A reader writes: I hope to attend a grad program in another state and will need to leave my job at some point. How do employers feel about an employee's decision to leave for grad school? Are they annoyed? Should I ask for a letter of recommendation? Related, should I inform an employer of my intentions to return to school when I first accept the job so as to limit the surprise? Would that hurt my chances of getting the job?
There's no one answer as it will depend on the length of employment, the employer's own personality traits, your traits, and your joint experiences. With plenty of notice, most employers are supportive and warm. I worked full time while I attended college and applied to graduate school. I told my employer as I submitted applications. He was quite supportive and I worked until a week or so before I began grad school. However, he was a doctor -- its possible that his own educational experiences colored his views of my educational journey.
I think honesty is always a good idea - especially if you plan to ask for letters from your employer if you've been employed for a while. Should you reveal your intentions to attend grad school when you interview for a position? It very well may cost you the job. In this case, it may make sense not to mention it. Yes, this contrasts with my call for honesty, but the reality is that you need work. Don't lie, but omitting your plans at the moment is acceptable. After all, its entirely possible that you may decide against applying or might wait another year and it is always plausible that you hatched your graduate school plan after being hired. I would not advise seeking a recommendation letter from someone who has just hired you. First they know little about you. Second they may hold negative feelings regarding your plans, possibly damaging your letter.