Things to take with you when you exit…

Here is a lesson that I learned and I want to share. As I mentioned in my previous post I had resigned from the now 9 person firm about a month ago. In some firms there is a thing that you are asked to do before you leave, which is the “exit interview“. This request usually occurs in larger and/or corporate firms, especially firms that have a human resource staff or department. At these exit interviews, office issues are discussed and are usually kept confidential. The information obtained from the exit interview are used to improve the work environment and staff productivity. The exit interview is also an opportunity to discuss how benefits are handled such as healthcare, retirement plans, and any vacation or sick days that have accrued and have not been used.

The previous firm was small and thus there wasn’t a human resource staff member to conduct the exit interview and handle employee benefits.

By law, your former employer must offer you the option to continue with the health care benefits as offered by your former employer whether you decided to resign or if they terminated your employment. Should you decide to accept the continued health care, this is called COBRA.

I wasn’t worried about the health care benefits as it was going to be taken care of at the next firm. As part of my negotiations with the new firm, I asked for health coverage upon starting as opposed to waiting the standard 3 months.

Most health care benefits kick in three months after you get hired which to me doesn’t make sense especially in the field of architecture and construction when at any given moment, you can get hurt at a job site.

I was interested in the vacation days I had accrued since the beginning of 2008. I hadn’t taken any time off since the start of the year. As far as I am concerned, I am owed 5 vacation days.

I didn’t have an exit interview after I announced that I was resigning, and perhaps I should have requested it in retrospect because when I got my final paycheck, they did not include a check with my vacation days. I was a bit annoyed. I inquired about it with one of the partners and he said that he’d get back to me about it. I waited a couple of days and when I didn’t hear from him, I sent an email to inquire. He said that they would pay me but didn’t say when. I left it alone with the hope that they will issue a check in a week. A week went by and nothing. I inquired again via email and said that I will be paid and be patient. I was annoyed but what can I do? I can’t get too upset because they are being kind for paying me my vacation time that I didn’t use. Although when I read their “Office Manual” i thought that they pay vacation time when not used should the employee leave. In actuality, they pay vacation time to employees to those who were laid off due to lack of work. They don’t pay vacation time if you’re dismissed for being a bad employee. And apparently, they don’t pay you should you leave on your own accord. Had I known, I would have taken my vacation time and then resigned…

Most offices will have an “Office Manual” which outlines the rules, regulations, and conduct guidelines. The “Office Manual” also explains their benefits programs as well including vacation time. Each company has their own “manual” and may differ from company to company. So, when you get to a new office, read through their “Office Manual”, and if they don’t have one, ask for it, and if they do not have something formal, find out as much as you can about their policies and conduct, etc. And if anything, it’s better to take you vacation time before you resign…if you’re planning to resign.

So, here are the things to remember when you exit:

1. When you have formally informed your employers that you are resigning, make sure that you understand the office’s policy about resignation especially as it pertains to vacation time. In one of the firms I worked at, they automatically paid my vacation time that I didn’t take.

2. You have the option to participate in COBRA, which provides you with health care coverage but you have to pay the full amount each month to your former employer.

3. Collect your personal belongings and copies projects you’ve worked on – it’ll become part of your portfolio for future interviews.

4. Make sure you find out when you will get your final paycheck,and how they will get it to you. Most likely they will mail it to you.

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