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Background : I'm a junior programmer, currently working in a small (<10 persons) company. I'm doing an apprenticeship, and the company is paying for my diploma. I've been working with them for 2.5 years, and I'm in my last year before getting my degree.

Since 1-2 years, I realized that I didn't want to work in IT my whole life. There is a field which I'm really passionate about (and always have been), and I've been taking night classes for a year now. I think I really found my vocation. My friends and family advised me to obtain my current degree before trying other studies, which I plan to start next september.

My employer really want me to stay in the company. He doesn't know about my plans, and I know he will end up very disappointed about me quitting right after getting my diploma. He clearly expect me to stay.

There is no clauses in my contract stating I have to work full-time after completing my degree. However, I'm really afraid about his reaction (Saying I "owe" them, because they paid for my education, that my decision is ridiculous, or that I should have quit earlier, etc.). It's a very small company, and I can't stop feeling guilty about quitting like that. I would have stayed a few extra months, but my contract end in september 2018, and I can't wait another year before beginning my new studies.

I'm wondering about how to tell them : should I tell them right now, or should I wait ? The earlier the better : I don't want to give them false hopes, but at the same time I don't want to spend a year in a hostile work environment. I have the feeling they're going to ask me soon about my future plans, and I don't know how to react. (Note : I have to give one month notice before leaving)

I'm also wondering what to tell them. I don't want to burn bridges, and I surely don't want them to think I "cheated" them. I think a random reason (like moving in another city) will be easier to accept, even if it is a lie. I also don't need/want to hear their opinion on my will to begin new studies.

It's my first time being in this situation, I'm very anxious about it. I just want to quit in the best way possible. Any advices are welcome about dealing with it.

*I on't think this is a duplicate of How do I resign without burning bridges when I'm a critical staff member?, since

  1. I'm not a critical staff member and
  2. I don't really mind about the bad/"job hopper" reputation. I just want to quit without being criticized and guilt-trapped.*
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    Be honest and just tell the truth. – Mister Positive Sep 20 '17 at 17:03
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    This is country specific but proper apprenticeships are a contract for x years once that time is up no one owes anyone anything they don't have to employe you and vice versa - I suspect that this is a legal Q – Neuromancer Sep 20 '17 at 17:12
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    Since this might be country specific, could you add the country you're in? – Benedikt Bauer Sep 20 '17 at 18:54
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    neither of the suggested duplicates is applicable apprenticeships can be very different legaly – Neuromancer Sep 20 '17 at 21:25
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    Possible duplicate of How do I tell my boss I quit? – Jim G. Apr 19 '18 at 17:10
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You have found your vocation, great! Have a honest conversation with your employer. No one in his right mind would want to employ anybody who really does not want to be there, as it is well known this is harmful to the organisation.

If they like you they´ll support you and in return you give them a great performance until your last day and support a smooth hand-over of you tasks. You ow them nothing, they probably got their moneys worth out of your time - and if they don´t well that´s just normal business hazard - that´s what they get to keep the profit.

Honesty and some time to prepare is really more than what they could ask for.

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You do not tell us what country you are in, so I will answer for the country I know best. Germany.

In Germany, this would be totally legit. If your contract does not require you to stay on longer (which a regular Ausbildung contract cannot do, but you are talking about diploma, and a Duales Studium contract might do that), it's totally fine to leave when you are done.

You don't even need to quit. If they offer you a new contract, you just do not take it. German apprenticeship contracts end either when you pass the final exam, or when you fail it three times.

There is no need to feel guilty, that's how the system works. If they cannot retain you, that's most likely their fault, not yours. You may of course explain that to them, and it would be only fair to do that, but you are in no way obligated to. There is also an equal chance that they might not offer you a work contract after you are done, and in that case you would want an explanation as well, but are not entitled to one.

What you should never do however is lie. In a professional setup, you should always tell the truth. If you lie there is always a chance that you get caught, and that will affect your reputation. Being honest is very important, and if that part of your reputation is stained, it will be very hard to unstain it.

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I would leave now. Do you have a contract that says you have to give 30 days notice? really? If it says that I would look more closely into that "Contract" and find out what else it says. Seems odd they would invest in paying for your diploma and not have a clause in there that requires you to pay them back for their investment. Leave now though. You deserve sort of to be guilt tripped and will be most likely. Unavoidable. If you expected to be weird and hostile it will be. It will get hostile. Get over it, business is like that. You are basically using them- and they are getting a work product for probably much less than what they would pay a full time employee for doing - so they are using you too. Its going to suck either way. You are screwing them over, you can expect it to be weird.

You are going to burn bridges. You mentioned it was an apprenticeship - don't those usually imply you will continue your work with them after that period? If they have an expectation that you will stay when you period of apprenticeship is over and you have no plan to do so - you are sort of setting yourself up for some hard feelings. Cut bait and leave now. Its the right thing to do and you can focus on moving forward now.

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    As an apprentice they well may have you normally sign a multi year contact with your employer (master) depends on how the op's county defines it I suspect this well may be in Germany – Neuromancer Sep 20 '17 at 18:42

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