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Author Topic: Leaving a Student Affairs Position in Mid-Year?  (Read 3006 times)
gettingout
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« on: November 08, 2012, 12:57:02 PM »

Occasional lurker, first-time poster here with a bit of an ethical dilemma for the forumites!  I am in an entry-to-mid-level student affairs position at an SLAC. My primary role involves advising the students who participate in a particular academic program, and I am fairly independently responsible for running a major aspect of that program.  I like the job and have a great relationship with both my coworkers and my students, but for various reasons have come to the conclusion it's not the field I want to be in long term.  Therefore, I recently began taking night courses in another, completely unrelated field.  My boss has been totally supportive of this.

On a whim, and not really expecting much to come of it, I recently applied for an interesting job in the new field.  Much to my surprise, I am now a finalist for the position and things are moving very fast.  The new job is much closer to home and school, pays significantly more, and is obviously better for my professional development in the new field.  I had been casually checking out job listings in the new field for quite a while, and understand that this position would be a rare and lucky one to get.  So, if the job were offered to me, taking it is the obvious best move for me both personally and professionally in the long run. 

However, I feel a lot of loyalty to my coworkers and students and am feeling so much stress and guilt at the thought of leaving mid-year, to the point that it's completely overshadowing my excitement over the potential new job. While I'm sure they'd manage without me, it would certainly be disruptive and upsetting both to my students and to my coworkers, and would catch my boss totally off guard.  (It shouldn't, given that I'm taking classes in the new field, but I know my boss well enough to know that it will.)  Though I think they'd ultimately understand the position I'm in, I hate to leave on that note when they've been so good to me, and it feels deceitful to have let things get this far without giving them any kind of heads-up.

Part of me wants to tell my boss what's going on now to lessen the shock value and give them as much transition time as possible. At the same time, it seems silly to create that awkwardness when there's not much that could be done about it until I know for sure if and when I plan to leave anyway.  If I didn't get this job, I would probably finish out the school year here before starting to seriously apply for other things again - in that scenario, I wouldn't want to spend the rest of the year having lost some of my boss' trust and goodwill over nothing. 

Sorry for the long rant on my very first post, but forumites, what is the most ethical and professional way to handle this?  Do I let the cat out of the bag now or wait until I have an offer in hand and just do my best to negotiate as much transition time as possible?  Is it unethical to even consider leaving my current job in the middle of the year?  Part of the problem is that the new field has nothing to do with the academic world, so position vacancies do not neatly line up with the school year, and it would be difficult to make the transition to my new field while limiting myself only to vacancies that happen to pop up in the summer.   Help!
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tuxthepenguin
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2012, 1:17:30 PM »

You owe them nothing. They can fire you in the middle of the year. If the budget is tight, they can cut your position. It's a business. If you get the job, take it.
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professor_pat
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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2012, 2:48:47 PM »

I think you shouldn't say anything until the new place actually offers you the job and you decide to take it. Then you can apologize for the inconvenience to your old team, let them know you'll do everything you can to help the transition  go smoothly (get files in good shape, meet with the new person, etc.), be available for consultation for some defined period of time after the new person comes in. Your recognition of their situation and your willingness to work hard to make it work smoothly will constitute a thoroughly ethical and professional approach.

And don't feel guilty.
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hegemony
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2012, 3:02:27 PM »

People leave important positions mid-year all the time.  Really.  All. The. Time.  You shouldn't feel guilty for one second.  (However, you shouldn't say anything to the old job until things are signed and sealed in the new one.)  You can offer to be available by phone to answer questions after you leave the old job.  The aggravation of doing that will soon erase any lingering guilt you might feel.  And remember that however well you did your job, no one is irreplaceable.  There will be a short confused transition period and then things will run as if you had never left.  That's the truth.
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tinyzombie
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2012, 4:16:51 PM »

People leave important positions mid-year all the time.  Really.  All. The. Time.  You shouldn't feel guilty for one second.  (However, you shouldn't say anything to the old job until things are signed and sealed in the new one.)  You can offer to be available by phone to answer questions after you leave the old job.  The aggravation of doing that will soon erase any lingering guilt you might feel.  And remember that however well you did your job, no one is irreplaceable.  There will be a short confused transition period and then things will run as if you had never left.  That's the truth.

I agree with every word of this.

Definitely do not tell old job until you get an offer,as others have said.
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offthemarket
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« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2012, 4:49:46 PM »

You didn't sign a contract to stay on past a particular date.  They could fire you with almost no notice. So you can leave with little notice.  It's totally fine. It's not indentured servitude, it's a job.
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systeme_d_
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« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2012, 6:24:15 PM »

This is an administrative job, not a tenure-track faculty job.  There is no ethical dilemma.  If you get the job offer, and you want to take it, you do.  You notify your current boss when you have the offer in hand.
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gettingout
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« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2012, 5:17:37 PM »

Thanks, all, for the feedback and for calming me down.  Having never worked in student affairs/advising before, and not knowing anyone else who's left mid-year, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't violating some unwritten rule or doing anything to sour my reputation.  Everything you've said makes sense, and it helps enormously to be reassured by others that I'm handling it correctly by not saying anything and that I have nothing to feel guilty about.  Thanks again!
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alleyoxenfree
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Countin' all these posts as publications


« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2012, 12:38:54 PM »

Frankly, the new advisor will thank you.  Being hired mid-year into a position like that would be much more preferable to being hired just prior to the start of Fall!
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