final performance review and schedule conversations with key people to seek guidance, ask follow-up questions, and get advice on what you can do better.

Do not neglect other colleagues either. By asking for feedback and input, you position yourself as someone who wants to do better, and that's never a bad thing.

Questions to ask:

What professional skills should I work on?
How should I define my top three learning objectives?
What strengths do I have that I can continue to improve?
What professional weaknesses do you see and how can I best address them?
What's the best piece of advice you have for me?

Make sure you thank everyone you ask. Be sincere. In fact, do not bother asking anyone with whom you cannot be sincere.

5. Stay in touch with your colleagues

Before you adíos, find a way to keep in touch with your colleagues. The big idea? Solidify those professional relationships before you go so staying in touch feels natural, not forced.

What does this mean? It means that you need to move some of your colleagues from the 'colleagues' bracket to the 'friend' bracket.

Make lists of all the people with whom you worked, supervised, or were supervised by. Add those who helped you out at any point. You can give any and all of those folks your personal email address and connect with them on LinkedIn.

Among those with whom you want to nurture real friendships, be sure you give them a heartfelt thank you, let them know your plans, and ask them to get together for an occasional cup of coffee. You will be in awe at the results.

Your takeaway: do not push unnatural friendships. With some people, it will not work. Focus on the ones with whom friendship will work and go for it!

Learn more about earning your MBA. 

ArticleEducationStudent Tips
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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