Leave a Faculty Job with Class

People routinely change jobs, even in a small field like academic veterinary medicine. Sometimes people go into private practice, or enter from private practice. Sometimes moves are necessary due to family circumstances. In the worst case, sometimes the institution where you are working is not a good situation for you. Whatever the reason, you need to make sure to leave the job as a professional and, no matter how tempting, not burn bridges. Here are some helpful guidelines for navigating this process.

1) Give plenty of notice.  This may differ depending on your situation and the institution.  Are you the only pathologist or one of five? If the service to which you belong is very small or you know the position will be very difficult to replace, more notice is better.  Two weeks’ notice is what is given out in the real world and is generally not looked on favorably in academia. At least one month, preferably two, and ideally up to four months is the minimum amount of time to give notice.  There may be rare exceptions to this, such as in ethically questionable or abusive situations, but if these happen it should be pretty obvious to everyone.

2) Transfer your projects and classes. All the work you did while employed by that institution is technically owned by the institution (unless you have some separate intellectual property clause for drug development or device development or similar). Therefore, all those PowerPoints you wrote should be transferred to your colleagues before you depart. If there are ongoing projects which you cannot supervise from afar, find another responsible faculty member who can take them over. If there are student mentees you have, make sure someone else will help them out. Don’t leave anyone high and dry. Set your soon-to-be-former colleagues up for success. You’re a professional; act like one.

3) Be genuine.  At the same time as you don’t want to burn any bridges, I believe strongly in transparency.  If people ask why you are leaving, tell them. You can convey factual information in a considerate and professional manner.  For example, if you feel like administration didn’t give you the research support you needed, you can say that as factually and unemotionally as possible.  Try not to take things personally, as tempting as it can be when it comes to jobs and leaving them.. Just state the facts and leave it at that. Don’t take out your frustration or resentment (if it exists) when someone asks why you are leaving.

4) If at all possible, time your departure for the summer. Since most residencies and graduate programs finish in the summer, it is easier to replace you in the summer than in the middle of winter. Many times this is not possible, but if you have that much freedom, aim for summer.

Those are my recommendations.  I encounter the most objections to #2, because people feel weird about intellectual property.  Look, those slides you did for the class are not valuable gems of amazing pedagogical perfection. Most instructors will change them or make their own up eventually.  However, that does take time. The first year they may just use your materials, and that’s OK.

You also don’t have to follow these, of course.  They aren’t written down in some secret Faculty Rules Everyone Follows book.  These are just my suggestions for making everything go well. If you don’t want to follow them, fine.  Just be aware of the potential consequences of your decision. And think about how you would want to be treated if you were one of the faculty members left behind at the institution.

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